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Inspiring Conversations with Haley Witt of Awake Digital Media

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Witt.

Hi Haley, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I grew up in Ahwatukee and attended school in the Kyrene School District. Even from a young age, I always loved reading, writing, digital communications, and the arts. When I reached Desert Vista High School, I found a home within its award-winning speech and debate team. I enjoyed competing at the Harvard National Forensics Tournament in Massachusetts and The Glenbrooks Tournament in Illinois, among other nationally recognized students from around the country. I even competed at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in 2015, where my teammates and I were recognized as the number one team in the nation. I graduated high school in 2016 with a 3.8 GPA in the top 5% of my class.

Naturally, my love for public speaking instilled in me a passion for storytelling and I continued to pursue a career in journalism. I attended Seattle University from 2016-2019 where I majored in journalism, but took time to diversify my studies by taking classes in anthropology, political science, sociology, and women and gender studies. I worked for the collegiate radio station and newspaper, and as a resident assistant in the residence halls for two years. I was published in two academic research journals. Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal and First Monday. I also worked two internships: one for the Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette, and another for Seattle social impact start-up, Intentionalist. My internship at The Gazette was amazing, and I published over 70 articles in one summer. However, I’d started to fall in love with blogging, copywriting, and website design. I graduated from Seattle University Summa Cum Laude and moved back home to Phoenix.

There, I struggled to secure a full time position. I applied to nearly 100 full-time positions without an interview. The job market was competitive, and my extensive, yet entry level experience, wasn’t quite enough. So, I continued to work part-time for the amazing Seattle start-up, Intentionalist but was determined to accrue more experience. So, at 21 years old, I started my own small marketing company called Awake Digital Media. Today, I’m based out of Denver but I work with clients all around the country. Notably, my Arizona clients include the beloved St. Mary’s Basilica in Downtown Phoenix! I love supporting non-profits and small business owners during these tough times. Now, more than ever, the digital platform is the key to keeping businesses afloat. People are turning to web and social media to support businesses in their community while staying safe. It’s really rewarding work. Not to mention, I provide more accessible rates than big agencies because my overhead costs are low, and I also equip business owners with the tools and education they need to manage their own websites and social pages after I’m done. It’s a win-win scenario for me, the small business owner, and local economies.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I was met with a lot of job rejection straight out of school. I graduated in 2019, so it wasn’t even as bleak as it is for 2020 grads. The job market is really tough for certain industries right now. I’ve learned that a lot of hiring is often more about who you know and not what you know. I could demonstrate my skills, but I didn’t have connections at a lot of businesses in Arizona. I was a first-generation college student and my parents don’t work adjacent to the marketing and communications world. Also, I went to school in Seattle, so all of my business connections were in the Northwest and not in Phoenix, where I moved back to after graduation. Overall, it’s not a recipe for immediate hiring success, despite being really proud of my resume. I’m frankly really worried about how the college class of 2020 is faring right now. It’s an even worse climate. Please feel free to quote this article that I wrote where I say all of this and more: https://medium.com/@haleywrites/the-false-story-of-the-post-grad-american-dream-fce639b7b0d1

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Awake Digital Media?
I’m really proud of the way I’ve catered my services toward my clientele. I love to work with small business owners from the conception of their business idea to the final product. I’ve walked several people through the process of branding, designing a logo, developing brand voice, launching socials, and designing a stunning website. In the end, they can’t believe that their dreams have come to life! It’s gratifying. I’ve made my whole business model accessible to this ideal client, from pricing to process. I’ve been told that my services are unique because I’m able to harness my technical abilities, visual creativity, and strong writing — whereas oftentimes this requires three individual people. It’s important to me that I feel ethically confident about my work. I want to be making a positive difference in the world. Working with small business owners and non-profit organizations is truly gratifying, especially right now.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
We’re already seeing a trend of people working as contract, self-employed, or freelance employees in the marketing and communications industry. There are some really spectacular benefits to this type of flexibility, but it worries me in regard to my generation’s future access to healthcare, financial sustainability, retirement benefits, and work-life balance. As we continue to see full-time jobs dwindle in the industry and see an increasing shift toward this model, there’s a lot to lose and a lot to navigate. It’s always going to be cheaper for companies to “hire out” an independent marketer because they don’t have to offer any of these benefits, provide working space, or pay salaries. But how are we going to make sure that this industry is livable and sustainable for all who work within it? These are some of the questions we’ll be grappling with, me included.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Cody Blaschka, Awake Digital Media

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