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Meet Elise Upperman of Engine Shop in Beverly Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elise Upperman.

Elise, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
At 21, I had just finished an internship in London at a PR Company called Mary Lally & Associates, where I quickly learned Fashion PR was not for me. Yes, there were aspects of “The Hills,” where I got to sit at fashion shows and organize beautiful clothes in closets, but I see why Lauren didn’t go to Paris (except there was no man in my life from stopping me). When my temporary work visa expired, I came back to my hometown of Phoenix and was hired at a women’s digital publication called SheKnows. At the time, I was brought on as an Internship Coordinator (never heard of that job title? Weird, me either). Essentially, the CEO wanted to produce an apprenticeship program, similar to those at Conde Nast and talent agencies, where someone could apply for an internship at the company and be immersed in a 360 program with a strong, yet unspoken possibility of being hired at the end of one’s term.

Since this had not yet been done at the company, I was tasked with working with different department heads (Biz Dev, editorial, sales, SEO, content production, etc.) to learn the basic aspects of each department, identify needs, and teach the interns how to execute while ensuring they were exposed to each department. I managed roughly 60 interns a year, not far off from just being an intern myself, and was exercising quite a bit of “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality. In the beginning, I was often learning just as much as the participants in the program, but as “the manager,” I saw very quickly that it wasn’t about the knowledge in your head as much as it was about knowing how to communicate and work with different personalities. This has proven to be an invaluable skill used almost every day in my work life, which I am grateful for.

After several years of this fulfilling yet semi-random role, I was brought back to my early childhood goal of moving to the beach (I was and currently am obsessed with marine life, particularly dolphins). We had a small office in Los Angeles, so every week I would pop my head into HR’s office and ask if an opening came up. After about seven months of doing this, the usual answer of “No…go away” turned into a “well actually, yes”. They were in need of a Talent Relations manager to book and manage celebrity interviews. I interviewed, got the job, and a month later was driving a U-Haul to Los Angeles. I didn’t know how I was going to do this job, but I did know that it was going to get me where I wanted to go, and I would figure it out along the way. This new role brought some amazing opportunities, such as movie premieres, red carpets, restaurant openings and lifelong friends. One unexpected twist was having to jump in for our on-air talent to conduct on-camera interviews for movie junkets. I will tell you; nothing is more uncomfortable then forced conversation with celebrities who clearly do NOT want to be talking to you. I was so awkward, wanted to apologize in advance for my generic questions that they had already heard ten times that day, and would usually do something super embarrassing. One time, I burped during an interview, another time I tried to say “experience” and just said “sex”, and I almost always had a red rash on my chest at the end. Needless to say, even to this day, I still have PTSD presenting in meetings from these experiences.

After many years at SheKnows, my time came to an end. I was a part of a large company lay off, that may or may not have been attributed to my on-camera skills. Looking back, as cliché as it sounds, this was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I am a loyal person by default and would have likely stayed past the time I should have in order to advance in my goals.

I was then hired at another media company (that shall remain nameless) but shortly after starting, I received an offer at another company that was an enticing career change…plus something just didn’t feel right. After a lot of internal back and forth, I decided to muster up the courage to give my notice after the company had just flown me out to Toronto to meet the team. I was told “I would never work in this industry again.” About three months later, the company that reportedly generated $90M that year closed its doors.

Enter, present day. I have been with Engine Shop for almost five years and am confident that every little thing, both good and bad, set me up with the knowledge needed to excel in my next step.

Has it been a smooth road?
Just as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I feel the same way about challenges. For me, every challenge has been an opportunity because I have chosen to see it that way.

One of the biggest obstacles that I face is fear (also known as: fucking up, failing, disappointing, etc.). When I started out in my career, fear wasn’t a thing. But as you start to excel in your career and you are working with fortune 500 companies, CEO’s and leading major brand partnerships, fear starts to creep in because there is more at stake. It’s a constant battle to remind myself that dwelling on fear and what could go wrong is a waste of time and energy. Instead, I enter projects knowing things will go wrong and have a plan (or two…or three) on how to fix it if/when it does. Fear can be used as a motivator, but I’ve learned to not let it drive my decision making. When you enter anything with good intentions, whether it be as simple as a weekly client call or a multi-million dollar deal, fear should take a back seat and you should take the wheel.

Another struggle is patience. I was never one to dream about my wedding, but at an early age I was dreaming about a business I would run. When you really want something, there can be a sense of urgency to want it now, and it can be frustrating when you are in the grind with no end in sight. It can also breed an environment where you do not take time to relish a success and are only looking at the next thing to accomplish. Learning how to pat yourself on the back for waking up early to get in a work out class, saying no to an outing where you will be terribly hungover the next day, or taking a personal day after completing a kick-ass campaign, are all successes that should celebrated by taking pause and appreciating how far you have come.

Perception is another struggle that myself, along with many others of both genders, but especially women, have faced. I have received comments like “oh I see why you got the job” after changing from load-in clothing to black tie attire, or “I didn’t think you could actually hold a conversation.” I found myself dressing down for meetings, keeping my hair up and wanting to blend in at the table to avoid being perceived as “another blonde girl.” Being sensitive and observant to this over the years, it can be easy to identify who holds a preconceived notion. I’ve learned that it is more impactful to look these people in the eye, identify a common denominator and strike up a conversation instead of shying away. If you were invited to sit at the table, pull up a seat and sit however best suits you. A friend sent me a quote, not sure who it originated from, but it goes “your perception of me is a reflection of you; my reaction to you is an awareness of me” and it’s really stuck with me. I’m still learning how to not let others’ judgment (or perceived judgments) affect me, but I’ve noticed that the less I care, the easier life gets.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Engine Shop – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Engine Shop is an engagement marketing agency that connects brands and consumers in an interactive way. We specialize in live events, partnership evaluation, social campaigns, esports, global sports consulting, branded entertainment and measurement + business insights. Our clients include Mercedes-Benz, The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, Anheuser-Busch, Hilton and many more. We are known for building creative brand strategy, executing best in class activations, and ensuring that our clients are communicating effectively and efficiently with their consumers.

When you work across multiple clients with different objectives and personalities, there isn’t a one-size fits all way of doing things. Ultimately, this is a person-to-person industry. You can have the most amazing ideas but if you lack a personable relationship with your clients and co-workers, the work does not reach its full potential. Your professional life becomes way easier when you develop a rapport and trust with clients and coworkers.

I think that is what sets us apart from others. Our team is relatable, transparent and honestly, fun. We hold happy hours, we make jokes, and we understand that it takes a village. If we don’t have the answers, we know someone who does and have the tenacity to ask for help to get the job done.

I think I am most proud of the lack of “no” in our company’s vocabulary. “No” is such a definite response that leaves little room for conversation or creativity. From an early stage in my career, I worked towards taking “no” out of my vocabulary and found a company who generally feels the same. Of course, setting boundaries and being realistic with clients is always imperative, but if you find yourself constantly starting with “no”, it likely means you need to take a vacation or personal day. Especially in the luxury space, there is always someone who is willing to push forward with a “yes” mentality, so it’s important to remember that if you want to keep business.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
But luck has always been a funny thing for me. When I was younger, I would always get the “well you are just lucky” card as a response to my accomplishments but I never saw things happening to me out of the blue. Generally, my actions or response to something, depending on if it was negative or positive, would create some sort of correlating result. I am fortunate to be born into a loving family and recognize the inherent privileges I have been afforded. That said, I believe it’s not necessarily about what you are given but what you do with what you are given.

A generic example: if you win the lottery, is that all luck or did you have to take the initiative to get out of bed, buy the ticket and play in order to win? A personal example: I set a goal to make a certain amount of money by the time I turned 30, and I achieved that goal. Leading up to that, I didn’t see much luck in the equation, but I did see working 10-hour days, plane flights 4x a month, difficult conversations and sacrificing a personal life. You get where I am going. I believe thoughts become things and to this day, I try to look at things through a positive lens, which generally brings more positivity. Because of this, I do not think luck has an effect on my life. Instead, I believe every little habit, thought, routine and conversation you chose to participate in will generate your personal outcomes.

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