The People Behind Our Brands: Ken Hocker

5 minutes read

Over the years, we’ve added dozens of influential brands to the Red Ventures portfolio, including Healthline, The Points Guy, Bankrate, and coming soon, CNET. Together, our brands help people make some of life’s most important decisions.  

And behind the scenes, our creatives, analysts, business leaders, and technologists are the people making it all happen: building new tools, brands, and digital experiences aimed at empowering people to strengthen their mental and physical health, invest, pursue higher education, find new entertainment, travel the world, and more.  

Take Ken Hocker, for example. He’s a Director of Digital Design on our NextAdvisor team and recently played a pivotal role in creating the NextAdvisor brand in partnership with TIME. His resume before RV ranges from small design firms to pharma marketing, and as a child, he had high aspirations to someday become pro tennis player, Pete Sampras. (That one is a little blurry…) 

Pictured: Not Pete Sampras.

Q: Hey Ken! I’m just a little curious, how did you go from wanting to be a tennis star to designer?

A: Howdy! Well, my Art teachers growing up were the greatest advocates for me and really opened my eyes to amazing careers that I could use my artistic talents for. So much so that I had my first real design job working for the State of New York as a senior in High School and I have yet to deviate from that path! Oh and just to put it out there I did go to states for tennis, but, unfortunately I was never good enough to really make a career out of it.

Q: Wait a minute, you worked for the State of New York when you were in high school??

A: For sure! I worked for the state the summer between junior and senior year and then was able to turn that position into a full-time job throughout senior year where I would leave school at noon, get to work at 1:00 pm, and work until 8:30 pm—all while earning a paycheck and college credits. I worked as a Designer doing a lot of random design work for the Office of General Services (OGS). My boss was an older gentleman who was a designer for the Army during Vietnam and taught me an immense amount of things that I still use to this day. He retired half-way through my senior year,  which left me in charge of all of the design work that came through the office. It was a really fun experience and I think it helped immensely in getting me to where I am now.

Q: I imagine it can be challenging coming up with fresh new ideas. Where do you find inspiration?

A: I really do find inspiration everywhere, but I think my biggest source at the moment has to be the 2 little people in my life that leave amazingly hilarious drawings on my desk almost every day. Big shout out to Maebel and Theo for their amazing talents!

The talent clearly runs in the family.

Q: So you’ve done print, digital, motion, and marketing design. When did you realize you were a leader?

A: I think when I first saw the impact of teaching others who were willing to listen was that moment. I still remember to this day the great feeling I got sitting down at the first copy of photoshop our school received and teaching as many people as I could how to use the program. I really love being a catalyst for change, whether that’s guiding someone in something new or just sitting down and giving folks a new perspective on accomplishing a task. 

Q: The NextAdvisor team was formed while we were already WFH, which means you’ve had to build and lead a brand new team without ever actually meeting in person. What’s your approach to leadership?

A: I lead by empowering. I am working for my people and as much as possible I want them taking on new objectives that get them out of their comfort zones. If you’re not challenged in your day-to-day work you’re never going to grow in the role.

Q: What is your favorite part about working on the NextAdvisor project?

A: So many answers to this question but I’ll stick to the two biggest. 1. The team is extremely talented across the board and I love being surrounded by people that pulled together and did whatever necessary during extremely trying times to launch a brand that we all feel proud to represent. And, 2. Working on a brand that is guided by making a difference in people’s lives has been amazing. Money—for most—is stressful, and I love that our content is helping alleviate some of that stress in our reader’s lives!

Sprint teams: keeping Post-its in business.

To learn HOW Ken and his team created the NextAdvisor brand from the ground up (in two months), check out this very informative (and entertaining) video:

A special shoutout to everyone on the NextAdvisor launch team: Adam Auriemma, Alex Gailey, Arthur Karambizi, Chris Gondek, Clint Branch, Colin Knight, Eric Duehring, Heather Dinolfo, Jamey Barlow, Jason Stauffer, John Puterbaugh, Jon Aron, Joseph Groves, Katie Collins, Kendall Little, Kiril Stoyanov, Kouame N’Dri, Marc McCollum, Megan Wilburn, Olivia French, Prateek Maitra, Taylor Moore, and Tom Grahsler.

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About the Author:

Ruth Russell | Associate Creative Producer

Ruth joined Red Ventures in 2016 as a Sales Professional and quickly transitioned to our nonprofit team, Road to Hire. She spent three years developing her social media and design skills and now works on the Corp Comm team running all of RV's social media platforms. She also has two cats.

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