Dietetic Career Spotlight on Sheila Kelly, Skelly Skills
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on MARCH 18, 2019
Meet Sheila Kelly, MS, RDN, who worked at a start-up before starting her own successful company. Learning from experience and from others is vital in being able to incorporate specific skills and knowledge into one’s own practice. Sheila has a fascinating career and is an incredibly determined, smart, and innovative entrepreneur. We are so excited to share her career path with you. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I’ve always been fascinated by health and how the human body works. I played tennis in college so was initially attracted to sports nutrition as well.
Your Job Title?
President and Founder
Company you are with now?
– Facebook: @skellyskills
– Twitter: @skellyskills
– Instagram: skellyskills1
– Pinterest: Sheila Kelly/Skelly Skills
– LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/skelly-skills
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
Our job is to keep dietitians on the cutting edge of whatever’s happening in the world of food, nutrition, and diet so much of my time is spent reading. Research, news releases, health news aggregators, newly-published books, etc. I also spend a lot of time listening to webinars and podcasts by experts in the health field. It’s the perfect job for someone like me who is insatiably curious and always wants to be learning. Once we find a topic we want to create a CE course for, we look for a top expert in the field to help us create it. So, I also spend a lot of time crafting outlines for webinars and self-study courses Skelly Skills is developing.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
After stints in public health, outpatient diabetes education and acute and long-term care, I took a job at a tech start-up and began developing health and nutrition software. So, I had the opportunity to be mentored by experts in marketing and product development. I loved the experience of fusing my subject-matter expertise in diet and nutrition with the science of product/program development—to create the most compelling and effective product for the end user. I knew I wanted to start my own business eventually, so when that time came, starting Skelly Skills to develop continuing education programs seemed like a natural fusion of my experience, knowledge and interests.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I’ve always been really good at putting myself in the shoes of the person using any product or program I’ve developed. Because I’ve had experience in so many facets of dietetics, I have a very deep understanding of what practitioners in a variety of settings are facing in their day-to-day experience, and what skills they need. I also care so deeply about the learning experience Skelly Skills creates for our users, and I love listening and responding to feedback. It’s so exciting for me to launch a new course on a topic that I think dietitians will really benefit from, that I know they need to know about. This is just innately who I am. In terms of skills learned along the way, I lean so heavily on the great marketing training I had in software development. Marketing is really about creating a product that fits your target audience so seamlessly, it sells itself. Then you use marketing messaging to let your target audience know it’s out there. These are invaluable skills, and they help me every day to connect with RD/RDNs and CDEs and let them know Skelly Skills has courses that can help them be more effective and fulfilled practitioners.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
I’m a big planner and analyzer. Before I started Skelly Skills, I spent a lot of time doing inventories of my skills and interests, as well as the skills I felt I lacked, and tried to find an entrepreneurial opportunity that matched my abilities and interests. It was years of planning, analyzing and saving, and then starting work on my business late at night when I still had a full-time job. It was a lot of very hard work, and the early years of growing a business are always really tough, but I stuck with it because I truly felt that I could make a difference in the careers dietetics practitioners could have and our profession in general. So, I would tell people to very honestly assess themselves, and ask others who know them well to also do so, before they make any big career decisions.
Lastly, there comes a point when you have to stop analyzing and make a leap, and I would encourage you to do so early in your careers, if possible, because it just becomes more difficult if/when you have a family. The catalyst for being able to eventually found Skelly Skills was making the jump to a tech start-up at 28, which was a huge risk for me, but gave me so many foundational skills I needed for successful entrepreneurship. I had nothing tying me down, and I wasn’t fulfilled in traditional dietetics, so I did it, and it made all the difference. I would encourage others to do the same!
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?