What are your job responsibilities/duties?
My responsibilities shift daily between conducting user research & testing, building complex communications strategies and messaging frameworks, integrating technology, and building digital campaigns, websites, and applications. All of this is in service of business transformation.
What does a typical day look like?
There are no two days that are alike. In my current role at VSA Partners, a project based branding and design firm, I am often straddling between multiple clients and projects of varying types. In one meeting I might be building a consumer journey to increase the amount of leads a business gets, in another I might be developing a communications strategy to sell the same service in New York as well as Sydney, all while preparing to sell VSA's services to a CMO to cap off the day.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I greatly enjoy the pace and range of my work. I have to maintain a command of my clients' business, stay up to date on current trends, and focus on creating great work that I've often never done before because of the pace of change. This requires incredible flexibility, versatility, and work ethic to constantly stay on top of a moving target.
What is the most difficult aspect of the job?
The parts of my job that I enjoy most are also the most difficult. Because I've never done most of what I'm tasked to do, I rarely have previous experience to fall back on. Additionally, I'm the only digital strategist in my company besides my director, so when I don't know the answer, it's my job to figure it out whatever it takes.
What on-campus activities were you involved with? Where did you gain relevant experience?
I was involved in AAF, specifically Midnight Oil and NSAC, throughout my time at Illinois. However, I wish I spent more time doing things outside of my industry that interested me. When I was in college, and had no experience, I felt like I had to do everything I could to get industry relevant experience just to break through. While you need to have an understanding of the world of advertising, you also need to understand society, culture, and people unlike yourself. That is an expertise that is much harder to grow once you start your 9-5 and there's really no better time to do it than when you're in college. I wish I spent more time doing other things, exploring other cultures, and getting to know more people outside of advertising. I do that as much as I can now through my various side-hustles (like doing improv with a team at Second City).
How did your experience at ILLINOIS and in the College of Media prepare you for your professional life? For this specific position?
The college of media gave me total access to people and events that grew my exposure to the world of advertising for as much as I could get my hands on, while still grounding me in the theory with professors and instructors that helped me speak the language and understand our industrial heritage. I was able to walk into work and communicate with designers and strategists alike, and that's a unique skill-set that's hard to find.
What advice do you have for students interested in this field?
Just work hard. Your most important skill set in your early days is just to have a great attitude and a commitment to getting the work done. No one expects you to know the answer yet, but it is so refreshing to watch new people come in with an appetite and it re-inspires the rest of us to be your mentors and your advocates. There's nothing worse than a know-it-all, someone who feels like their above the work, or just plain has a bad attitude.
What is one thing that you know now that you wish you had known when you started in the field? When you graduated from the College?
See my answers above!