When you’re from southern Missouri, but raised in northern Illinois, you can develop a bit of an identity crisis.
So when people ask Ashley Dodge where she’s from, she splits the difference.
“When I had to choose where to go to college, St. Louis was in the middle, so I always say I’m from St. Louis,” she said.
The diehard Cardinals fan attended Washington University, where she majored in international studies with an emphasis on French and film.
The 30-year-old marketing director at Martin Burlingame Insurance Agency spoke with the Business Journal about her role in the industry, traveling the world — and her undying love of diamonds.
What was your intent studying French and film?
Travel! Which I did. I studied abroad in France for the summer in 2008 and taught at a leadership conference in Korea that same summer. I finished my undergrad and taught in leadership conferences in Korea, Washington, D.C., and New York before going back to Washington University in St. Louis for my master’s in international affairs.
Basically accelerated nerd camp. In Washington, we would visit the World Bank and the White House and we got to sit on the floor of the House of Representatives.
What did you do after you earned your master’s?
I was working at the university development office and decided to take a nine-month sabbatical and traveled to study painting in the south of France. I also lived with family for a little bit in Norway and visited Vienna and Barcelona and Madrid.
When I came back, I moved to Colorado and worked for a friend’s summer collegiate baseball league for a while. Technically, my job was director of development, but I did a lot of community outreach and logistical operations — whether it was coordinating with dorms for all our summer collegiate baseball players, working with coaches. It was really logistical and we offered professional development opportunities — resumé reviews, connecting players with local internships, things like that.
So what happened?
The league, which was based in Missouri, was going to expand in Colorado, but didn’t. … I was living in the Springs and met Martin [Burlingame] at a trivia night. He asked what I was doing and I said I’d been working for a nonprofit but the momentum had slowed. He said, ‘How about you come do freelance for me?’ So I started doing freelance marketing in 2015 and just stayed.
How else are you involved in the community?
It took a lot to give up my freedom and work at just one organization. I like to have a lot of pet projects.
Last year I was event coordinator for the Colorado Haiti Project in Louisville, which is more aligned with my degree. … I also teach baseball at UCCS.
You teach baseball?
It’s an awesome job. The fact that I get paid is ridiculous. For the first two days of class I get paid to play whiffle ball on campus. We also go to a Rockies game. We talk about how baseball can be a parallel for understanding success. Hits are like turning in an assignment. We have great people speak who are in leadership positions in baseball organizations — like the Rockies and the Sky Sox and our baseball coach at UCCS — who’ve had great success. It keeps things interesting.
So you’re a baseball fan?
A huge baseball fan! A Cardinals fan. I lived for 10 years in Illinois and 10 years in Missouri.
Do you seek out baseball jobs?
These things came to me. I didn’t seek them out. But I think if you surround yourself with people who are passionate about the same things you are, you find a way to turn that into a lucrative career — or at least a sustaining career.
Talk about the insurance business.
Martin Burlingame Insurance Agency has two subsets. One is a commercial insurance wholesale brokerage and we work with agents to help them broker insurance through carriers.
They focus on hard-to-place risks, so things people can’t [insure] with whatever agency they’re working with, so they reach out to us and say ‘we have a person with a unique situation’ … all sorts of random businesses that don’t fit into a nice box for insurance. …
Martin is also a cover holder for Lloyd’s of London, so he gets to commit millions of dollars on behalf of Lloyd’s of London for a risk. We deal a lot with tiny homes and have a tiny home program. … Lloyd’s of London saw this as a niche market and Martin sells tiny home insurance like crazy — homeowners insurance and builders.
What’s your role?
I don’t write insurance; I’m not licensed. But I make it look pretty. Marketing is about polishing the experience. I go to brokers a lot to find out how we are doing, how we can make things better and how we can disperse information in a more complete way so you’re not wasting your time.
Insurance changes a lot, so in order to meet those dynamic changes, we also have to be changing. … So 90 percent of my job is polishing things. Taking a social media page from 200 followers to 1,000 followers — that’s what excites me. Taking a tiny home program and creating an entire brand from that is exciting to me.
I try to encourage my students at UCCS to figure out what they really like and pursue that. Sometimes they are struggling in class to get ‘here’ because they want to make a lot of money.
But what do you do well?
I have them focus on that. I had great mentors and they told me to focus on what I do well. … Study whatever you’re good at and use that as your platform to pitch to other people until they believe in you. It doesn’t matter what you study, as long as the goal is to equip yourself to be the most knowledgeable person in the room on that topic.
Did you consider staying overseas?
Yes, but I like being closer to my family. I’m one of five kids and all my siblings are quite a bit older than me, so I’m really close with their kids. They call me Uncle Ashley.
What are you thoughts about the Springs?
What I love about Colorado Springs is it’s a very different dynamic from Denver. … When I was living in Denver, it was a different vibe. There’s not an intergenerational connection. In Denver, Millennials hang out with and interact only with Millennials. In Colorado Springs, you have much more opportunity for mentorship and intergenerational interaction, whether at 1 Million Cups or the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council. … There are lots of people here with great experience who see potential in Millennials. I think that’s why we see articles about Colorado Springs [being one of the best places for young professionals.]
Talk about the World Affairs Council.
I love the World Affairs Council. I’m on the board and am chair of the young professionals group. We call us ‘not yet retired’ because the majority of the council’s demographic is retired. They’ve had tremendous careers and still want to engage with intellectuals, generals, prominent business leaders. It’s awesome and we coordinate great educational events.
When I started, it was working with them to generate more young professional attendance. It’s a struggle, though, because we’ve had a strong group of core members and then half leave for deployments and the other half for Denver. Colorado Springs is even more transient than the Denver area. You have the military, but also professionals who are moving because they’re still establishing their careers and their families.