“My Co-Workers Are Like Family”: Kamile Ishiyama Dotson’s Onnit Story

“My Co-Workers Are Like Family”: Kamile Ishiyama Dotson’s Onnit Story

July 22, 2021

We’ve been saying it for years: anyone can get Onnit. That doesn’t mean that Onnit, the company, is for everyone, per se, but that anyone who wants to incorporate the ideas and products we advocate into their training, nutrition, and lifestyle can do so—no matter what their goals, starting point, or current disadvantages.

Kamile Ishiyama Dotson, Onnit’s Director of Project Management, certainly isn’t “anyone,” but she’s a good example of someone who came to Onnit not knowing what to expect and, by keeping an open mind and a brave spirit, discovered a new path to fitness—and a career in which she excels. Now she’s returning the favor by lending her considerable talents to make Onnit a tighter-run ship than it’s ever been.

This is Kamile’s Onnit Story. In this ongoing series, we ask a different person every week how encountering Onnit has helped change their life, and we let them speak directly to you via a video interview. This week, Kamile speaks to Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf about moving to Austin, discovering the steel mace and steel club, and playing a ninja in one of our most memorable ad campaigns. 

See below for the full interview, as well as an edited transcript of some of the highlights. And stay up to date with Onnit Stories by following Onnit’s Instagram TV (IGTV).

John Wolf: I thought we could start with what your role is at Onnit, and what a day in the life is like for you here?

Kamile Ishiyama Dotson: I’m the Director of Project Management. I first joined Onnit as the marketing project manager, and now I head up an entire department of project managers throughout the company that help all our different teams.

I help lead and facilitate different work projects between our different departments here at Onnit, and sometimes with our external partners. I also interface a lot with the other project managers. We work together to find solutions and keep in contact with each other, because some of our projects do cross over one another. As far as a typical day goes, I’m in meetings a lot, and taking a lot of notes and typing. So, I feel like I should be taking notes down right now, but I’m doing my best to just be in the moment. [Laughs]

Life at Onnit has been very different since you got here. We worked as a team before, but a lot of us were in different departments that were very separate from each other, and communication was not all that it could be. The type of collaboration that we’ve been able to achieve through implementing project management, and with you being the spearhead of it, has really accelerated our growth, our ability to bring ideas to life, and our ability to be of better service to all our fans and customers. So, thank you!

What brought you to Onnit in the first place?

My husband was in the market for a job here in Austin, so we were looking around anyway, and Onnit happened to have a job posting. A past colleague of mine, someone I trust and really respect, had just joined Onnit, so I reached out to him to get an understanding of what the company was like. He had nothing but positive things to say about it. Ultimately, I applied, my husband and I moved here, and it’s been a whirlwind since then.

One thing that has helped the fitness department is your own integration with our community and our culture. I think that really started when you attended one of our live education courses. Was it the Foundations course?

Yes, I took the Foundations certification, which is a two-day intensive course where you get to try out all the awesome fitness equipment that Onnit makes [kettlebells, steel mace, steel club, and more]. I mean, I knew a little about kettlebells, but I’d never touched a mace or a club before. Battle ropes look really cool when someone else is whipping them around, but I got to try them for the first time. It was a great education for me on what Onnit stands for, how we connect with our customers, and how we really help people accomplish their goals, whether that’s, “I want to get in better shape,” or, “I just want to start working out a little bit so I can be around for my kids and my family.”

That wasn’t the last weekend seminar that you attended with us. Which other ones have you done?

I took the Steel Mace certification in October of 2019. Actually, I remember it so vividly because, when I picked up the mace on Day One, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I had used the mace in different workout classes at Onnit, but it wasn’t until I took the cert that I really started to understand how my body could move.

Also, in only two days, I forged relationships with strangers that remain even now.

After that weekend event you spent working with the steel mace, you really seemed to be touched by the experience. Can you tell us a bit more about why it was so valuable?

I had a little bit of self-doubt going into that weekend. Would I be able to physically withstand what was being asked of me? Could I even do the moves? Could I even understand the fundamentals of the tool? I got emotional, I was crying, at the end of the course because I overcame some mental roadblocks, some challenges that maybe were just in my own mind but had been holding me back. It showed me that, if you put yourself into it, you can do it, and you’ll come out better for it on the other end.

I think a lot of people walked away from that course with a new appreciation of what you can do with the mace. At the end, the instructors did their own flows with the mace—a sequence of linked movements that they’d come up with on their own. It was like watching a bodybuilder mixed with a ballerina, all in one. It was just an incredible display of strength and grace and movement skill.

As you learned, when you work on the fundamentals with any workout tool, you learn valuable skills that anyone can use, and then you can refine them to use as a platform for self-expression through movement. Kamile, you’re also heavily involved in our marketing. I have a very fond memory of a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale campaign which you worked on. Do you remember what that was about?

Of course! The Ruthless Onnit 6. Our marketing/creative group is made up of incredibly talented people, and they came up with these awesome themes to really sell our Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions in 2019. The Ruthless Onnit 6 was a nod to old grindhouse Kung Fu movies—a trailer for a fake movie about a girl who’s out for revenge against the martial arts warriors who killed her family. The way they shot it, it looked like a Bruce Lee movie from the 70s. The marketing guys scouted Onnit employees and some of our influencers and pros to act in it. I was one of them. They dressed us up in these martial arts costumes with swords and other ancient weapons.

My character was called Iron Eye, and my weapon of choice was the steel club. I think I could only hold the 10-pound club up for a moment at a time because it’s deceivingly heavy [laughs]. It may not look like a very heavy piece of equipment, but it is. And I had one eye. I must’ve had an accident at some point where I lost the other eye.

So our marketing team comes up with these amazing ideas, and then they go into production mode. They shoot all this content, and then I help organize it all to promote the sale.

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That’s one of the things I really love about our marketing: most of the people that are featured in our campaigns really are employees that we pick out from around the office. I think that creates such a sense of ownership for everyone. I wanted to do the same thing when we filmed our Onnit 6 workout content. For those who don’t know, we filmed most of those workouts in one take. Kamile, you were a part of the Onnit 6 Steel Club workout streams as well.

Well, you guys asked, and I couldn’t say no! [Laughs] No matter how nervous or unprepared I may have felt up there, you guys made me feel like I could do it. And John, you were there, standing in front, leading the team and filming the product. I was just excited to be a part of it, honestly.

I’m not a fitness pro. I have no professional training. Everything I’ve learned about working out with a steel club is from Onnit. But here I was, just a normal gal, demonstrating how to use this tool. I got to show people, “Hey, this is me. This is how I use the tool.” And, as you said, we really did most of it in one take.

That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of flubs [laughs]. I’m very OK with my flubs. I say some nonsensical things during those shoots, but I just roll with it. I think that’s one of our strengths: we make it clear that whether you’re an employee or a consumer of the brand, it’s more than OK to be who you are and to be perfectly imperfect. You just have to continue smiling through those awkward moments, and laugh at yourself a little bit as you move forward.

Yeah! And the way we shot it, you’d come by while we were doing the moves and you’d make sure to cue us and help us figure out our positioning. When you were doing that, I didn’t even feel like I was being filmed. I was just going through a normal workout, and you were coaching me through it. It was like I was on the other end of the camera, just like the customers using it are at home.

What do you love most about working for Onnit?

The people. Working with these people feels like being with family 24 hours a day. Most of us have been working more at home since the pandemic, so I don’t see everyone as much as I used to. But when we do get into the office and we bump into each other in the hallways, it’s very much like a family reunion. We hug. We keep the spark alive.

What did you do when the pandemic first hit and quarantine forced you home?

My husband and I immediately moved the cars out of the garage and converted it into a home gym. I had a couple of pieces of Onnit equipment, and that was plenty to get us through workouts because the Onnit 6 programs offer different levels of intensity. You can do level One, Two, or Three. So if you don’t have a lot of equipment or weight, there are ways to make the workouts hard enough with what you do have. And once you learn some of the moves, you can mix and match different programs with your own favorite workouts to keep it interesting. 

Let’s say you are stranded on a desert island. If you can only take one Onnit product with you, which one do you choose?

I feel like it has to be the steel club.

Which weight of steel club would you need?

10 pounds.

The 10-pounder is a good weapon too. So, if you were stranded on a desert island, you could probably use that to defend yourself, or, as like a mortar and pestle to make food.

I just wouldn’t take it into the water around the island, or I’d never see it again. It would sink to the bottom [laughs].

What do you think is the greatest benefit from steel club training that helps with your overall training?

I like that a lot of the movements are offset—the weight is displaced from the handle so you have to work harder to control it. Generally, when I work out, I’ll use two dumbbells, or I’ll use a bar, and I’m using my whole body to squat. But with the club in particular, I’m using one side of my body more than the other, and then I’m going to go use the other side more when I switch sides. That goes whether I’m doing lunges, swings, or presses. I think that helps your body move in a different way, and maybe hit some of those smaller muscles more, and it prepares your body for anything. So, it can make you stronger. Using the club is a complementary workout to squatting, deadlifting, and other more conventional stuff.

See more Onnit Stories HERE.

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