Kami Spangenberg shares the song that changed the way she thinks about her career.

Kami Spangenberg serves as the senior vice president of corporate communications, scientific stature services, and community affairs at RTI International, a global nonprofit research institute. In her role, Spangenberg oversees three crucial departments that work cohesively to fulfill the institute’s mission of translating knowledge into practical solutions for improving the human condition. 

The comms and marketing veteran finds professional fulfillment in collaborating with dedicated individuals working towards a global mission for the greater good and she emphasizes the importance of laughter in her daily life.

In 2023, Spangenberg was recognized as a Top Women in Communications by Ragan Communications. 

My professional motto/mantra is:

I am incredibly fortunate to lead a team of smart, creative and hard-working colleagues. Each day they amaze me. My leadership style certainly falls into the category of motivational cheerleader, and I expend a lot of energy creating positive team energy around projects. I’ve been known to say at the end of many team meetings, “Let’s get after it!” It’s a rallying cry to get going and make things happen. Getting after it—and staying after it—through persistence and hard work always pays off.

A book or song that changed the way I think about my career is:

Issues management and crisis communications are key components of my communications work. I’m particularly proud of a consistent track record of helping our people and our organization navigate the tough stuff. This work demands a lot, and the pressure can take an emotional toll. I find myself time and again turning to All Things Must Pass (1970) by George Harrison as a beacon. Knowing “the darkness only stays the nighttime” helps me move through intense moments assured that “daylight is good at arriving at the right time.” George knew that “all things must pass away,” and that sense of impermanence helps me navigate challenges.

I’m inspired by:

I am inspired by the storytellers. The artistry, the craft, of storytelling fascinates and enthralls me. An avid reader and cinephile, I love nothing more than immersing myself in a captivating tale. A story told well stays with you. It leaves an impression, informing how you see the world. Stories share our memories and enable connection. Anyone who can harness that power inspires me.

The most underrated skill in my profession is:

Effective communicators tailor for the audience they’re trying to reach. Seeking to understand others and to imagine what it must be like to be in their situation—empathy—is a skill. Some may say that empathy is an ability, meaning it’s natural or innate. I don’t dispute that there are natural empaths. Yes, skills differ in that they are learned and improved through performing. But I believe that one can practice empathy and get better at it. To me, empathy is the ultimate soft skill allowing communicators to connect more effectively with their audiences. And that connection is truly how we measure our success.

One way I maintain my work-life balance is:

At RTI International, we provide staff with the flexibility to work where and when they are most productive. We have incredibly gifted and talented staff who solve complex research and development challenges to help improve the human condition. That’s no small task. Providing telework, hybrid and resident options is one way we support them to do their best work while maintaining “work-life balance.”

I chose to be a hybrid worker where I spend most work hours connecting virtually from my home office and join colleagues onsite one to two days a week where face-to-face connection seems most beneficial. This allows me to keep a balance with my personal life and a wellness routine that works for me while bringing my best self to work, so I can guide and mentor our team.

I love what I do and feel very connected to my team and colleagues, so my work happiness quotient is high. I found HP’s recent sponsored content in the NY Times, Happy at Work? How Remote Jobs, Technology and New Attitudes are Redefining the “Office” interesting. The data show work preferences vary by generation, and one point that struck me is that most of us need “work-life freedom” or “work-life flexibility” rather than what we traditionally think of as balance. That resonates with me.

 The thing I’m most excited about for the future of my profession is:

I’m excited about the evolution of tools we use to communicate. To date myself, I started my career writing at the DOS prompt. Now, I have a team piloting generative AI tools to help streamline daily tasks and another team implementing Smart Brevity principles into our workflow. It’s staggering to think about the technology evolution over my 35+-year career and how much has changed. I’m excited about what lies ahead with the promise of emerging tools that open up new creative channels and enhance how we reach our audiences. 

Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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