Dustee Jenkins: UNT Alumna Career Idol
Updated: Mar 10
From small-town Texas to New York City, Spotify’s newest global communications director enters the music and tech industry
By: Grace Davis
My heart may have skipped a beat when my phone lit up, the text saying Dustee Jenkins was in the Avesta Restaurant. A weekly tradition of having lunch in the Union with my coworkers had been altered with my career idol across the restaurant. I sat in my seat, barely touching my lunch as my friends encouraged me to go introduce myself. It was a petrifying walk to her table that resulted in the most delightful interaction. She greeted me with such kindness, talked about her experience at the University of North Texas and wished me luck on elections for a position in an organization she had also been a part of at UNT (a position I was indeed elected for). I was honored to be able to tell her how much she’d inspired me. I certainly was teary-eyed, and it made me feel even better when she said she was too.
I’m a long-time fan of Spotify and have loved watching its communications flourish with Jenkins in such an important role. I’d followed its newsroom, “For The Record,” for some time and began keeping up frequently with what was happening with both Spotify and Jenkins by the time we had met.
From Texas Beginnings
Before the many other impressive additions to Jenkins’ career, she began her role in communications on Capitol Hill after graduating from UNT in 2001. As an intern for Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator for her home state, she began each day with the clippings and answering phone calls. According to PR Daily, Jenkins first had a role as deputy press secretary as well as press secretary for Hutchison. Jenkins kept her position working with Hutchison for three years. Leaving government work wasn’t in the stars for Jenkins yet, as the next step in her career was director of communications for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jenkins’ continued her communications career at Target in 2010 when she became senior VP and chief communications officer. She stayed for 10 years and during this time, made a lot of changes and dealt with struggle. Three years into her time at Target, she had to face handling communication surrounding the $18.5 million data breach that rocked the company. Jenkins told PR Daily, “It was one of the biggest challenges of my career, but we operated with transparency and worked daily to re-earn trust.” Jenkins made a point at this time in her career to bring together internal and external communication rather than to keep them separate, a strategy she continues to use. She left Target in late 2017, packed up her family and moved to New York for her current position at Spotify.
Moving into entertainment and tech
Since joining Spotify as head of global communications and public relations, Jenkins' impactful changes have shaped the future of Spotify for years to come. In 2018, Jenkins played a role in Spotify becoming publicly owned on the New York Stock Exchange. When asked by George W. Bush presidential library about what Jenkins does in her position she had to say. “From celebrating up-and-coming artists, to diving into the complicated issue of content moderation or streaming music economics... all the way to launching playlists designed to help your house plants grow (yes, really)!” The position of global communications director oversees 70 global professionals with over 7,000 employees. Jenkins and Spotify during the pandemic also took an opportunity to look at how listening trends were changing. Jenkins told Provoke Media “...I love is that we're really reflecting culture. So when things happen in the world, like what's happening right now with COVID, it plays out on our platform. Your Daily Wellness is one of our most popular playlists.”
Dealing with controversy
With COVID-19 misinformation rampant online, Spotify made the promise to combat misinformation on their platform. A COVID-19 hub was created to highlight podcasts with factual information and all other content would be marked if COVID-19 is discussed. Controversy has risen around Spotify and its decision to keep Joe Rogan’s podcast on the app despite the presence of COVID-19 misinformation. According to NME, 270 experts wrote a letter to Spotify requesting the podcast be removed. The decision to keep Rogan’s podcast live has lead Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to remove their music from the platform. In handling this controversy, Verge reported that Jenkins made a statement to employees, but a public statement is highly anticipated. Spotify has quietly removed 70 episodes of Rogan’s podcast.
Jenkins’ presence and voice in a room are commanding. She said that her grandmother once told her “Come early, stay late and always let them know you’re there.” I read this quote along with one where she said if she could write to her third-grade self that she’d write “Keep talking. Someday they will pay you to do it.” Both quotes stuck with me, being a person who always wants to talk. Meeting my career idol wasn’t something I expected to happen, but it made my entire week. It has me so excited to see what I can do too.
About the Author
Grace Davis is a senior public relations student at the University of North Texas and a future PR professional. Davis is from Austin, TX and is president of UNT’s University Program Council, PR officer of the North Texas 40 Foundation and is involved in PRSSA.
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