Herd mixes experience with creative knack with viral results

Published 11:48 am Monday, January 29, 2024

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As a Centre College undergrad, Ashley Herd ’03 fed her creative itch in the theatre department while majoring in international studies and Spanish.

Little did she know those theatrical skills would come to play a big role in helping her launch a successful business and connecting with hundreds of thousands of people across the world.

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Herd’s journey, like so many others, didn’t follow a straight path to the professional fulfillment she enjoys today.

“I’ve had a whole career, from sales to law to HR and this is what my career quilt looks like,” she said. “A lot of times you look back and think, ‘How did I get here?’ But everything brought me here.”

Crucial early stitches that that quilt were set after graduating from Centre, when the Louisville, Kentucky, native moved to Washington, D.C., for a job in corporate sales. While pitching consulting services, Herd’s work there eventually centered around helping human resource leaders, setting the tone for her career path.

Herd went on to attend law school at Emory University in Atlanta and worked as a labor and employment lawyer. She later joined a national firm and became general counsel and head of HR. While working and living in Australia, she had the idea for own business — Manager Method — based around guiding leaders through the difficult terrain she saw lead to lawsuits when not handled properly.

She went as far as buying a website domain, but sat on it for a couple years, unsure when the right time would be to make the leap. It was daunting to leave a secure corporate job to become self-employed at a brand-new startup.

“But in my heart,” Herd said, “I always had this really creative bent.”

So about two years ago, she took the plunge and launched Manager Method.

She tapped into her sales, legal and HR experience to build and market her expertise. She also tapped into some lessons learned at Centre under professors Tony Haigh, Nayef Samhat and David Anderson.

“I wanted to be a playwright,” she said. “And those professors always found a way to leverage creativity, so I kind of used that spark.”

Centre’s faculty also gave Herd a template for what a caring professional environment could look like long before she was charged with fostering that sort of workplace as an HR leader.

“I remember the time I skipped Dr. Anderson’s class and was above the bookstore getting lunch and he was in there,” she laughs. “I was busted, but he asked, ‘Is everything OK?’

“That level of care, I was lucky to learn that in my undergrad.”

That heartfelt approach was a common thread in the leadership videos Herd began recording in 2022, posting them on social media — to “no audience whatsoever.”

But then something amazing started happening. The videos, in which Herd role-plays different scenarios, started to gain a following. A big following.

“The first time I got 100 views, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Then, I hit a wave in the algorithm last summer and gained about 100,000 followers in six weeks.”

Herd’s Manager Method accounts now boast more than 200,000 followers across TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn, the latter of which recruited her to become a LinkedIn Learning instructor. The videos, which she producers herself, have gained so much attention that Herd has become something of a celebrity — leading to some funny and rewarding moments.    

One early realization that her audience was becoming widespread took place while out with her daughter. A concert-goer seated nearby recognized Herd from her online videos.

“My daughter, who is 12, was out-of-her-mind loving it,” Herd said. “It is wild.”

However, any level of notoriety online comes with some negativity, but Herd said she has largely received support from her followers.

“The best thing I hear is when people reach out to say, ‘I’m a manager, and now I think of things in a new perspective,’ or ‘I hadn’t thought of approaching it that way.’”