Meet December’s Contractor of the Month: Michael Kreisbuch
Where did you grow up and where did you go to college? What did you study?
I grew up in and around northern New Jersey, about 30 minutes from New York City. Throughout my years in school, I was fascinated by Eastern European history and aviation, so I deliberately searched for colleges with good programs in History and Russian Language. That landed me at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. where I earned my BA in 2010.
Thanks to my continued study of the Russian Language while at F&M, I also applied and was accepted to the Bard-Smol’ny Program in the spring of 2009. My time in St. Petersburg helped immerse myself in the Russian language and History during my Junior year, and it only deepened my love affair with 19th and 20th-century Russian history.
What did (or do!) you want to be when you grow up? How did you get into marketing and communications?
My grandfather was a major influence on my life growing up. He spent his career working as an engineer for a defense contracting firm that specialized in the production of digital optics for the military and NASA. These devices were the precursors to the cameras that we now use every day in our cellphones and computers. The more I learned from him the more I became fascinated by the history of that technological development and the people and decisions that drove it.
After graduating from high school and starting off in college, I quickly found work as a Graphic Designer with the Office of College Communications. I had spent much of my spare time in high school working with design software, retexturing 3D models for flight simulators and computer games. Collateral creation for the College Communications office was just an extension of those skills. Working there introduced me to mentors to learn from, and also helped me to educate myself about the Marketing world. I knew that when I graduated I wanted to find a similar role: helping people, companies and other organizations share their stories.
What do you like to do for fun? (Pre-COVID or currently or both 😊)
Creative Writing has been a hobby for as long as I can remember, and I’m part of a writing group that meets regularly online. When the weather’s good, I still get out to hike or ride my motorcycle on country roads across the capitol region. Thanks to the Pandemic, role-playing games and reading have become a much steadier mix of entertainment as well. Whether as the D&D campaigns I’ve run with friends for the past two years, to new fiction recommendations from my writing group friends, or catching up on some of my favorite YouTube History series… I guess you could say that the pandemic has given me time to find new nerdy things and get back to others I’ve greatly enjoyed.
Favorite food? Drink?
Seltzer and sandwiches! I used to run several blocks over from work to the corner of 9th Avenue and 46th Street and grab a sandwich at City Sandwich in Manhattan. Friendly staff, awesome menu with options for everyone, and an absolutely killer Caprese sandwich.
One bucket list destination…
It has to be Malta. So much history packed into one tiny place, and the Mediterranean’s weather to boot. I could get lost for hours just walking around Valetta.
What’s the best advice a manager has ever given you?
Success starts with being present, and it helps if you’re hungry for more.
Toward either the end of 2011 or early in 2012, I was working at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. We led and created 60-90 minute programs about the history of the exhibitions on display. We were a non-profit organization with relatively little room for advancement. Performance reviews were up and I’ll admit I was nervous, but as my supervisor pulled me into the office he hit me with an observation that surprised me: People were coming up to him after my programs and letting him know how much they liked the tours. I was upbeat, knowledgeable, and inclusive. I went out of my way to get to know the staff in other departments, and out of the varied number of programs that our department gave, I had made the effort to learn most of them on my own. It proved I was ready for more.
By 2016, when I left Tours to join the Marketing Department, I had become a Supervisor for the Tour program working with and training more than 25-30 Tour Guides. There’s just no substitute for the success you can achieve by showing up, doing the work, and doing it well.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career?
Before you can lead, you have to know how to follow.
We live in an age where communications constantly cross, where the distance between the public and private sphere has become so narrow that the Venn diagram depicting it is practically one solid circle. Our world is boisterous, it’s loud, it’s diverse, and that is a wonderful thing. But if all we do is talk at each other, nothing gets done. For all the advancements we’ve made in giving people a voice, our world seems to have a chronic shortage of listeners. All of the skills required to make you a good leader can be employed to make you a good follower and so much of it begins with active listening.
So take the time to get to know your co-workers. Learn about their backgrounds and their strengths. Listen to them when they present and take their information and experience into account. Listen to your leaders when they outline solutions. Ask questions when you don’t understand. Remember that it’s possible you don’t have all the information. Provide constructive criticism when it’s warranted, but also respect when a decision has been made. Keep an open dialogue with your leaders about career paths and goals. And most importantly, when you’ve been assigned work, execute it to the best of your ability. The best way to prove you’re capable of handling new responsibilities is by consistently accomplishing the tasks you’ve been assigned.
What work accomplishment are you most proud of?
Though I have years of experience in Marketing and Communications, I have to say the most rewarding accomplishment of my career was the opening of the Intrepid Museum’s On the Line: Intrepid and the Vietnam War exhibition in 2015. In addition to the exhibition, our department launched a 90-minute program detailing the history of USS Intrepid from 1966–1969. It covered the history, technology, and the men: the challenges they faced, and how the rigors of life at sea impacted them on a daily basis.
For the grand opening of the exhibition, a large number of former crewmembers and naval aviators came back to the ship that had once been their home. The exhibition generated press, our programs generated talking points, but by far, for me, the most rewarding aspect of it all was the number of times family members told me, “He’s never said anything about this before!” To have even played a small role in facilitating those discussions, and providing a place where these men felt comfortable opening up about that part of their past… it’s where I’ve felt I’ve done the most good.
What has been the biggest plus about working from home during the pandemic? Challenge?
I live alone and my day with my co-workers made up the vast majority of my weekly social interaction. I don’t just miss them and the office; Some things were made so much easier by being able to quickly walk over and ask a question. The loss of that ability to physically interact meant that much more of the day transitioned into organized phone calls and meetings. It became a more difficult process to sync schedules and get in touch during the course of a regular workday.
Before the pandemic, I’d never considered the possibility of working from home. The physical separation between home and office was important and helped me mentally transition to and from my work brain every day. I think it took the pandemic for me to realize that I didn’t actually need that physical distance. As basic as it sounds, I realized that working from home was something I can do successfully. It also encouraged me to think more creatively about my career. While I’d still much rather be in the office with my co-workers, I feel privileged that I can still perform in my role and am happy that my colleagues are able to safely do the same.
What do you like about being a TorchLight contractor?
Navigating the job market even a year ago was competitive, and it’s only getting tougher out there. There’s no doubt that searching for work on your own is difficult, and it’s often hard to consider all of the different avenues your skills may be useful for. With all of my prior experience in the museum, defense, and non-for-profit world, my job search was heavily tailored for those industries, but at the same time ignored others where my skills are just as useful.
The TorchLight team became a trusted partner in my career search, and working with them has been a wonderful experience. Their existing relationships with local businesses opened doors and meant they could more easily see where my skills would fit current openings. Through the onboarding process and all the while since I’ve been working on the contract, they’ve been upbeat and positive, eager to answer questions, and there every step of the way with the client. I couldn’t imagine my current success without them, and I’m overjoyed to be a part of their team.