David Schroeder’s eyes light up behind his rectangular eyeglasses and he flashes a small grin as he begins rattling off the places in which he’s worked and traveled: “I’ve had the unique experiences of working in Brooklyn, Uganda, Cameroon, Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, the Philippines, North Korea…”
In my mind, I can hear the proverbial record player skip as he mentions that last country on his list, so I stop him mid-sentence and ask him to go into more detail about his time in the DPRK.
“I had started a role with an organization doing humanitarian relief work, and I had been there for a couple of months,” he explains. “About mid-week, my boss came and asked me, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ Turned out, the organization was sending a 747 full of food supplies and water treatment materials to North Korea.”
He continues: “The more senior members of the office were out covering other projects, so they handed me two 5D cameras and put me on that plane. We flew from Charlotte, NC, into Alaska, and then Japan, and then finally North Korea. We were on the ground for 6 hours; we unloaded the plane, and I filmed a couple of short interviews with the locals. My military escort, our handlers from the North Korean government, told me that he was gonna take a look at everything on that camera, and he most certainly did.”
It sounds like a passage ripped from the pages of a spy thriller, but it was just another day in the life for David. He may have just joined CallRail as our new Conversion Optimization Manager, but his considerable experience doing humanitarian work overseas means he’s also CallRail’s (unofficial) International Man of Philanthropy.
David began his career working in film and television in New York City, which then lead to several years working as a filmmaker and documentarian for a handful of humanitarian organizations. All of this lead, quite naturally, to several years of traveling throughout Central America, Africa, and East Asia.
But his jet-setting ways began even earlier in life, when he grew up in the balmy Pacific waters of Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia. His parents were Lutheran missionaries who did humanitarian work in the country, and his father ran a seminary school where anyone could enroll and learn how to become a preacher. “It was up in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, which is an incredibly beautiful region, and also very diverse,” he says. “Living there as a young child was a very radical experience that was formative for the rest of my life, it’s truly an incredible country.”
From there, he hopscotched across the United States for much of his early years and education, eventually landing in New York City. He later settled in North Carolina for a few years as he began to switch career tracks from filmmaking to marketing.
That might seem like an unusual transition to some, but for David it was the natural outgrowth of his time as a documentary filmmaker and his boundless curiosity for better understanding how the world works. He had spent more than a decade traveling the world and crafting narratives about the places he visited; he was ready to learn more about how to measure the impact of the stories he created, and the ways they could change the world around him.
“As I was developing these incredibly powerful stories, I began asking myself, who was it that we were delivering these stories to?” he says. “And what was effective with those audiences, what kinds of stories had the greatest impact? That’s what lead me to dig deeper into the world of marketing and analytics.”
“I eventually began pursuing a master’s degree in marketing, which lead me into several new roles,” he continues. “I was a marketing manager at a small nonprofit, and a strategist at a holistic yoga healthcare and meditation retreat center.”
And so he spent a few years honing his skills in digital marketing and lead-generation. After his initial exposure to digital marketing and analytics tools while working in documentary filmmaking, he was eager to explore the full depth and breadth of these technologies, and just how much they could reveal about the inner workings of mass communication.
“The digital era has really opened up a whole new range of scale and possibilities when it comes to how we test our products, and our relationships with our customers,” David explains. “The real value and importance here is finding efficiencies that otherwise wouldn’t be discovered. We can try new ideas, iterate on those, and then evaluate their success in-market, rather than relying on a hunch or our gut instincts.”
But even if he isn’t a full-time filmmaker any more, David still has plenty of suggestions for anyone interested in adding some quality documentaries to their ‘to watch’ list.
“I would recommend people check out a documentary I worked on,” he says with a self-deprecating chuckle. “It’s called Facing Darkness, and it’s about the work of medical missionaries in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic of 2014 and 2015.”
“In terms of personal influence, Ken Burns’ work is huge and has defined the documentary genre in a lot of ways,” he adds. “I think now, there are so many powerful pieces you can point to: Documentaries like Super Size Me, or Gasland, or Forks Over Knives… And as we’ve seen the culture around news and journalism shift more towards commentary — what some people might call ‘infotainment‘ — I think a lot of people are interested in critical thought, a lot of that energy has been redirected into documentary work.”
David joined team CallRail a few months ago, and we’re all excited to have him on board. If you’d like the chance to be the next addition to our fast-growing team here at CallRail — especially if you’ve got an interesting life story like David’s to share — then head on over to our careers page and say hi!