Celebrating Pride Month: Joe Kirk’s Journey Leads Him Toward Building a More Equitable Community

Celebrating Pride Month: Joe Kirk’s Journey Leads Him Toward Building a More Equitable Community
Topics CareersDiversity, Equity and InclusionWSFS Culture

Joe Kirk’s life and career have taken him many places through the years, from his roots in Southern New Jersey, to obtaining his MBA in Puerto Rico, to Delaware, where he landed at WSFS Bank in March.

“I’m the newest member of the Marketing team, where, as Vice President, Product Marketing and Growth Strategies Manager, I develop marketing strategies to support the growth of our products, features and services to best serve our Customers,” Kirk said.

Kirk attended Rowan University, where he graduated with his B.A. in Geography and a minor in geographic information systems (GIS) and economics. While serving as a financial services representative at a regional bank early in his career, he applied his education and developed a GIS tool to help identify prospective small business customers.

“Developing that tool is when I realized that marketing was my passion, and from there I worked at a marketing agency at night then left banking for a stint in fintech for four years and later worked at a top 10 bank developing its website strategy,” he said. “During this time, I obtained my MBA in marketing from Universidad del Turabo in Gurabo, Puerto Rico (later renamed to Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Recinto de Gurabo).”

Diversity and Community Work
As part of his MBA program, Kirk worked to expand his knowledge of marketing and its cultural nuances through two research projects.

“My first project explored financial services marketing to the Hispanic-American community, the cultural differences and how banks can adjust products and services to properly serve these customers,” he said. “The second project was about investing in the LGBTQ+ community and how banks can address the community’s unique needs through more equitable products and services such as tailored financial advising and wealth management tools.”

Having moved around during the course of his career, Kirk has utilized his marketing acumen to help a variety of causes in the communities in which he has worked and lived.

“There are always opportunities to lend my knowledge to those seeking to better our communities,” he said. “After Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, I helped a local dog rescue address the exacerbated problem of abandoned/street dogs and worked with them to develop a marketing strategy, plan fundraising events and build a website to support the adoption of more than 150 animals.”

“Additionally, after the still birth of my nephew, I partnered with my sister to raise awareness to the cause and fundraise enough to provide a Cuddle Cot to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. These little-known devices give grieving parents the gift of time with their loved ones by preserving their natural features so they can remain bedside for the duration of the parent’s hospital stay.”

Words of Advice
Kirk has learned quite a few lessons during his journey that can help lead to a happier, healthier and more equitable workplace and community, including:

Challenge the status quo. “Don’t be afraid to offer ideas. Throughout my career, I’ve been surprised to find how well-received some of my ideas were, regardless of my position. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there are unique experiences I can bring to the table that others do not have insight into. I think far too often, many of us suppress our ideas for fear of not being heard. Growth can only come from a place of change and it’s important to remember that no matter your position, your ideas are valuable.”

Pursue your passion. “You can learn many skills on the job. Your work doesn’t have to be relegated by your degree or experience. Don’t be afraid to explore different career avenues. You’re not boxed into where you think you belong. Be free to evolve over time.”

Build your support system. “It’s important to have a good support network at home so you can bring your best self to work. Having a good mentor at work, one who understands your walk of life and can support your growth, goes a long way as well.”

Be your true self. “Though we’ve collectively made much progress as a society, the stereotypes and stigma of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community are very present and real. Especially in the workforce, it can be very difficult to show up as your true self when sometimes you’re the only voice for your community in the room. Don’t be afraid to be that voice in the room – take pride in that responsibility and ensure you create a path that allows more of us in. There are many members of our community who are not ready to be out and seen, many of whom are probably not supported in their personal lives, let alone their professional lives. We are all better off when each of us is their authentic self and brings their unique life experiences to the table. Your voice could make that possible for those on the sidelines.”

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