Up Close & Personal

Blogger, writer and so much more.

When Mandy Boyle pictured herself as having a professional writing career in her early childhood, she embarked on a mission to not only connect and relate to others, but also to aid them in any way she could. The NEPA native juggles a full-time career as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) supervisor at solidcactus.com, along with freelance writing, blogging and helping out in the community. Recently Boyle, cofounder and organizer of NEPA BlogCon (the region’s only blogging and social media conference), has been preparing for this year’s third consecutive BlogCon with fellow cofounders. Meet Mandy Boyle …

Tell us about your roots.
I grew up in the Back Mountain area, a very rural setting. I went to Lake Lehman High School and spent a lot of time with my extended family and my grandparents on their horse farm. I believe growing up this way made me an extremely hard worker and really appreciative of everything, especially any opportunities afforded to me. I was a quiet child — very awkward, brainy and not so great around people. I always like to say that I’m an introvert who practices being an extrovert sometimes. At 16, I knew I wanted to be a journalist and found out later in college that I wanted the opportunity to help businesses succeed. I attended Marywood University, receiving my MA and BA in communication arts. I loved my college experience and getting into public relations and marketing afterwards. My favorite thing about Marywood University is that I was always treated as a person, not a number. I’m lucky. I was granted many chances to learn and meet new people, which led me to the various things I’m doing now. I always had the love and support of my family and my fiancé as a foundation for everything I’ve done. I’d never be able to have accomplished all that I have without them.

Talk about life as cofounder and organizer of NEPA BlogCon.
NEPA BlogCon was originally formed out of an idea when Karla Porter, Leslie Stewart Huntsinger and Michelle Hryvnak Davies and I went to a BlogFest event a couple of years ago. We discussed how great it would be if there was an opportunity to create an event where people who wanted to learn more about blogging could just go, learn and network with other bloggers. We decided to create our own event. The four of us got together and organized our first conference, choosing to make it a nonprofit event. We all share a passion for enriching the community and have raised a few thousand dollars for organizations, such as The Arc of Luzerne County and NEPA Veterans Multicare Alliance. The first event was just a huge success — it sold out —  and we knew, after the first year, we had to continue it.

What will NEPA BogCon entail this year?
It will take place Oct. 11 at Misericordia University in Insalaco Hall. We needed larger capacity and Misericordia generously agreed to donate the time and space for us to hold the conference. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the event goes to about 4 p.m. Tickets are $15. Once registered, people will be given a name tag and will go through either the event’s beginner or advanced topic sessions, including social media in sports marketing, using Facebook to grow your business and blog monetization to name a few. Featured speakers include Brian Coe of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Frances Croke Page of the PureFoodsProject, Danielle Fleming of NOTE Fragrances, Jim Cheney of Uncovering PA and internationally-acclaimed blogger and nonprofit founder, Shane Burcaw of Laughing at My Nightmare. It’s a great place to meet and network with other bloggers, students, professionals and other writers.

What cause will proceeds go to from this year’s NEPA BlogCon conference?
In the past, we helped the Arc of Luzerne County, NEPA Veterans Multicare Alliance and Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge. This year, all proceeds will be applied to STEM education through the launch of a regional code camp in summer 2015, for girls in fourth through sixth grades. Like NEPA BlogCon, the code camp will be held in collaboration with sponsor organization, TecBRIDGE, a regional nonprofit organization that collaboratively strives to create and embrace entrepreneurial opportunities with the purpose of growing technology and biotechnology wealth within northeastern Pennsylvania. Our goal is to create an opportunity for girls to get more involved in technology and hopefully this will bring programming skills to more girls in our region. If the girls don’t choose to use this experience in a future career path, we hope this camp still leaves them with the much-needed, valuable skills — analytical thinking and problem solving. As a woman in the technology industry, I feel there is a need for girls to learn such useful skills.

What’s like being the SEO supervisor at solidcactus.com?
My position at Solid Cactus is SEO supervisor. I supervise a team of high-value account managers and team members who do fulfillment for different client projects. We work with small businesses, as well as completing custom packages for very large national or international brands. I’m consistently awed by their creativity and ability to go above and beyond for our clients. I’m honored to work with the people that I do, along with having the job itself. The job presents new challenges all the time. It’s a blend of both art and science. And it’s wonderful, because I get to use both my left and right brain every day.

You’re also teaching at Marywood University?
I’m an adjunct lecturer in the Communication Arts Department at Marywood University. I’ve taught three classes at the college and I’m currently teaching telecommunications sales and promotion. In the past, I’ve instructed at the graduate level for web-presence development and at the undergraduate level for advertising principles and practices.

It must be somewhat of a change being an adjunct instructor at your alma mater.
It’s definitely a change being on the other side of the desk — but I enjoy it very much. It allows me to share what I’ve learned professionally with a class. It’s also nice because I love meeting students, hearing their ideas, plus seeing them grow and learn. My goal, as a teacher, is to try and empower my students to challenge themselves to acquire as much knowledge as they possibly can. The method I like to use to teach permits my students to get their hands dirty (have a hands-on experience) whereby they will work through a project from start to finish for the entire semester. This is to ensure that when they walk away from the class, they leave not only feeling they’ve mastered the material, but also having something to show for it. I aim to build my class around something that will prepare my students for their first job interview where they will have a portfolio piece to already show. I strive to give them the skills and knowledge that they will need in the workplace, whether they work in an agency, as in-house, at a nonprofit, for the government or somewhere else.
It’s sad The Vintage Theater in downtown Scranton closed. What was it like being member and board chair there?
I’ve worked with several community theater groups, including The Vintage and the Gaslight Theatre. They both welcomed me with open arms. I consider The Vintage to be one of the most essential and beautiful things that has ever happened to me in my life. I first became involved there when I organized a PechaKucha (Japanese for chitchat) Night. The event itself consists of speed presenting. This is how I started at The Vintage and met some really great people. After the event, I kept in touch with both Theresa O’Connor and Conor O’Brien, along with furthering my involvement at the theater by volunteering more. When they formed their advisory board, they asked me to come on board as chair. I was absolutely honored and during the time became a part of The Vintage’s in-house theater ensemble. I was able to become part of one of the loveliest casts that I’ve ever encountered — the cast of Pride and the Prejudice. It was amazing for a lot of reasons. The people were not only absolutely incredible, but they also helped my fiancé, Brent, plan my proposal during the last show’s curtain call. The place and the people will always hold a very special place in my heart. Since then, I’ve been so lucky to work with Conor, Theresa and the rest of the actors and community in advancing The Vintage’s mission and programming. Yes, now the theater is closed. But the programming will continue. And I know that the in-house theater ensemble has a lot of great ideas for what’s coming up. We are currently in the midst of planning what we are going to be doing, so I know wherever we will be, it will be like we’re traveling gypsies! Several different venues have made offers in terms of giving us space, we just need to figure out what the right space and programming will be now. Yet, you will continue to see the people who were active in The Vintage active in our community.

Talk about being an active blogger and freelance writer.
When I’m not doing any kind of work within my day job or working with students, I enjoy blogging and freelance writing. I’ve been very blessed, having worked with various clients, ranging from higher education institutions to small businesses. There’s no greater satisfaction then being able to share my time and talents to help people. As far as blogging, I co-organize NEPA BlogCon, — but I also guest write on a couple of different blogs. Probably the most well-known and prominent one I work with is Search Engine People, which is a search engine optimization industry blog. I just love writing. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.
— katelyn english


More with Mandy:

Please share with us some of the publications you experienced in your writing career.
I was in school papers prior to anything. But the first time I ever saw my name in real-life print was in the Back Mountain Community News. My aunt is the publisher and for my senior project in high school I got to be a guest correspondent for her. It was a thrilling experience. Then when I went to college I joined Marywood’s paper—The Wood Word. After this, I decided on a whim to send pieces I wrote to the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal. They loved it and published it. I couldn’t believe it! My confidence grew from the experience and ever since I’ve never been afraid to try something that I believe may not work out. Then I had some work here in publications, such as in the Binghamton University Alumni Magazine. And I had the opportunity to write some guest blogs that have been featured in some prominent industry newsletters. Really, I’ve been able to dabble in many forms of writing, which is an extraordinary feeling as a writer.

You seem to be very avid about communications. Was there something that triggered you to jump into the field?

Writing was always what I saw myself doing in the future. I got involved with it as much as possible throughout my life, taking any opportunity to write anything. This led to freelance writing, which gave me a real taste for journalism. And although I thoroughly enjoyed it, during my college years I became involved in PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) and the American Advertising Federation Chapter and received the chance to build advertising and marketing campaigns. And there was just some kind of spark to the whole thing. Instantly, I figured out that this was what I really enjoyed doing. I’ve thrown myself towards any opportunity to help an organization or business to better itself, so it can better communicate with people. I love how campaigns can really tell the truth and show the realness about people. To be effective, marketing campaigns need that human element in order for people to connect with the campaign and have its message truly resonate with them.

Talk about a few events, organizations and activities you have participated in over the years for the community.

PechaKucha began with Brad Peniston. Every year, he and his brother take a trip to somewhere in the United States and decide to do something different and fun. When they chose NEPA, they reached out to a couple of people in the community, myself included. I was initially a speaker and then Brad asked me to co-organize it for future events. My fiancé and I organized a few PechaKucha Nights, until my schedule no longer permitted me to do so and I had to fall out of the event. But I was able to get involved in other events, such as Scranton StorySlam where I volunteered as a storyteller for The Vintage Theater. Also, I support and attend networking events, fundraisers and various arts and theater performances in the community. Further, I organized a fundraiser for human rights, which was affiliated with the #bluekey Tweetup charity event. We actually organized it at The Vintage Theater in order to raise awareness for the #bluekey campaign. I was also a part of the Clarks Summit Festival of Ice where I volunteered to do their social media for a few years. And while I was at Marywood, I worked on a charity project with fellow students for PRSSA. The project was to help bring clean water to developing countries. I even donated time then to making bagged lunches for a soup kitchen. Marywood was always wonderful about granting opportunities to students to give up their time and themselves to helping the community. Any opportunity where I could help somebody or donate my time in aiding others, I would.

What installments will you write next into your own life?

I’m getting married October 10, 2015, which is actually my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. This was serendipitously done. I was thinking about weather, foliage and arrangements then remembered it was my grandparents’ anniversary on the 10th. They passed away in the past two years. And having our wedding on their anniversary is definitely a way to honor their memory and lives, while celebrating my fiancé and I starting a new one together. As for what else is next, the sky is the limit. I’m open to exploring all kinds of opportunities that will continue to help the NEPA community shine. I truly love this area. And I want to be a part of the movement to enrich it and to show the talent and all of the beautiful and kind things that it has to offer.