WKU Alumnus COO of Lonely Planet

Kristina Burton

As WKU students enter the beginning of a new school year, it can be difficult to choose what you want for lunch, much less what you want your future career to be, with all of the current options that are out there.

Daniel Houghton, an alumnus of WKU who majored in photojournalism, more than likely didn’t think he’d be helping to oversee a multi-million dollar company a little over three years after graduating, but that’s precisely what he’s doing.

Houghton is currently the chief operating officer, or COO, at Lonely Planet, which is the world’s largest guidebook publisher. They publish guidebooks all over the world in several different languages. Houghton works alongside the chief financial officer and chief technology officer to run and manage Lonely Planet.

Houghton said that he owes almost all of his current success to the teachers he had here at WKU.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better education,” Houghton said. “I challenge any school in the world to provide the education I got for what I was trying to learn.”

Houghton went on to mention three people here at WKU who really inspired him and stood out among the rest — Tim Broekema, James Kenney and Robert Adams.

Broekema, a photojournalism professor at WKU, said that Houghton actually asked for his advice about his position with Lonely Planet.

“I told him, ‘Definitely ride this tidal wave out as long as you can,’” Broekema said. “And obviously that tidal wave became a tsunami.”

Kenney, another photojournalism professor at WKU, said that he was thrilled that Houghton got the job, but it didn’t really surprise him.

“I think we all knew he was going to do great things,” Kenney said. “I don’t know if we could have predicted that, but I think we all knew he was going to do something special.”

Adams, WKU Student Publications Alumni Association director and previous boss of Houghton’s, thought the job offer at Lonely Planet was really great and was very pleased with it.

“That’s what this is all about — helping people get into positions to be successful,” Adams said.

Houghton has high hopes for his future within the company and the future of Lonely Planet, in general.

“I hope to have a positive effect, work hard and be successful,” Houghton said. “I’m surrounded by great employees, so I have no doubt that will happen.”

Houghton also said that Lonely Planet’s mission is to help inspire and encourage people to travel, which he said he’s done an insane amount of this year.

“Travel is a wonderful thing for society,” Houghton said. “It opens the mind and is an important piece of life. It’s an exciting thing to get to work on, and it makes you get up and want to go to work every day.”

Houghton and his WKU inspirations also had some advice and words of wisdom for any WKU students who may be feeling unsure about their future career plans.

Adams emphasized that for journalists, it’s become very important to feel comfortable working on multiple platforms.

“It’s not enough anymore to just be a really good writer, or a really good photographer,” Adams said. “You have to feel comfortable, or at least not afraid of the different platforms that we’re trying to reach people on.”

Kenney said that he feels visuals are currently more vital than ever, which is good news for those pursuing photojournalism like Houghton.

“I don’t look at it as, ‘Are they going to get a job?’” Kenney said. “It’s, ‘What job will they get?’ It can be scary because it’s not as predictable as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great opportunities out there.”

Broekema said it’s important to find satisfaction and passion in what you’re doing and to put money aside, which he feels that Houghton did.

“It’s kind of like falling in love with someone,” Broekema said. “If money comes along with them, that’s great, but if you have a passion for them, the money doesn’t matter.”

Houghton advised college students to keep their eyes open when looking for a career, keep a good attitude and always work hard. However, like Broekema, he advised to also always keep your passion in mind.

“Try to get up and do something every day that you’re passionate about,” Houghton said. “It makes it more like fun and less like work.”