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How She Got There: Natalie Ebel, Director of Marketing at Pencils of Promise


Name:  Natalie Ebel

Age: 29

Job Title and Description: Director of Marketing at Pencils of Promise (PoP) a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to increase access to quality education for children in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos. 

 College Name/Major: University of Missouri/Marketing and Art 

Website: www.pencilsofpromise.org

Twitter Handle: @natalieebel



What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Natalie Ebel: There’s no such thing as a typical day. Today, I went from a partnership meeting about designing jewelry that will support PoP to reviewing website wireframes to a meeting where we planned out our Snapchat and social strategy to pitching partnerships for International Literacy Day (on September 8th, Pencils of Promise will be lighting up the Empire State Building like a pencil). 


What is the best part of your job?

NE: My favorite part of the job is knowing that the work we do every day directly correlates to tangible impact – we’re empowering young people with education opportunities in Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos. Our team is a lot of fun as well!


What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

​NE: My first job was in book publishing. I’ve always loved reading and the power of great storytelling.


What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

​NE: I wish I would have known how much opportunity there is for innovation at non-profits. Traditional non-profits sometimes get a bad rap for being slow to adapt to new models and tools. However, PoP has really demonstrated the potential for a new generation to embrace the model of being a "for-purpose" organization. We’re able to leverage a strong brand, innovative programs, and data-powered decision-making.


Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

​NE: My first boss, Lynne McAdoo, is a strong and successful woman who challenged me to grow from day one. The best advice that I could share – be diligent to seek out a great first boss who will push you early in your career. 


What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

​NE: Early in my career, I was eager to say yes to everything that came my way for fear of missing out on an opportunity. While being open to opportunities is important, I’ve since learned the value of focus in order to selectively pursue opportunities where I can best add value and see the greatest impact.


What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

​NE: Observing a classroom in Ghana a few months ago, I saw a third grade PoP student stand up and read out loud with her new e-reader for the first time. After class, the student told me that just two months ago, prior to having an e-reader, she wasn't able to read out loud. But now, because of the e-reader that she’s able to take home with her, she practices reading before she goes to bed each night.

On the marketing team, we’re constantly talking about PoP’s work and sharing it with our audience. However, it was a surreal moment to actually see the impact of what we’re sharing. Pencils of Promise is truly making students literate, providing children who had never before been able to read with that capacity. It was a humbling moment to see that through education, we’re able to encourage students in the most remote areas of the world to believe in their own promise.


What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

​NE: Emotional intelligence, empathy, confidence, creativity, a team orientation (we, not I), and a sense of humor.


What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

​NE: First, relationships matter the most (genuine relationships, not just networking to get ahead). Second, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions – specifically, ask “why,” never bring up a problem without a proposed solution, and you never get what you don’t ask for.


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