Danielle Huenefeld

Could you start by sharing a little bit about your role?

As client relations, I do a little bit of everything. Being in a small company, everybody wears a lot of hats. My main responsibility is project management, so the day-to-day organization of all company projects. It’s my responsibility to have at least a high level knowledge of every project that we have going on, relaying information to and from the client, and just making sure that we are staying on time and on budget. I also assist our marketing and sales teams with some of their efforts as well as just a little bit of this and that around the office. So I guess you could say my role focuses on daily operations.

How many projects do you have going on at a time, on average?

On average I’d say we have around three to four projects. A lot of times we have one bigger project and two to three smaller ones.

Did you always know you wanted to go in the field of project management?

No, I went to UofL and majored in communications - the reason being I had no idea what I wanted to do. I have friends who are now doctors, lawyers, and even designers who were like, “I know I want to do this and I am going to school for it.” But me? I had no idea. I knew that I liked talking to people and I liked writing, so I went for communications.

My first job was cold calling sales and it was awful. I did that for a little while, moved into marketing and copywriting, and then came to Forest Giant to start in client relations. We didn’t really have a strong project management regimen here at the time, so I kind of got in where I fit and decided that I was going to start helping out with our projects, talking to clients, and creating more of a process. That’s how I ended up in project management. Although I love it now, it wasn’t what I started out wanting to do.

I know you took management classes while at Forest Giant. Could you tell me a little about that and how it helped your career?

I took the project management certification last year through the University of Louisville professional development program. It was awesome! At Forest Giant they really push us to be self-motivated - to create our own processes and fill in the gaps where things are needed. For me, I felt that I needed to brush up more on professional project management, so I took the course for 12 weeks. Forest Giant really encourages us to pursue additional education, go to conferences, and follow anything that we are interested in whether it’s technology, project management or otherwise. It was a great experience and that really helped me evolve as a project manager.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different. My day starts with emails, so I like to tell everybody that my job is pressing ‘send’. I send a lot of emails back and forth, update our clients with their project’s progress, and meet with all of the teams. Whenever we have projects going on, I will meet every day with the team to check in with how everyone is doing. This can be in the form of a formal stand-up, group meeting, or casual conversation.

Our team is awesome. The designers, developers, marketers, and UX practitioners are all self-sufficient. I am so confident in their abilities that it’s easy to just float around and not really know what’s happening. A big part of my responsibility day-to-day is to make sure I understand what they’re doing, especially from a development perspective. I don’t have a dev background, so when I first started it was a whole new world to me. Every day is different, but most of the time it’s meetings, emails, etc…all really fun stuff.

Could you tell me a little bit about Sour Mash Tours?

I started Sour Mash Tours last year with my husband Andy and our friend Dillon. We went to Denver and took a beer tour, so it was local beers but at bars - not breweries. We realized that back in bourbon country you can go to distilleries and take distillery tours, but there’s not really an experience in town for people who would just like to get some bourbon education, do a tasting, and check out local bars. We started Sour Mash Tours as a way to get people involved with all of those things.

Our flagship tour centers around three different bars: visitors get a flight of bourbon at each stop, a guided bourbon tasting, and education about bourbon, the neighborhood, and the city on the whole. It’s been really fun. Dave, Jon, and Jesse have also been super supportive of me having a side gig. It’s been an easy transition to work Sour Mash at night and to do this during the day; working for a semi-startup gave me the experience and confidence to launch.

What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had at Forest Giant?

Great question. I think juggling several projects at once has been the biggest challenge. I really strive to have a deep knowledge of all the projects that we have going on so I can better assist the team. I like to think of myself as the filter between the team and the client so they don’t have to deal with the business side of things. It’s a balancing act between several different projects to make sure you have a thorough knowledge of what’s going on. You’re also juggling between internal sales with clients, building project timelines, managing budgets, and just making sure everything is going smoothly in general.

If you could give someone aspiring a similar career path advice, what would it be?

The biggest piece of advice I could give is that the path to your career is not a straight line. I started out not knowing what I wanted to do. Be open to the changes and the curve that the road takes. Having the opportunity to work in such an awesome environment with such great people has been amazing, but I would not have had this opportunity had I not done that crazy cold calling sales job where I worked in a basement by myself.

Also….network, network, network. I consider myself to be an outgoing person and I love to talk to people, but the moment you put me in a networking event, suddenly I’m frozen. I’m in the corner with some hors d’oeuvres, stuffing my face like, “What do I do?!” But learning how to be a good networker is crucial. I think building a network of good people, not only personally but professionally, is crucial for career growth.

I would also say as far as project management goes, continue to educate yourself. Here at Forest Giant a lot of our employees - the designers, developers, UX practitioners, our marketing gal - continue to learn. They are constantly reading and learning, attending conferences and webinars. As a project manager, I think that it is easy to become stagnant and feel like there isn’t much more to learn, but after taking the course at UofL and doing a lot of my own reading … I continue to learn and grow.

You can always be better. There’s always something to improve upon.

Colin O'Daniel
Sales + Marketing Intern