The iSchool’s Kelly Lux has found the right fit when it comes to building community in a tech-centric career.
By Sistina Giordano
Photography by Kimberly Cook
Contemporary illuminated work stations and a clean, sleek design frame Kelly Lux’s inviting office at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, or iSchool. A large screen featuring an ever-changing Twitter feed occupies three quarters of the back wall. The space appears to be indicative of the lead woman who occupies it — tech driven, tidy and to the point.
Lux is the Executive Editor of Information Space, Director of Social Media at the iSchool, co-founder of #CMGRchat on Twitter and adjunct professor of Social Media and Online Community Management.
Her Twitter profile describes her as curious, opinionated and that “Internet Reconnaissance is her thing.”
“I’m not afraid to say what I’m thinking,” she said. “People know what I’m about and I make no bones about it.”
With her phone constantly buzzing and lighting up with each new message, Lux is poised and very personable. Though she admits to always being on the go, her calm demeanor hardly reflects her daily grind.
However, the road that brought Lux to the forefront in a tech-based career wasn’t as clear-cut. “It’s nothing that I ever imagined myself being in at all,” she said, “but something about social media caught my attention.”
On this particular afternoon, Lux is finishing another round of her Community Managers Chat via Twitter. #CMGRChat is one endeavor she co-created with Jen Pedde in an effort to bring together community managers in the workforce, and she’s been doing it faithfully in its nearly three-year existence.
What began as earning a master’s degree in education at SUNY – Oswego seven years ago evolved into what she called her “dream job” by working hard to utilize her skills and willingness to learn to get her foot in the all the right doors. “Social media has pretty much changed my life from when I started at SU to now,” she said. “I didn’t know this job existed when I started, but now it’s afforded me immense opportunities to meet people and do wonderful things.”
Her shift started in 2007 when she walked away from a community relations position at Anheuser-Busch to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education. But her inability to find a full-time teaching position led her to look for other employment opportunities.
In 2008 Lux landed a job working for the vice president of student affairs at Syracuse University. A year into her position she transitioned to career services as their alumni programs coordinator.
“At the time we were running this mentoring program via excel spreadsheet [to] keep track of who we were connecting and [the] people in the program,” she said with a laugh. “Then I discovered LinkedIn and was thrilled because I could now reach all these people.”
Lux quickly discovered that she had a knack for connecting people. As her interests grew, so did the social media sphere. When Twitter hit the Web, Lux spent six months learning the ins and outs of the new networking medium. But it wasn’t until she enrolled in an iSchool social media class that she was propelled into pondering a career in the fast-paced scene. “I took Professor [Anthony] Rotolo’s social media class and I got to know him,” she said. “And after the class I told him that I wanted to do this for a living.”
As fate would have it, SU was then on the cusp of starting its own social media department, headed by Rotolo, who remembered his former student’s excitement for the field. When he contacted Lux about the job, she jumped at the chance.
Lux nearly lost her mind working part-time at the iSchool and part-time for the university, she said. But her due diligence paid off. That same year, Syracuse University was named the second most influential college on Twitter between Harvard and Stanford having been active for less than a year.
Mere months later Lux officially joined the iSchool full time, offering her the chance to broaden her skills. And since coming on board, Lux has had a front row seat to witnessing the school’s rapid growth in the information age boom. “We recently received a gift from an alumnus, a portion of which — $1 million — will be added to our technology endowment that provides us with funds each year to keep technology current,” she said. “Our faculty are encouraged to stay up-to-date on the latest instructional areas, including technology and online learning. We have a long history — 20 years — of online and distance education, and we ensure our faculty have the tools, technology and training to remain at the forefront of online learning.”
At the forefront of the iSchool is a daily blog — Information Space — created by Lux. Since 2011, qualified students from across the university are paid to blog on a variety of tech topics on a daily basis. In November, the blog surpassed one million page views for the year. “Not bad for the smallest school on campus,” Lux said.
Despite her success, she admitted that the field is still quite dominated by men. But the evolvement of social media has really started to bring about change to the field, she said. “Men had their feet in this first, the coders, the programmers, it was a boys’ club,” Lux said. “And it’s been very difficult for women to break into because of the club environment, but those barriers are breaking down and thanks to social media the industry has changed a lot, especially for women.”
Lux attributes a woman’s need to be social as part of the reason why women are the ones who are starting to propel the industry forward. “The truth is, women are social. They like to share and talk and social media gives them an outlet to do that,” she said. “I think it’s more natural for women in a lot of ways and it’s opened their eyes to the possibilities they have.”
Lux added that it’s not just an industry about coding or programming, but that students can work in virtually any field with a degree in technology. “The possibilities are endless in terms of the different pathways you can take that still allow you to have marketable skills,” she said.
And she encourages young women to consider a career in tech, particularly for both its practicality and flexibility. “This is my favorite job. There is always something new, continuing, changing and evolving,” she said. “And working here in this environment is so exciting and a really interesting field to be in.”