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Taylor Pence

Age: 23

Job: Social Media Manager, US Equestrian

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Taylor and I were connected through Katherine, my interview from a few weeks ago. Both big-time equestrian fans, Katherine knew that Taylor’s job would be worth hearing about. After listening to Taylor, I realized she is truly working in a field that combines both of her passions, which is quite rare for someone her age.

Give us a brief background.

I am originally from Concord, North Carolina, and ended up going to the University of Kentucky. Both of my parents are from there, and I knew that I wanted to go away from home, so since I was familiar with the area, it seemed like a good spot. Additionally, since I was an avid equestrian and Kentucky is horse country, I knew that this was the place to be. I think coming to UK set me up for my current career and it was an overall great experience. I came into college not knowing what I wanted to do at all, and it really wasn’t until sophomore year that I started figuring out my path. Outside of riding, I have always been into photography, but it kind of faltered off when I came to college. I didn’t even bring my camera with me to school!

How did you end up working as a photographer? I decided on a marketing major in the Business School, and I was a big sports fan, so I went to most of the football and basketball games in my time at UK. In my earlier years there, I would often see one of the residential advisors in my building taking photos up-close at all of the games, so one time I jokingly said to him that I was going to steal his job. He told me that I could. He was the photo editor at our school’s newspaper, and they were looking for more photographers so I started working for the Kentucky Kernel doing photography and just completely fell in love with photography again. Ultimately, it led me to my role as the photo editor at the Kernel in my junior year, which was great. In addition to this involvement, all of my internships while at school were equine-related so by the time I got to my senior year, I was riding, working on a digital media minor and had some graphic design experience to add. The day I graduated, I started at U.S. Equestrian, which is like the NCAA for horse sports. We are the governing body of equestrian sport, and we are under the United States Olympic Committee, fielding three Olympic teams.

What does your role look like today? As the Social Media Manager, I create all of the content for our social media as well as manage our content calendar for all of our accounts. We have approximately 15 Facebook accounts, 3 Twitter accounts, 2 Instagram accounts, as well as a Youtube account, and I manage all of it. Photography is a huge part of my job, so I do a lot of that in addition to video and graphic design.

What was the turning point for you when you knew you wanted to do this?

This job combines both of my passions. I am working in the equine industry, and I am getting to do a lot of photography and graphic design. The cards just aligned for me and I ended up landing a job right after school, so I took it.

Where do you see yourself going in this career?

I think I will definitely stick to this career path for a while. Like I said, it is everything I want to do for right now. That being said, it would definitely be nice to be my own boss one day and I would love to pursue photography more full-time. I did some freelance work before graduating and I loved that, but I was a little scared to try freelancing right after school. As I said before, I love sports, so I also have an interest in working for specific athletes. I’d love to manage athletes’ specific websites and social accounts, but I am definitely not looking to switch anytime soon. I think it is smart to keep my options open though and look for opportunities as they come.

Does your line of work allow you to work more with others or by yourself?

I do a lot of work on my own, which I really appreciate. I am the behind-the-scenes person, so I am covering events from every aspect. I don’t do a ton of human interaction except when I interview athletes, which is every so often. I travel a lot, so when I go to different events I am running all around and not really sitting in one place, so I am mostly working alone.

Is your schedule and level of collaboration with others what you expected?

I guess in terms of collaboration, yes, it is what I expected. The traveling part was unexpected, though. I really didn’t expect to travel this much. I mostly stay on the east coast, and some months are way busier than others. Last month, for instance, was the World Equestrian Games, which is essentially our sport's Olympics. This year it was in the United States, so last month I spent about three days at home and the rest on the road. I also didn’t think I would be given so much responsibility right off the bat, and it has taken a year to really get comfortable with everything. I feel completely comfortable with everything at this point, though, but I know to expect some uncertainty at times just because of the nature of the job.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

When I first got involved with the Kernel at UK my sophomore year, I had a mentor named Jonathan who was the photo editor of the paper and he took me to my first game in Rupp Arena. I was completely mind blown sitting on the base of the court taking pictures. I told him I wished I could just do this forever and Jonathan asked me, “why not?”. He pretty much made me realize that all of the apprehensions I had that I could never make photography or horses a career were not the truth. It was really that moment that made me realize I could do this as more than just a hobby, and I am lucky I had a mentor who showed me that.

Going along with that, I feel lucky that I have always had people in my life encouraging me to do what I love to do, even if it did not seem like the best thing to pursue at the time. I am very thankful for the people in my life who have pushed me to work towards horses and photography because it has turned out to be incredibly profitable. And a lot of people don’t necessarily recognize that in school.

What goes into capturing your photos?

My version of photography is very journalistic because I did work for the school newspaper. My goal at work is to capture the joy in the equestrian industry, but in general, I always aim to go where people can’t go. I want people to see my pictures and though they have not witnessed that moment in person, they still feel like they are there. I am really lucky to be able to go places many people can’t go, so I like to share these places that I get to be where others aren’t.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I believe it is so important to have a mentor. I definitely didn’t get here on my own and for everyone that says I take great photos, it is because I had great mentors and teachers along the way. I always try to be very humble; there is so much that I still have to learn and I think it is so important to stay yearning to learn and to surround yourself with people who are better than you. Lastly, everyone loves to look at my job and tell me how great or cool it is, and I do have an awesome job, don’t get me wrong. But I have to work for it. My job will never be 9 to 5 and many times I am working late hours, or on the weekends, because social media is a 24/7 job. As fun and “cool” as it is, there is a lot of work that comes with it too. It is not always as glamorous as it may seem, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

– I always aim to go where people can’t go

– It is so important to have a mentor

– Sometimes you need someone to ask you "Why not?"

Check it out: US Equestrian, University of Kentucky, Business School, Kentucky Kernel, US Equestrian Facebook, US Equestrian Twitter, US Equestrian Instagram, US Equestrian YouTube, World Equestrian Games

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