Beyond the LinkedIn Profile: Cara Rousseau , CMO at Discover Durham

Cara Rousseau is the CMO of Discover Durham. Today she talks about her passion for her current role as CMO of Discover Durham, love of working in the travel industry, and her answer to the heated debate, Duke or UNC.

Hosted by Derek Ross and Mike Manganillo, Talk West delivers real conversations with business professionals, as they share their journey and how it shaped their career path.


Derek: Awesome, awesome. Well, we’re excited about our conversation today and not only are we in Downtown Durham, but we’re also with one of our clients and like, how amazing is that right?

Cara: For the first time in person. We’ve been running campaigns together since last summer, yeah. 

Derek: From Zoom to in person, right. So it’s awesome. So Talk West, if you haven’t listened to Talk West before, you know, we’re having real conversations with people who happen to be professionals, but their stories and their journeys, those are the things that connect us that gives us insight to our career path and also who we are as individuals. And so we’re excited to have a conversation with Cara Rousseau who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Discover Durham. Hey, Cara. 

Cara: Nailed it. 

Mango: Welcome. How are you?

Cara: I’m doing well, we’re not seeing the best weather in Durham, but hey, at least it’s not freezing. 

Derek: That part. I’m excited is it’s like, you know, people say, you know, with Durham or even in North Carolina in general, like your, your forecast looked like all four seasons plus a season, in one week.

Mango: I think we’re about to enter the pollening, I saw that go through a lot recently, so that season’s going to hit soon.

Cara: As long as we’re past fake spring. 

Derek: Exactly. It’s like, you know, I saw an article about, you know, usually I don’t look forward to the silkworms, right, that come from the trees and like they’re in your hair, but then I saw an article I think one of our colleagues put it in our slack channel about the spiders that like the size of a child’s hand, that’s going to drop from the sky and spring. And I’m like, you know what? I’ll be back in the house. If that happens, I will be in the house. Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’ll go ahead and get started.

So, so Kara, tell us a little bit about yourself. For those who don’t know, you are getting, see, first time, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Cara: I’m one of the few folks around here who’s from around here. I’m born in what used to be Durham Regional and I will forever call it that, grew up outside of Durham on the Haw River went to UNC, did my MBA there.

Every single job I’ve ever held. I was thinking about this on the drive in today, every single job I’ve ever held is somewhere in Durham County. So I’ve, I’ve only made income from the places that really make Durham awesome. So I’ve worked at the office of economic and workforce development, I’ve worked at the research triangle park and I’ve worked at duke university all before coming to discover Durham about five years ago. 

Derek: Wow. Durham threw it through. 

Mango: I have a tough question for you, that’s kind of on topic of what we’re going through tomorrow. 

Yes. So you represent, Discover Durham that, that there’s a school so associated with Durham, a lot, lot, not a lot of people want to talk about. However, you went to UNC. All the viewers want to know and listeners where your line stands. 

Cara: So this was a tough question to answer when I was the social media manager at Duke University, working at Cameron live, live tweeting, live gramming live snapping, having to say that, you know, Blue Devils are the best fans in the world, all the Cameron crazies are, you know, rocking,

and there was one time I, and anyone who’s done social media knows all about this, where you toggle between your personal and professional accounts. There was one time I posted on Kara’s personal account, Cameron Craziest, best in the World, and my network blew up. So I am personally a Heel, through and through. Professionally, I cheer for Duke and Central all day long.

Derek: I have to give you a fist bump. Tar Heels all day, fellow alum. So I’m happy. Awesome, well, I always like to take it back because I think a lot of times, you know, our traits and the things we’re interested in when we’re younger, typically follow us into adulthood and even, you know part of the decisions that we decided to make, and so young Cara, how was she? 

Cara: I was homeschooled. And if you’ve ever known an extrovert who’s homeschooled, they do everything they can to get out of the house and be active. So I was a competitive gymnast. I rode horses, we had three growing up, at our house. So it wasn’t like I was the equestrian that showed up. It was mucking stalls every day. Really into Odyssey of the Mind, which is like a problem-solving creative kind of program. I was always on the car team because there were no other girls and it was all of the cute boys that wanted to make the cars. And again, I was homeschooled. So the pool was pretty… exactly. I would say in terms of traits, total perfectionist, and I’ve lost that along the way, a long time ago. 

Derek: Awesome, awesome. I like that because, you know, you mentioned the, the creativity do any of those traits show up now, even like across your professional career?

Do you see some of those traits as a kid? Getting out there saying yes, volunteering, being a part of a lot of different elements? 

Cara: That’s a good question. I would say that probably what I carry the most are the traits that I learned and developed as a competitive gymnast. Growing up, I was in the gym 40 hours a week.

And then that actually translated into my first job where I started coaching gymnastics at 12. My, my coach was like, you’re homeschooled so could you come in early and help me with the babies and do birthday parties? And so I w I would say that the things that I learned as part of being a gymnast is the individual competition, but also the team competition, because it’s one of those interesting sports where you do both.

So I think that that’s something that I’ve carried into my adulthood is wanting to personally be successful and holding myself accountable, but always remembering that there’s a team around me and the importance of motivating that team together. 

Mango: I’m interested in, how was that transition of being the extrovert, being homeschool to go into college, and being out there with tons of people in a different environment? Were you excited? Was it a little nerve-wracking at first?

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