It will be 30 years ago this August that I packed up my 1974 Mustang coupe and headed for Cascade Hall at Pacific Lutheran University. I knew one other person at PLU and she was going to live on upper campus, while I had chosen to live on lower campus. I was looking forward to the fresh start – a new school and new friends. I’ll never forget pulling up to the back of the dorm and this very tall, very friendly guy named Jim offered to help me carry my boxes up to my room, I remember how he made me laugh and set me at ease in my new surroundings. We bonded over ice cream at The Cave and “The Guiding Light” (an old soap opera) we would watch together after class. He was a great listener for whatever boy troubles I might have been having at the time. Thirty years later, Jim is one of my closest friends, and he’s still a good listener, he’s lived in Hawaii for many years and my family visits him in Oahu whenever we can.
My years at PLU were incredible, I received a bachelor’s degree in communication/public relations and a minor in business. Professors like Ed Inch and Cliff Rowe not only taught me to write and debate, but to think. I loved the realism of Kit Spicer who warned us, “You’re gonna make squat in PR when you first start out, you’ll probably need to waitress on the weekends to pay bills, so put your head down, work hard, and within a few years it will pay off.” He was right on so many levels.
I graduated on the Saturday of Memorial Day 1990, and on the following Tuesday I started my first job as a corporate communications assistant at INTERLINQ Software making $10 an hour. That led to a public relations specialist position at Traveling Software, where I met my husband, and then to my first agency stint at Waggener Edstrom Public Relations (recently renamed WE Communications). I began on the Microsoft account and Melinda Gates was one of my first clients. For the past 10 years, I’ve had my own PR and marketing company called Salt & Light Communications and Microsoft is one of my main clients.
My mantra: “I never met a person I couldn’t learn something from.” I can’t tell you exactly where I picked that up, but it has served me well. PLU taught me about making connections, from treasured friends in the dorms to professors who serve as references for job interviews, or finding professional mentors along my professional path. I believe it’s important to take every opportunity to meet people life brings your way.
My junior year at PLU I traveled abroad to Singapore. The school year there ran from July to March, so when I returned I needed to find an internship. My boyfriend’s father had a friend in PR, and he offered to connect us. I was so nervous to call her, I think I even hung up the first or second time I tried to dial the number. When I finally spoke with her, she offered to meet me and eventually became my professional mentor for many years.
Today, I work hard to pay that kindness back. Because I have worked in the high-tech PR community in Seattle for more than 25 years, I have the privilege of knowing a lot of great professionals, and it brings me great joy to connect people. Whenever someone asks if I am willing to grab coffee with them to help them either find a job, review their résumé, or learn more about what I do, I always say yes. I do it to help them, but I also love meeting new people. Everyone has a story and everyone has something to offer. If you give them your time, what comes back is often even greater. My stepfather used to say, “You can’t out-give God.” What he meant was no matter how much you give to others, you’ll receive more in return – and he wasn’t talking about personal gain. You can call it “pay it forward” or “karma” – whatever terms works for you – but for me (and my stepfather) it’s truly about giving back and personal connection.
I love reading my issue of ResoLute when it arrives each month. I enjoy the articles, but my favorite part is the class notes section where we learn what’s new with our former classmates. Later in July, I’ll be camping for a few days with some friends from my days in Cascade Hall. These friendships began my first year at PLU and they are still going strong. You have to make the effort to carve out time for these friendships to endure, but they are worth the effort.
PLU taught me so much about how to make connections, both personally and professionally, connections that enrich my life to this day. I challenge each of you reading this to take a leap of faith and ask for a meeting with someone you don’t know, who is maybe outside your comfort zone either personally or professionally. You might just make a connection!
– Elaina (Holland) Dulaney ’90,
Principal, Salt & Light Communications, LLC