Heider takes charge, serves as mentor

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When it comes to getting stuff done, Kelley Heider is the person to call.

The 34-year-old doesn’t hesitate to take charge as the vice president of innovation and social media at the digital public relations company, SSPR.

Heider is known for fostering rapid change within the company while serving as a role model because of her attitude and work ethic.

An Omaha, Neb., native, Heider finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Redlands in southern California before attending graduate school at the University of Chicago.

After spending the last five years in Colorado Springs, Heider has no intention of living anywhere she doesn’t get to gasp upon seeing Pikes Peak while driving home from work. 

Explain your career in a nutshell.

I’m the vice president of innovation at SSPR, a public relations agency. We predominantly have tech and tech startup clients, so that can be anything from consumer technologies, robots and things like that to more business-to-business enterprise level software. When I started here about two years ago, I was tasked with building out the social media department. They were recognizing that public relations is more than just media relations, and social media is a big thing that we needed as a line to offer clients. I had experience with building social media because of the timing of my career.

Why did you choose this career field?

I was in publishing initially and I feel like maybe I just became a little disenchanted with it because it was an industry I loved so much that I just had such high ideals. Then, once I was inside the machine, it really wasn’t what I thought. It was pretty routine and wasn’t really right for change and innovation — the things I like to bring. I was in a communications role previously with the city, and I think I just really like telling stories. I like helping people and solving problems … and being creative.

What’s something you’re passionate about?

Right now, I am with Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention. I’m a call adviser on the teen board that they have. It’s an issue that I am passionate about because I know that teen suicide rates are increasing in El Paso County. What we say is that suicide is not the problem, it’s the perceived solution and then thinking about these kids getting to that point where they feel like they have no alternative. Personally, I feel like so much of it has to do with coping mechanisms and support systems, so trying to be part of that for kids.

What made you want to stay in the Springs?

I only recently, in the last year, have gotten into hiking, which I think has only renewed my love of Colorado Springs. I don’t know what I was doing, and I can’t even tell you who I was before that because now whenever it is nice out I’m going straight into the mountains. That is the place where I feel grounded. The people in the Springs also are just so much friendlier. Here, just walking down the street, people will smile or say ‘hi’ to you for no real reason other than they are more genuine and kind human beings. I think that the sense of community also is pretty strong here even though people have a difference of opinion on what that community should be like. It’s still driven by that passion for community.

What does the future hold for you?

I am blessed to be empowered by the two other executives who work in this office, who are women. Both of them have really taught me to trust my instincts. I’ve had the opportunity to become a leader and to manage and develop people, and I have found that I have this really great ability to help people grow and develop in their careers — to find their passions and hone their skills. That is the stuff that I really, really enjoy. I think that no matter what, I really want being a leader and mentor to be at the center of what I do. I just think that leadership is so important, particularly female leadership given the current climate.

Any advice for other young professionals?

I think that so often it is all about trusting your instincts, your gut and listening to yourself. There are so many competing interests but at the end of the day, you are left with yourself. You have to be able to feel like whatever you are doing — the choices you are making — are personally fulfilling. I think that also is an empowering thing.