What do the career path and the day-in-the-life look like for a Senior Brand Storyteller at Rapid7?
We connected with Grace Arsenault to find out!
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Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
I grew up right near Portland, Maine. My mom’s an accountant and multi-media artist and my dad’s a carpenter who golfs and carves — whether it’s in the wood shop or on a snowboard.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I went to Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s co-op program and job placement rate were a huge deciding factor, and it did land me my job at Rapid7. My first co-op (internship) was at EF Education in 2011, and my second was at Rapid7 in 2012.
I’ve been at Rapid7 for almost eight years now, and, while that’s sometimes met with wide eyes, I always say it’s been like working for at least three companies with how fast we’ve grown. I remember hitting 200 employees soon after I joined and we’re now over 1600. We’ve also gone public (July 2015), opened offices all over the world, and built and acquired incredible additions to our offerings. Paired with that, the culture and standard of leadership have remained consistently open to change and challenge how we do things.
I started as a PR and Global Communications intern, did some general marketing communications, then taught myself the Adobe suite and pivoted to a graphic design role — that was really challenging and fun. From there I did a lot of work partnering with events and getting more into creative strategy and brand experience.
What has contributed to your success thus far and helped propel you to the position you have now?
First, I have wonderful, supportive, loving family and friends in my corner — they all, in different ways, have helped me through challenges in life and in business. I’m also very lucky to have had the opportunity to go to a shiny private university in a big city. While my student loans are my constant companion, I do think it’s important to note that I started with a pretty significant leg up.
Seizing opportunities when they arise is important, but in my experience, some of the most interesting projects have come from looking for gaps to fill. Said another way, if you seize what comes to you, you can be a successful part of someone else’s plan, but if you find opportunities, too, you start to carve out your own path. That’s always been exciting to me. Of course, this goes along with making sure existing work is outstanding and that those opportunities are in my wheelhouse. It’s never an easy undertaking — a lot of extra time and energy — but, for me these projects have been some of the most rewarding and showed a breadth of interest and ability outside my, “job description.”
The flipside of that was learning to frame patience, which I’ve never had much of, with learning. Career trajectory isn’t linear, even though it feels like the effort you’re putting in is consistent. In those times between the big opportunities or when it feels like things are becoming stagnant, a mentor helped me to see the valuable lessons I was learning — about myself, work relationships, business in general — in those moments instead of letting frustration stew.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Sr. Brand Storyteller at Rapid7?
I’m responsible for crafting the engaging, human parts of the brand. The connective tissue between how we talk about our technology and what allows customers to build a relationship with Rapid7. That includes a lot of complex planning, research, and writing, as well as concepting and pitching ways we can show, not just tell, the brand story. It’s a new role to me and to the business, so right now the cocktail is equal parts challenge and potential.
Any tips for someone considering a career in brand and experiential design?
Get as much broad experience as you can. I’ve always been both creative and analytical, and it’s gone a long way to be able to brainstorm creative and talk logistics or product. To have an out-there, imaginative idea and do the planning and organization to execute it. If you have one more strongly, I’d say really push yourself to strengthen the other.
Be solution oriented. Pretty much anyone can look at something and tell you what’s wrong, what’s not working. That doesn’t exactly make you an asset to a team — and we’ve all been there. If you see something — whether it’s a clunky process or the size of a type face — try adopting a default on fixing or improving it. This sets you up to find those gaps and turn them into opportunities, teaches you to give better feedback, and generally makes you a more productive, positive person to be around.
Backing all of this up is communication, communication, communication. Storytelling and writing are modes of communication, yes, but to influence the brand and work with other teams, interpersonal skills are huge. Even great solutions or ideas delivered without tact and timing will go nowhere.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Right now, my go-to is coffee with oat milk and a little squeeze of honey. I’ll order a dirty chai once a week or so, when I need an extra pick-me-up.
What time do you get into the office?
8:30-9ish, depending on meetings and if I fit in a workout.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
We’re aligned around a powerful mission to create great experiences for customers and shape the future of security. I have the opportunity to craft our brand to communicate that mission, build those relationships, and help make security accessible. It’s daunting, and the challenge pushes me to put my best into it.
Deadlines! I mean, it’s just reality that pressure and expectations get things done. Especially other people’s expectations, or my perception of their expectations and my drive to exceed them. Either way, but sometimes it really is just a deadline.
I have some career crushes that I follow on social, read their books, tuck away inspiration. I used to constantly compare myself against other people’s success, especially women — tale as old as time and I’m still working to break the habit. Rebranding that, so to speak, from socially reinforced jealousy into what I call, “career crushes,” puts that energy to a much better use. A career crush feels more friendly, positive, and supportive than defaulting to envy. Anyway, they motivate and inspire me to be better.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
I review my calendar before bed to mentally prepare — do I have any important meetings? Time blocked off to do writing and creative? It’ll inform what time I get started, if I schedule a workout to get psyched, what I choose to wear.
On my AM Commute, I’m listening to either a business podcast or Audible book or my playlist for that season, again depending on the day ahead. When I get in, it’s coffee, oatmeal with a spoonful of peanut butter, catching up with my team, and checking on emails or rewriting my to-do list.
For the rest of the day it’s a mix of weekly check-ins with various teams, project updates, and the occasional brainstorm. When I’m not in meetings I’ve got headphones in while planning, writing, or designing — at my desk or perched somewhere around the office.
On the way home I’ll grab a few groceries or Thai takeout, and listen to a non-biz audible book, music again, or call home to check in.
How has your routine changed in quarantine?
I seem to need more sleep lately, so I let myself off the hook if getting out of bed is hard. It took a while to have the right energy to work out, too, so I’m happy now to enjoy a good sweat a few times a week — I’ll catch an Everybody Fights live class or do my own medley of yoga/strength/dance/stretch. To feel put together enough to be productive, I need to shower and get fully dressed, with shoes. Yes, sometimes it’s sweats and sneakers, but staying in slippers makes me feel sleepy. Without a commute, I’m listening to fewer podcasts and reading more books.
Zoom makes meetings feel relatively normal. Back in March, I beat myself up a bit for sometimes not sustaining capital-P Productivity all day, but in a creative role, inspiration doesn’t always strike. Off days happen whether you’re in the office or not. I’m very lucky to be able to stay home, and I’m quarantining with my grandmother, who’s ninety. There are always a few pauses to have a chat, help with reaching or carrying things, or grab snacks. We play cards and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy every night, so that provides a nice natural end to my workdays.
What time do you head out of the office?
Around six most nights.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I try to keep it separate, but if I’m working on a deadline, I’ll be online late. Or if I have a project out for feedback, I’ll keep an eye on Slack notifications.
Any productivity hacks?
For any creative block, lately I’ve been turning to hitrecord.org for a change of pace. I love the Tiny Story prompts for a super focused, bite-size challenge. I’ll also switch up the medium if the ideas aren’t flowing — staring at a blank doc? Get out paper and some markers. Struggling to make a slide presentation flow? Start with a written outline.
I’ll also adjust my music depending on the task. I thought my Deep Productivity playlist was very clever, but I realized recently that it’s literally just Hans Zimmer soundtracks. Lighter copywriting gets something like Gershwin or Steve Aoki radio. If I’m doing more visual work, I can listen to music with lyrics — I start a new playlist each season to keep it fresh. I like that I can go back to, say, Summer 2016, and it’s like opening a time capsule.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
Outside of the necessary work apps, it’s Instagram and Spotify for sure. Third is probably The RealReal app. For a few years I’ve shopped mostly consignment, vintage, and thrift in an effort to make my clothing consumption more sustainable. Looking for great pieces, even if I don’t buy them, is a relaxing treasure hunt for me.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
There are a few that stand out to me — designing ads for Times Square when Rapid7 went public, working with a NY-based company, Luster, on interactive displays to engage people at our trade shows, partnering with our leadership team on their presentations.
Most recently, I wrote the pitches for external speakers at our kickoff in January. Our team talked through a bunch of amazing names and, based on the theme of the show and knowing the story he could tell, I advocated for Leslie Odom Jr. to be our keynote. We ended up signing him, and I crafted the interview questions, recommended the songs he performed, and, ultimately, co-hosted the conversation with Leslie alongside our Chief People Officer, Christina Luconi. From beginning to end, it was an incredible experience, I learned so much, and it was massively rewarding to get the feedback on how well his story resonated.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
The aforementioned family and friends, of course. I’m also fortunate that my career path has crossed with a lot of brilliant, strong women, a few of whom I consider close advisors, mentors, and friends. Most of my career has been carving my own route, with some admittedly imaginary-sounding titles along the way. I’ve definitely needed support, and in times where there’s not a “right” answer, consulting diverse opinions has helped me to find center.