UALR alum advocates gaining work experience for success

DR_Fri_Top_CarolCarol Cassil was an eager student when she graduated from Central High School and was already prepared for the next step. She immediately signed up for classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and within a week after graduation, started her summer term.

“I’m a curious person, and I love to learn,” she explained.

Unfortunately, her first year at the university was cut short due to a broken leg.

Cassil had to quit, but she wouldn’t be deterred from going back. Her scholastic journey changed direction but did not lose its driving force.

“It took me from being excited a week out of high school, […] to eleven years to get my BA, “ she explained. However, she never lost her love of learning, and she turned her job into her career.

“I was working full time in a parallel department and getting my degree at the same time,” she said.

Initially Cassil wanted to teach college level physical education, but her ideas changed after she broke her leg. Her subsequent job at the Arkansas Farm Bureau was in the marketing and PR department, and after getting a taste of the field, she knew what she wanted to do.

She loved her job and decided to make it more than just a job: “I thought oh, this is wonderful. I got the job first and then tailored my degree on a parallel path with my work.”

During those years of working toward her BA, Cassil settled on journalism, and while at UALR, made some great connections.

Specifically she remembers one instructor: “Jay Friedlander was just a great teacher, he had really high standards and he really challenged you to do your best.”

She also keeps in touch with a graphics teacher named Nick Aston, who always provided her with a real world slant when she was a student.

Even though Cassil chose journalism, she had many hours in the art department on her transcript.

“I was [also] doing graphic design and photography and writing; all of those things that PR people tend to do, “she said. Her background would perfectly blossom with the next few steps of her career.

Cassil continued on the PR/marketing ladder by working for the Red Cross after nearly eight years at the Farm Bureau. She learned how to handle crisis communications before jumping into advertising and marketing.

“I had my own firm for a while,” she remembers; however, the move was not an insubstantial one. “I really enjoyed it,” she remembered, “It was a leap of faith because I was a single mom. Sheer terror is a great motivator because I knew I had to make it work because I had to feed the kids and pay the bills.”

The firm, Holmes Davis Hoffmann, was on her radar for a little over ten years before she made another change.

Curiosity got the best of her, and Cassil, the true student, decided at that point in her career she wanted to learn more about technology, which was beginning to change the face of marketing and PR extensively. She decided that the best way to do this was to work for a global company at the corporate level.

“At the time it was called Alltel Information Services, it was a subsidiary company of Alltel corporate. They did technology for big banks all over the world. I loved, loved, loved my job. I started out in PR and then ended up, through a series of five years, being the Global Marketing Director,” she said.

Unfortunately, the company was sold, and thus, Cassil had to find another job. She laughed as she listed them all out, her varied career often causes her friends confusion, as she said “People always ask me, where are you now?”
Each job description she’s had however, she’s managed to learn what she can and put her best foot forward.

After doing more agency work for companies like Acxiom and Stone Ward, Cassil landed her current job at Thoma Thoma, a small branding firm in the heart of Little Rock.

“I love the size because I think what makes it fun is that you have an opportunity to do anything,” she said. The organization works with varied clients, but Cassil enjoys working extensively with the nonprofits. Thoma Thoma often donates hours of work to nonprofits in the pro bono sector, however nonprofits often seek the firm out for branding work.

Cassil completed the nonprofit management course at UALR in the May of 2012, and she said that it has greatly helped when she works with the nonprofit clients.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with them, because I think they really need branding,” she said, “and when you believe in their mission, it’s very rewarding.”

She said she may go back to school again, but for now she loves her job and her working environment. Being in a fast pace firm where the learning curve is high, she fits right in.

At this point in her career she’s learned a thing or two which she’s happy to share with those newbies in the field. Her words span beyond her specific field: “Try and do an internship to see if you even like it, to see what it’s like on a day to day basis. Also, you’ve got to be a good writer to be in this type of business. If you’re not, you either need to learn how or find something else to do.”

She also recommended that we all be willing to “take the crown off,” and push through anything to get the job done. “Nothing is beneath you,” she explained, “you’ve got to be a team player.”

Cassil should know, as she has played on many teams throughout many sectors. In her time of working in PR she has been very involved with the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She was accredited in 1982 and has been very involved in the mentoring process for the organization as well as serving at the district level.

When not working she serves on the board for CareLink, an organization responsible for the popular meals on wheels program, which provides food to the homebound senior residents in Central Arkansas.

Cassil’s mantra centers on balance paired with a drive to work. She’s always striving to learn more at work, provide more for the community, and also give more to her family.

In her spare time she enjoys cooking for friends and spending time with family.

In lieu of her love of crosswords, Cassil’s motivation makes good words to live by: “You have to have this attitude that, well, I’m just going to figure it out and learn it. You can’t wait on anybody to teach you, and usually you can figure it out.”

 Courtesy of Becca Bona, Daily Record

Posted in: Alumni, News

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