A Rising Star – The impressive ascent of NASA’s Account Manager

Sylvie Jacobs has come a long way, figuratively and literally, to reach her current position with MarCom Group.

Starting out 11 years ago as the agency’s office manager – a critical role in every marketing communications firm – she has taken on increased responsibilities ever since. She moved to the Account Services team last year, and, this past November, was promoted to account manager for the NASA account.

However, Sylvie’s “long way” story begins more than a decade before all that. She was born and raised in Brittany, a peninsula on the northwest coast of France. After receiving her degree in tourism, she first came to the United States in January 2000 – 24 years ago this month – to work as an au pair to improve her proficiency in English so that she could work in tourism back home.

But she returned to France in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a tragic day that also depressed hiring in the global tourism industry. After working a few small jobs there, she came back to the U.S. at the end of 2002 and has been here ever since. She began a family, and when her son entered Kindergarten, she decided to return to the workforce. “I knew I wasn’t going to continue being a stay-at-home mom while he was in school,” she recalls. “I wanted to go back to work.”

She contacted a temp agency, which gave her various assignments for several months with different companies in northern Virginia, including MarCom Group. In July 2012, MarCom Group offered her a full-time position as office manager. “I had no office experience when I was offered the job,” Sylvie says. “I had worked in daycare and been a stay-at-home mom. MarCom Group really took a chance on me.”

Sylvie remembers the nervous energy she felt in the new position. “New tasks are always scary for me,” she explains. “It was challenging, which I enjoy.” In the beginning, it was mainly front-desk work – answering phones, ordering office supplies, and printing materials for account managers. “And making the coffee, which is very important,” she said with a smile. “I was one of the first ones in and last one to leave.”

Building Her Career on Initiative and Hands-on Experience

A little-known aspect of being an office manager for a marketing communications agency is that you end up being exposed to all the firm’s accounts to some degree. That provides a solid foundation for working in Account Services. Soon, Siobhan Tabor, senior account director for MarCom Group, got Sylvie involved with supporting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) account, placing orders and reconciling invoices, and also assisting in supporting Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). From there, she was promoted to account coordinator and traffic manager.

“Siobhan is the main reason I’m in the role I’m in now,” Sylvie says. “Throughout my time at MarCom Group, a lot of what I’ve done has been self-taught. But Siobhan saw something in me that I probably wasn’t seeing myself.” Asked what that might be, Sylvie speculates that “she saw that I was reliable and always willing to help out.”

Siobhan remembers noticing that Sylvie had some time available while working the front desk. “It was a rather frenetic time, so I asked if Sylvie could help,” she says. “Sylvie took on more ownership of each task and began interacting with the client on a regular basis. It was then that I knew that she was capable of so much more.”

When MarCom Group won the NASA account, Sylvie was a natural candidate to take on the account manager role. “What I like about NASA is that there are different kinds of projects all the time,” she observes. “That could be designing a logo or posters, decals, or conference room signs. And we work with different clients and departments within NASA as well. That makes it a challenge, but it also keeps things interesting.”

To help manage these diverse requests, Sylvie, Siobhan, and Steven Eson, the designer on the account, initiated a process to help the account team and the client work together to provide optimal solutions. It includes questions and discussion points to identify what the client needs, how the deliverables will be used, how soon they’re needed, and the budget.

Asked what it’s been like working at MarCom Group for the past 11 years, Sylvie doesn’t hesitate: “It’s been great. I came here as a stay-at-home mom with a degree from France in tourism. I never thought, when I was first hired, that I might be an account manager for a firm like this. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

She also firmly believes that MarCom Group makes an effort to match people and their skills with the right position. “If you look around, you can see that. There are quite a few people who have been here more than 10 years, which says a lot about the agency’s supportive culture.”

Siobhan, her supervisor, agrees. “Sylvie is dedicated, talented, and hard-working. I’m so glad we work for a company that encourages [career] growth and inspires employees to live up to their potential!”