Walt Disney once reasoned, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Shaina Plotkin, AJA’s marketing specialist, chooses to live according to this quote. Whether it be running out to take a quick photo of students, joining a last-minute meeting, or working on marketing designs from her office, she is fully dedicated to her work.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Shaina attended Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a Jewish day school that included elementary and middle divisions. However, there were no Jewish high schools in Jacksonville, so Shaina went to a public high school. She remembered her high school experience being “exciting” and “lively.” She “went to a school of the arts, so it was very different from a normal public school setting.” The school was filled with “very lively people,” and there was “always a lot going on”; theater kids and art projects filled all the hallways.
Shaina herself enjoyed working in the theater during her time in high school. Specifically, she found technical theater to be most enriching, as opposed to more streamlined classes, such as English and math. With time commitments to various art classes, Shaina had to juggle these creative outlets on top of her general studies. She added that this involved “a lot of late nights and weekends.” Throughout her years in high school, Shaina both participated and led the prop crew, where she created small pieces of the sets for various plays. In her senior year, she recalled being the prop head for Beauty and the Beast: “It was so much fun, because my crew and I got to create all of the food for the “Be Our Guest” scene.”
Reflecting on her high school experience, Shaina has learned “not to worry so much when you’re in high school.… It’s okay to enjoy life a little bit.” Additionally, Shaina advised current students who are interested in the arts to “go for it.” She expressed that many “think it is the norm to go to a high school with a football team.” However, Shaina feels that students involved in the arts should not be embarrassed to pursue these passions.
After graduating high school, Shaina moved to Gainesville, Florida, where she attended the University of Florida. Entering college, she faced a common struggle: decision-making. She explained that some “lucky people know what they’re going to do.” Unfortunately, she said, “I was not one of those lucky people, so I did not know what I wanted to do, and I had to kind of test the waters a little bit.” Ultimately, Shaina went into the College of Journalism and majored in public relations. Having attended a high school of the arts, Shaina knew that she valued creativity. This passion fueled her chosen career in digital marketing, as she enjoys “doing stuff online.” As our world continually advances technologically, she finds that “every day they’re creating something new” that she can use to enhance her work.
Following college, Shaina stayed for another year in Gainesville to continue working for her college internship company, which had offered her a full-time job. Knowing that “the time after you graduate from college can be pretty intimidating,” she took this job opportunity thinking, “Why not?” Shaina reflected that she “loved” working for this company, known as Eat the 80, a healthy meal delivery service. After working as a marketing intern where she managed social media pages, sent out newsletters, and photographed meals, Shaina took on many more responsibilities as she transitioned to a full-time job. This entailed managing over 250 customers and ranged from assisting in marketing, ensuring meal orders were in the systems, and answering phone calls to the office. “I was pretty much the customers’ point of contact,” she summarized. While working for Eat the 80, Shaina gained various skills, such as maximizing customer satisfaction, working in a leadership role, marketing, sales, and self-confidence skills.
Right before the pandemic, Shaina moved to Atlanta and took a job in sales. However, she knew she did not want to work in sales, so she began looking for other job opportunities. The start of a global pandemic put a wrench in her goals, but, “being Jewish, there are very easy ways to make a connection.” Shaina explained, “I actually connected with [former Marketing Director] Barrie on Facebook… I really didn’t know about AJA before; I just saw [AJA is] hiring for marketing specialists, and I thought, ‘It’s perfect.’”
Starting at AJA during a pandemic has been a difficult adjustment for Shaina. She explained, “It started off hard because even during the interview process, I wanted to be able to see the school [because you cannot experience the community] when it’s a Zoom call.” Unfortunately, “The school wasn’t letting people in, and no one knew me.” Therefore, after visiting AJA and beginning to work, Shaina entered an unfamiliar environment, along with the ongoing pandemic.
Since starting at AJA, Shaina has fallen into a daily routine. Usually, she will arrive in the morning when school starts and open up the software she needs, such as InDesign, to create publications, postcards, and social media templates. To help organize and prioritize, she routinely generates a to-do list with tasks for the day and sets due dates to increase her productivity. Despite the comfortability of her routine, Shaina acknowledges that “things come up where I have to get my camera, or I have a meeting or something that wasn’t planned.” Although she may have to put down what she is working on to respond to a time-sensitive need, Shaina’s first priority is “capturing what’s going on around school.”
In addition to her strong work ethic in marketing, Shaina enjoys being outdoors, going on walks, and appreciating nature outside of the work environment. She explained that the pandemic drove her to step outside of her comfort zone and spend more time outdoors. Shaina has gone hiking, whitewater rafting, and biking, which she felt are “things that [she] would never do” pre-pandemic.
Throughout her early artistic experiences, demanding career, and acclimation to a new workplace in a universally troubling time, Shaina has been guided by key role models. On a personal level, her mother and grandmother have been significant inspirations: “My mom is still working to this day. She’s a PA oncologist, and she’s literally saving lives.” While her mother worked, Shaina fondly recalls that her grandmother took care of her and taught her basic skills, such as how to tie shoes and tell time. She stated,“We still have such a good connection to this day, so I always look up to her.” Professionally, a role model for Shaina is Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx. Shaina elaborated, “Any type of woman in power, especially in the business world, has always been a role model of mine.” Overall, while living up to her role models and guiding principle of a rigorous work ethic, Shaina is forging her unique path with the plethora of experiences she has attained thus far and will continue to achieve at her job at AJA. As Shaina simply put her thoughts when she was introduced to the AJA community: “It’s perfect!”