“I don’t have the personality to keep asking questions that someone doesn’t want to answer,” Dustin says. “I’m not imposing enough and I don’t like to make other people uncomfortable.”
Coupled with a dawning shrinkage of the newspaper industry, Dustin abandoned plans for a journalism career toward the end of college.
“I was too far along in the program to change majors and still graduate on time,” he said, “but I realized my interest in print journalism was going to be a dead issue.”
We’re sitting in the Café late in the afternoon. Only two other tables are occupied. I’m grateful for the relative quiet. I sip my coffee but Dustin says he’s already hit his limit for the day. He’s affable, with boyish blonde hair, a scruff of facial hair and eyeglasses. His ruddy cheeks dimple when he smiles, which is a lot, and I like him instantly.
Dustin has his laptop on the table in front of him, closed. Maybe he was working on something before I arrived. Maybe he wants to be prepared for an urgent Internet search while we’re talking. We’re supposed to meet about posting and tweeting and streaming and making things viral, all of which we cover. The story of how he ended up sitting across from me in the Pfister coffee shop, however, was much more interesting.
Born and raised in Waukesha, every benchmark in Dustin’s life took place within walking distance from his childhood home: elementary school, middle school, high school. Even his college years transpired a short two miles away. He didn’t have any etched intentions on moving away. Most of his neighborhood friends and college pals are still there. Landing in Milwaukee–the “big city” by many Wisconsin accounts—has re-shaped him in unexpected ways.
“I kindof regret not traveling abroad in college now,” he says. ”I used to be the way my friends are now; the idea of traveling to Milwaukee was daunting. Moving to, maybe, London may be a bigger move for someone else. For me, my apartment and my dog and my job, all in Milwaukee, has been the beginning of a new and exciting reality.”
Dustin earned his degree from Carroll College and set out to leverage his intrigue with news and words into a career course. He worked odd jobs for a potato chip distributor, a grocery store and even a cemetery before brokering a post-graduate internship with a eCommerce company. After a year, Dustin parlayed the gig into a full time job, plunking himself into a newly-formed position of Social Media Specialist.
“In high school, I would post a lot of personal, introspective material on Facebook back then,” he says. “And I blogged daily. When I look back at the things I wrote, I was a completely different person. I’m much, much happier now.”
With only this pedestrian knowledge of social media programs, Dustin developed a consumer engagement strategy that grew the company’s social media community from 7500 people to nearly 150,000. He studied the trends, consumed news about new platforms and software enhancements and testing new campaigns to “engage clientele in their social spheres.”
Shop talk? Impressive.
“I totally made it up as I went,” Dustin said. “They wanted to be more deliberate across their social platforms and I figured I was as good of a candidate as any to get it done.”
Dustin continued his career strides, recently securing a new job as Social Media Manager for Milwaukee’s Marcus properties, which includes the Pfister. He travels between multiple offices in the course of a day, working closely with marketing directors and property teams.
“I’m super excited about the work,” Dustin said. “I’m up for the challenge. I realize, though, that I like having my space: sitting at my desk, with my pictures, my Hulk action figures. I’m getting the hang of all these new things. I’m getting used to being a nomad.”
Dasha Kelly is founder and director of Still Waters Collective, a Milwaukee-based outreach initiative utilizing the transformative power of the written and spoken word. Dasha has performed and delivered workshops to writers, youth, educators, co-eds, executives, inmates and artists throughout the U.S. She is also an HBO Def Poetry alum. As a poet and novelist, Dasha’s writings have appeared in anthologies, text books, magazines and online. Her latest collection of work, Hershey Eats Peanuts is available through Penmanship Books. She is currently working on her second novel and a new collection of essays.
Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places.
She is a senior writer at OnMilwaukee.com, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.