Katie Boué is a quintessential dirtbag, a nomadic climber who lives in a Sprinter van. She also happens to run the Outdoor Industry Association’s Community and Social Marketing department, a full-time job with an aim to inspire community and accountability within the outdoor industry.
Boué travels between outdoor-oriented towns, meeting with people in the outdoor industry to figure out how best to protect the land we love and tell a great story about it all. A big part of her job is inspiring people to engage with the wilderness around them, and her lifestyle alone is inspiration enough. During a recent weekend in Oregon, she packed climbing, mountain biking, surfing, trail running, paddling, and a tidy summit into one weekend.
Life on the road isn’t always straightforward; conference calls happen in parking lots and paddleboarding with a coworker is an opportunity to discuss supply-chain innovation and protecting public lands. But Boué’s energy and passion mean her job isn’t really just a job. It’s a way of life in which every outdoor activity is an opportunity to learn from your adventure buddy, and maybe teach them something, too. Followed, of course, by an obligatory social media post.
If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asks you what you do for work, what would you tell them?
My answer changes every time. If they look rather indoorsy, I’ll simply say that I do community and social media marketing for the outdoor industry. If they look rather outdoorsy, I’ll drop words like association, public lands advocacy, content creation, and sustainability. If I’m feeling extra sassy, I’ll just say “I live in a van and take conference calls in campgrounds.”
What is a typical day like, starting when you get to work and ending when you get home?
My lifestyle is unique in that I’m always working–every moment of my day-to-day experience is an opportunity for storytelling and building connections. Usually, I wake up in the back of my van, somewhere on a national forest road with the back doors open to catch a breeze. I make the drive into the nearest town, beeline to a coffee shop, and frantically catch up on the typical work to-dos like e-mails and expense reports. Then I’ll spend my afternoon visiting with OIA members–today it’s ExOfficio, Stanley, and Cascade Designs. The last meeting of the day usually wraps up with a beer, then I journey back into the woods for the night.
How does your job affect someone’s day?
My hope is that the content I’m sharing through social media inspires people to get more involved with outdoor industry initiatives like advocating for our parks and supporting sustainability efforts. If just one person looks at our digital platforms and thinks “Wow, it’s incredible that OIA protected 300,000 acres of public land last year–I should be more proactive,” I’ve done my job.
Balancing social media and the outdoors is a tricky endeavor but I think striking that balance is incredibly important. Being able to document and share our experiences in nature through social media makes the outdoors more accessible and inspires other to get out there, but it also contributes to issues like overuse. Currently, I think we’re in a position to tap into social to engage the broader community to get involved with issues like conservation, recreation access, responsible sourcing, and sustainability. Social media provides a massive platform, and it’s time we start using it to do something.
What was your first job in the outdoor industry?
It may not count as a job since it wasn’t paid, but I qualify my first ‘break’ into the outdoor world as my time spent on Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural brand ambassador team. I was a freelance writer with no experience, and somehow ended up on a backpacking press trip to Havasu Falls. That trip changed my life and put me on the path to focusing my career on really diving deep into the outdoor industry.
How does someone get your job?
In many ways, I created my job as it currently exists. I was hired as a part-time social media coordinator, working 10 hours a week. OIA is a non-profit, so investing in social media was an experiment–and thankfully it worked. I fell in love with my work, moved to full-time, and eventually pitched a proposal to our marketing director to evolve my position to go remote and provide value to our industry through an ongoing, on-the-road campaign.
My dream is to take my role and multiply it. I’d love to have a team of roadshow field marketers traveling around the world to tell the story of the outdoors and make our voice heard beyond just our community.
What are the pros of your job?
Being able to take my professional passion on the road is the biggest perk of my job. I wake up outside most mornings, meet incredible outdoor industry folks every day, explore new cities and public lands, and spend every weekend playing hard in a new place.
Every day I spend outdoors, my relationship with it grows and deepens. This summer I’ve spent four months on the road solo, and I’m coming out of this season with an unprecedented drive to focus on advocacy. My job is essentially to amplify the work the outdoor industry does through content creation, and I’m finding myself so drawn to stories about how our community is coming together to create impact and lead change.
What are the cons?
Folks sometimes struggle with understanding that despite my perceived freedom, I’m still working a full-time job. I exist in the dirtbag culture, but I don’t always play by dirtbag rules. I spent a lot of time saying “No, sorry, I can’t go climb today–I have to take conference calls from the back of the van in this Walmart parking lot all morning.” I also miss my team back in Boulder. Video conferencing is stellar, but nothing beats face-time.