Smashing Spotlight: Janel Fink, Associate Engagement Manager

Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Janel Fink, Associate Engagement Manager, to talk shop, how her background in socio-cultural anthropology directly applies to Engagement Management, the importance of Top Pot Doughnuts in Smashing’s culture, and why Momma Cat reigns supreme.


Engagement Management is one of the cornerstones of a successful client/consultant relationship. What exactly is Engagement Management, and how do you play a critical role?

Engagement Management ensures that the business objectives and goals of our clients are always met. Essentially, we’re the voice of the client amongst our internal team and it’s our responsibility to make sure that the team is working towards the goals that the client has set. We manage expectations and anticipate anything that might impact project deliverables. Building strong relationships with clients is also important because clear channels of communication and a deep understanding of what the client needs helps us build great products together.


The number one goal of an Engagement Manager is________?

Advocating for the business goals and objectives of the client!


On top of Engagement Management, you also happen to be an event planner, both here at SI and as a side business. What correlations do you see between event planning and running a client project?

In both roles I’m constantly thinking 10 steps ahead…anticipating what will happen next, whether it’s in an hour or in three months, and evaluating if there is any risk to the event or project. I have to be hyper-aware of all the factors that are at play and constantly consider what changes are ahead, the potential impact of said change, and how to effectively utilize the available resources to obtain the best end product.


The most rewarding part of working so closely with Smashing’s clients is…..?

I’m a people person and I really love getting to know clients. Building an open and trusting relationship is important to me and I find it incredibly rewarding when I reach that point with a new client._1060245


Cats or dogs?

Cats. AND there is one cat that is better than all the rest: Momma Cat


What are your top 5 moments working at Smashing Ideas?

  1. The day that the Curious George Train Adventures app hit the iTunes store – this was the first application based project that I had the opportunity to work on from start to finish and seeing it live in the iTunes store made me incredibly proud of the collective team, which consisted of people working from 3 different continents and 4 time zones over several months to create such a cool, and educational, digital product for kids.
  2. Winning the Best Female Costume trophy at our recent Summer Picnic…everyone needs a bit of Floridian style to spice up their company party!
  3. Eating Top Pot Doughnuts when new people start! When employees join SI, a giant box of Top Pot Doughnuts are placed at their desk to entice people to come to their desk, grab a yummy donut, and say hi. In a fast-paced, digital company like SI, this tradition helps to create the personal connections that are needed for good communication and collaboration from day one. Plus, who doesn’t love doughnuts!?
  4. Watching Orcas from our office window. We have floor-to-ceiling windows that span the entire length of our office and overlook the Seattle waterfront. For a few magical hours last summer, a pod of whales played out in Elliot Bay. It was hard to get work done because the whole office was glued to the windows.
  5. Running stairs with co-workers. Every Friday I manage to round up a few co-workers to run the Pier 66 stairs with me during our lunch hour. We get outside, get our heartrates up, and have a chance to get to know each other outside of the day-to-day grind of office life. I look forward to it all week!


You have a Master of Arts in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. How does your knowledge of human behavior factor into your day job?

I chose anthropology because I love trying to understand why people behave the way they do. Understanding the context in which people make decisions helps inform what they need to be able to reach their objectives, whether it’s personal or professional.  In my role at Smashing, I strive to understand the context in which clients make decisions and what factors weigh into this because I’m then able to ensure they have what they need to achieve their goals and vision for a project.


You’re just a few weeks, maybe even days(!), away from being a first-time mom. Congrats!! What travel adventure are you most excited about taking your daughter on when she gets older?

I plan on taking my daughter to Papua New Guinea when she’s older. I spent a summer in college living in a small village in Papua New Guinea and it was a life changing experience. While I can try to explain how the time spent there affected me, I’d rather allow my daughter to experience it for herself and let that be part of her own life story.


And last but not least, what was your last truly smashing idea?

Moving to Seattle in fall of 2014. After I finished grad school at the University of California, San Diego, my husband and I stuck around the area, but San Diego never really clicked with us. Seattle, on the other hand, makes us happy – it’s a bit of Boston city life (where we are both went to college) mixed with the laid back nature of San Diego. It feels like “home” and we’re excited to be expanding our family here!

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