The impact was unfathomable when the COVID-19 pandemic was first announced in March 2020. Slowly our personal and professional lives got affected, in some cases indirectly but in most instances very directly. There was grim news everywhere. Newsfeeds reminded us of the death toll. Whereas, LinkedIn feeds reminded us of the layoffs happening globally. When the whole world was crashing, it was difficult to be hopeful and optimistic. But, Jamie Birkner is no regular woman. Despite getting laid off during the pandemic, she decided to upskill and bag her dream career. In an interview with the Emeritus team, she shared her inspirational story. Read on to know more about her tenacious journey and how a digital marketing certification changed her life.
There is always a silver lining. It is important to spot and acknowledge it!
Prior to the pandemic, Birkner worked at the American Dental Association (ADA) for five years. She was an integral part of the marketing team and focused on retention and acquisition. It was a challenging role, but the job was rewarding and stable. Her professional world flipped a 180 when the ADA began laying off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a family to support, this situation obviously was a big blow to Birkner. But unlike most others, she buckled up and decided to chalk her way forward.
With a twinkle in her eyes, she said, “I missed working with a team. I missed talking about marketing. Losing my job was heartbreaking. But every cloud has a silver lining. I decided to study and learn more skills before getting back into the corporate world. As I am a self-taught marketer, this was an opportunity for me to learn the technical aspects in a formal way. I started browsing for online, short-term, intensive programs from top-tier universities. I ended up finding the Kellogg Executive Education’s Digital Marketing program. And the rest is history.”
How to stay motivated even during difficult times?
Learning online as an adult is a challenge by itself. Being able to stay committed and motivated for the entire duration of the program is hard. Throw in a global pandemic into this mix. One might wonder what kept Birkner motivated to successfully complete the digital marketing certification program. The course curriculum she explains was a great combination of theory and practice.
Being self-taught, it was also a great sense of validation when she learned various technical aspects. It was eye-opening watching all the puzzle pieces come together, things she knew from experience and technical bits that she picked up via the program. She added, “I was aware of many tools, but I did not know how and why they were used. Learning those was the most exciting part for me. Apart from that, attending the weekly office hours set up by the program faculty, interacting with industry experts, completing the coursework, brainstorming with my peers, and finishing the capstone project kept me motivated and high-spirited.”
Capstone programs are designed to give learners a real-world experience
“If there is one thing I will look back on and cherish, it will definitely be my capstone project. Our project proposed that Uber combined with laundry services and launch a pick-up and drop service. It was very daunting at first as the project seemed massive. But we slowly applied our learning, worked with project managers, my peers, and brought it to life. It was a huge accomplishment for me!”
A capstone project is designed to help learners apply the theoretical concepts practically. It helps bridge the gap between formal learning and the corporate world. Birkner made best use of this project stint and course overall to ensure she accelerated her digital marketing knowledge. She also shared that her comprehensive notes still come in handy when she faces a new challenge at her workplace. Rewatching recorded classroom videos have also helped jog her memory on multiple occasions when she wished to brush up her skills.
Strategic and prudent decision making is a skill that can be mastered
After the six month, intensive program, Birkner bagged a role at MCI USA, a leading non-profit organization, as a Content Strategy and Marketing Director. She brought with her years of experience, self-taught marketing skills, industry knowledge, and rich, new-age digital marketing tools and strategies that she picked up from the Kellogg program. Birkner was the right mix of talent, tools, skills, and experience.
“The program has given me a lot of confidence. I now back my ideas with data and examples. This has helped me get a lot more respect from my colleagues. All my marketing decisions are strategic and fully based on data. As a team, we make fewer errors as we aren’t just trying random things. We now have a structured approach.”, Birkner added, with a proud smile.
Learning is for everyone. It is the mindset that matters.
Birkner is a mother of two boys, one sixteen and another thirteen. Apart from managing the household with her husband and teenagers, she is also on the local school council to support the community. With such a busy schedule, being able to not only think of upskilling but also successfully completing an intensive program is no easy feat.
When we asked her how she juggled all this, she said, “What stood out to me was that it was an online program. It was self-paced and I could balance my daily chores. During the lockdown it helped me stay happy and positive. I was able to interact with so many interesting people from all over the world. If someone really wishes to learn and make a switch to the world of digital marketing, I can’t think of a better way. Also, a special shout-out to Professor Mohanbir Sawhney for making this a memorable learning experience.”
Interested in a world-class digital marketing certification? You are in the right place!
If Birkner’s story inspired you and you wish to accelerate your career, then check out our list of courses today. Reskill, upskill, learn, and move ahead with a wide range of technical programs from the world’s best universities. All online executive programs on Emeritus provide the right mix of theory and practice through a dynamic, interactive, and digital learning platform. You can also read more such inspiring success stories here.
By Manasa Ramakrishnan