Megan Szerwo (’04) awarded 2013 Outstanding Early Career Award
Whether it’s making her way up in the City of Seattle at top communication positions, doing outreach for the Children’s Hospital Guild, making cupcakes from baby onesies, or blogging about her latest culinary adventure, Megan Szerwo (B.A., 2004) is constantly giving back to her hometown – all of which make her deserving of the 2013 Outstanding Early Career Award from the UW Department of Communication.
This recognition was created three years ago to honor and support a recent graduate (within 10 years) of the Department who has shown both impressive career accomplishments and a commitment to the public good. Previous recipients include Maria Castro, Lesa Linster, and Edgar Gonzalez.
“I knew the award existed, but I didn’t know I had been nominated and I was delightfully surprised,” Szerwo said. “It’s definitely an honor and it felt really good. I work hard and I know I work hard, and it was great to get recognized for that and for the work that I’m doing.”
THE WORKING WORLD
When Szerwo came to the UW, she knew she wanted to pursue the communication or marketing field, but was unsure if that would be a business or communication track. She followed the advice of upperclassmen in her sorority and applied early to become a communication major.
Szerwo was instantly interested in internships when she was accepted to the program her sophomore year. She interned with a movie promotions company called Terry Hines & Associates for two years, running press junkets and working with the media. While dabbling in events with an internship at Seafair and finding out that events involve a lot of hard work and early call times, Szerwo was drawn to public relations.
“I learned that events are great and what goes into them, but I decided to stay on course with PR,” Szerwo said, “but I use the skills that I learned there even today… From every internship, I’ve gained different skills that I still keep with me; it all just builds on one another.”
After graduation, Szerwo was convinced that she would move to California with a few friends, but when they decided to stay local, she recalculated. She found work at an acoustical underlayment company for a year.
“I wanted to get back to marketing and public relations though, so I called up all these people from connections I had made at internships,” Szerwo said. “There just happened to be a temporary position at King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks and they said they would love to have me back.”
Szerwo had previously interned with Natural Resources and Parks in its public affairs team and she became their Communications Specialist.
“I find it really rewarding and fulfilling to be working on behalf of the community,” Szerwo said.
While the temporary position came to a close, a job opened up with King County’s Records, Elections, and Licensing Services Division. The division was reorganized while Szerwo was there and she began working for the newly-established Department of Elections. With each move, she was able to build on her experiences and broaden her network.
“There is a ton of transition back and forth between the city and the county, and even within the county itself,” Szerwo said. “I found that just meeting a lot of people and perfecting all my skills really helped me progress and grow to bigger and better jobs.”
Four years later, Szerwo would transition to become the Communications Director at Seattle City Council. This past April, she became the Public Information Advisor at the City of Seattle in the Department of Information Technology.
“Here, I’m really focusing more on my internal communications,” Szerwo said. “We have about 200 employees. I also do public disclosure requests for the department and work with the mayor’s office quite a bit.”
Although she was never particularly interested in politics or local government in college, she said it just kind of happened. And she loves her job.
IN THE COMMUNITY
While eating breakfast before work, you might find Szerwo updating Facebook for her own small business that she started in 2009 called Little Britches Bakery. Although she calls herself the executive chef, her creations aren’t edible. Inspired by an overpriced diaper cake she saw through a boutique window, Szerwo decided to make her own affordable item to take to a baby shower.
“So they’re baby gifts and they’re all completely non-edible, but they look like edible things,” she said. “It’s pretty unique, but it started because I’m a really creative person, which I think lends myself well with communications.”
Her ingredients and recipes have since expanded and refined, and she recently got her first wholesaler – a cupcake company out of Langley, British Columbia who is selling her onesie cupcakes alongside their gourmet creations.
After work, you might find Szerwo attending a meeting for one of the three volunteer organizations that she is involved with: the Department of Communication Alumni Board, the Kids at Heart Guild at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Seattle Works.
Szerwo was the first Alumni Board President for the Department of Communication from 2005 to 2007. Like the start of any organization, it took some time for the club to find its direction, but she has been active with the board ever since.
“It was a growing, developing organization,” she said. “The way it’s progressed over the last ten years has been really positive and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
In the past, she has been a part of the professional development committee and the auction committee – the Department of Communication auction often occurring around the same time as the Kids at Heart’s annual fundraising event, which Szerwo does public relations and outreach for.
“All the money goes to uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s, which is great and it’s also rewarding,” she said. “It’s not that much work, but the value that you get is just immeasurable. I don’t have kids, but I imagine if they were sick and I wasn’t able to pay I’d really be appreciative of folks who have these guilds and are raising money.”
After leaving her job with King County Elections, Seattle Works has been a way for Szerwo to use all of her elections knowledge. For the last two years she has been chair and co-chair of the organization, holding fun events to educate 20 to 40-year-olds about local elections and encouraging them to vote.
“I learned a lot of my skills from roles that I had at the UW,” Szerwo said. “It keeps me sharp and I can use the trends and skills that I use in my professional life, in my personal life with these organizations.”
Szerwo will remain in Seattle for at least the next four years while her husband finishes his Ph.D. in accounting. But regardless of whether they move after he is done, her contributions to the community will have a lasting impact in the city where her professional career took shape.