My Job Story - Chris Kay

In My Job Story, a new series on High Demand, Low Supply, we share job stories from people in various fields. What led them to their current job? What can we learn from them in our job search and career?

Chris Kay

Chris Kay

For the first in the series, I spoke with my friend Chris Kay. Chris is the Director of Marketing with SMG Stockton, the company responsible for Stockton Arena, Bob Hope Theatre, Oak park Ice Arena, and Stockton Ballpark. Chris joined SMG Stockton three years ago, originally as the Marketing Manager before being promoted to Director of Marketing. On the surface, Chris runs the marketing department for some of Stockton's most well-known sports and entertainment venues. Chris's role, however, is much more than it seems on the surface. He is a hard working marketing professional that is proud of the work he and his team accomplish.

High Demand, Low Supply: How do you describe your job?

Chris Kay: I like to say marketing, but it’s so much more than that.  When I was just promoting the shows, or doing media buys, I liked to call myself a professional middle man, someone between the promoters who need to sell shows and the media reps who place the TV, radio, and print ads.  There are a lot of personalities to work with, so it takes a deft touch to maneuver through a media buy and still have a successful show. Marketing has changed so much even in the three years I’ve been here. People are MUCH more distracted, so getting them to pay attention to the ways you advertise are exponentially harder.  As for my role now it’s a lot more nebulous. I have a team that does a majority of the media buying and advertising for our shows, although I still work with a few promoters.  But I also am in charge of sponsorships - picture all of the signs you see at the Stockton Arena (except the ones on or around the ice for the hockey team) and am active promoting the venues into the community by being on several community boards, including the Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Stockton.


HDLS: What is a typical day like for you in your role? 

I volunteered at every chance I had... By the time I was finished with school, I had two opportunities in front of me.

Chris: Nothing is typical!  I'd like to say that I come in and set a list of things I need to do for the day, casually knock them out, then leave at 5 pm and say I’ve done a good days work.  That almost never happens.  More likely, its 9:30 PM and all my plans got blown up.  I'm working with a promoter on how their ticket sales are going, while a couple of more promoters want to put their shows on sale.  Media reps want to pitch you on new projects and community organizations ask for donations.  I’ll review things before we put it out to the public, like our e-blasts or ads. On many days, I’ll have a sponsorship or community meeting to run off to.  And on event nights, I’ll be on-site either working with a photographer or the assembled media. 


HDLS: What was your first job? 

Chris: My first paid job was as a field worker in the Lodi vineyards.  I did everything from pulling weeds to trimming vines. 


HDLS: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Chris: It’s funny, I don’t know that I ever thought about my career that way.  I always wanted to be in a situation where I could have a family and we could travel, whatever job I was going to have was just a vehicle to that.  


HDLS: How did you get where you are now? 

Chris: My first big job out of high school was selling cell phones, right when they were becoming affordable.  It was, to say the least, profitable enough that I decided to quit school and focus on that full-time.  However, once the mergers started happening commissions dried up and the industry was not as promising as it once was.  So I just quit. 

Your opportunities will be much more about who you know than what you know.

I was fortunate enough to be living next door to the sports coordinator at the YMCA. He told me he was moving, but thought I would be a great fit. So I ended up working for the YMCA for almost five years, both in Sacramento and eventually back here in Stockton. But, when the economy turned sour, people stopped signing up for sports programs, and my job was eliminated. I was tired of working part-time for such little money. I decided that school was the best route for me to go. I was accepted to University of the Pacific and quickly wrapped up my Bachelor's degree.  

During my time at Pacific, I made it a point to get involved. I volunteered at every chance I had, interned, and worked in the Pacific Athletic Department. By the time I was finished, I had two opportunities in front of me, either graduate school at Pacific or to take a job in events/marketing with an organization I volunteered for: the Downtown Stockton Alliance.  This was 2010, finding a job was impossible. I took the job.

While at the Downtown Stockton Alliance I put on large events, like Stocktoberfest and Taste of San Joaquin, as well as numerous Pub Crawls and Summits. They were events that were well attended and profitable. It was a fun job.  My first year there was great, and I thought it would be a place I would be long-term. It was not going to turn out that way. Luckily, and this is why relationships are very important, SMG had an opening for a Marketing Manager and I was glad to start fresh with a new company. 

A few month into my job as Marketing Manager at SMG Stockton, the person who hired me was promoted into the Assistant General Manager job (eventually she became the General Manager). After some time, I was promoted to Director of Marketing.


HDLS: What are the best parts of your job?

Chris: No two days are alike and if you’re bored, wait five minutes. It moves at such a fast pace you can’t help but be busy with new projects. I also get to be out in the community a lot, which is something I love to do. I’ve met some really great people and put on some great events. We have an awesome team of very talented people from the boss on down, and that’s always important in a job like this where you’ll be working long hours and multiple events.


HDLS: What career advice would you give your younger self? 

Chris: Be patient and finish school sooner.


HDLS: What is the worst career advice you have ever received? 

Chris: That your career defines you.  If you love what you do (which I do) then great, but people are amazing and fascinating and can (and should) be defined by much more than their job.


HDLS: What is the best career advice you have ever received? 

Chris: I have two things that stand out. First, there is always time and space to things the right way. Second, never burn bridges. Your opportunities will be much more about who you know than what you know.


Chris's job story is a wonderful one of perseverance and being in the right place at the right time. Building strong relationships and being willing to take on new responsibilities have allowed him to take advantage of being in the right place at the right time.

Chris Kay is a graduate of University of the Pacific and a proud alumnus of Leadership Stockton. He serves on the boards of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, San Joaquin County Economic Development Association and Leadership Stockton Alumni Association. In addition to being a skilled communicator, Chris is a sports fan and has worked as a radio broadcaster for University of the Pacific basketball and serves as the Public Address Announcer for Pacific and San Joaquin Delta College volleyball. He and his wife, Kristen, live in Stockton and are excitedly expecting their first child in February 2016. Connect with Chris on Twitter and LinkedIn.