Sometimes, we choose our careers, and at other times our careers choose us. For Elise Johns (now McMurtry), who works as the Associate Brand Marketing Manager for Beverages at Newell, it was a bit of both. But online learning has a pivotal part to play in her story. Why? Well, one of the Kellogg online marketing certifications reconciled her education and interests with the next step in her career. She transitioned into her new role while completing the Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing program from Kellogg Executive Education.
We caught up with Johns to trace her journey from being an environmental geoscience graduate to working in a hardcore marketing role.
You must see the gaps (in your knowledge) before you fill them with marketing certifications
“I joined a business fellowship straight out of college but did not have a business degree. So, I almost immediately started feeling that there were some knowledge gaps,” begins Johns. As a quick learner, she made the most of learning on the job. However, that “solid ground” she sought was missing. Moving up the ranks at her business fellowship and job, she sensed there was a piece missing in the jigsaw puzzle.
“I always had this nagging feeling that I did not have the baseline marketing education that some of my colleagues who had business degrees did. So, if I had to grow in my career or have the confidence to take the next step, I had to do some out-of-work studying,” she says.
Finding the best digital marketing program via digital marketing channels
Johns was always very curious about how ads on Google or social media targeted her so accurately. So, when her father, who also works in marketing, suggested she look at online certifications, she stumbled upon the Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing program by Kellogg Executive Education online. “I was googling a lot, and I live in Chicago, so Northwestern (Kellogg School of Business) is pretty well-known to me. Me finding the exact program I needed online is digital marketing done right!” she exclaims.
“That” moment when you decide to go back to school, only virtually
We all do our research online when we need to make a decision — be it a buying or learning decision — but even after the research is done and we have zeroed in on what we want, such decisions often get shelved in the absence of a suitable trigger. Luckily for Johns, the trigger to choose one of the online certifications came from her workplace at just the right time.
She explains: “I was really kicked in the pants when the digital marketing expert on my team left for a better opportunity and we started sensing a skills gap.” That moment was the catalyst in Johns’ life that led her on her learning journey, most of which happened during the pandemic.
What are the key takeaways from the program?
Every discipline or program amalgamates conceptual (leaning toward academic) and hands-on knowledge. For a working professional like Johns, who already has hands-on experience in digital marketing, did this online certification make a difference? Yes, says Johns, and the impact has been massive.
“My key takeaway from this program was understanding the power of consumer insights. While I knew that it is important, it is not something that I necessarily leveraged in my day-to-day work. This program has taught me the value of consumer insights data and I use it extensively to deliver better results now.”
Johns drew our attention to the fact that digital marketing is an umbrella term for many different roles. For example, she had worked on the communications side of marketing and never really got the chance to take on any hands-on work with Google or social media ads. These areas were something she was vaguely aware of as her colleagues worked on them.
She summed up this facet of the conversation by saying that “digital marketing is so broad, one of the online marketing certifications can never teach you everything, but it works as a great baseline for you to build your career on. You can choose to specialize in one or several aspects of digital marketing later.”
Learning to learn again
When we are in school or college, learning is part of our life, and hopefully, a part of our routine, too. But after graduating, our lifestyles don’t necessarily include time for learning. Was it difficult for Johns to fit in learning with a demanding job? To our surprise, she says it wasn’t. “Just like anything else, you get better at learning again,” she says. “So, as the coursework gets more intense, you also get better at it.”
She elaborates: “I am very good at time management. I would chip away at the coursework during the week, start on my projects on Saturday, and wrap up by Sunday afternoon.” As we see it, consistency is the key to learning again, and you must also love the challenge of learning something new. Johns aptly states that “if you really enjoy something, it does not feel like a chore.”
She also believes that the expectations set by Emeritus were the reason why the rigor of the program did not weigh on her. “The program page on the Emeritus website said 10-20 hours per week. I was on the lower side of this range. So, if anything, I was pleasantly surprised but never overwhelmed,” she says.
A seamless transition into a new role
We know that Johns moved into a new role as Associate Brand Marketing Manager at Newell while she was completing the program with Kellogg. Was that always the plan or did it just happen along the way? “It was a bit of both,” she says. She was working remotely in a company based out of Indiana. Meanwhile, she had moved to Chicago, and when talks began about going back to the office, she was sure that she didn’t want to move back. “I did not want to be the only person working remotely, so looking for a new job seemed like a good idea,” she says.
As she was moving jobs, she wanted to venture out into a B2C setup instead of a B2B one where she was working. “I also chose my capstone project in line with B2C. This helped me transition into my new role seamlessly,” she says.
And did having the digital marketing program from Kellogg on her resume help her get that job? Johns certainly thinks so. “I did watch a webinar or two. But, I definitely think that mentioning the program on my resume got me noticed by employers. Also, I drew upon the knowledge from my learning during interviews,” she says.
Learning on the job or learning in a classroom?
Johns’ response to this fundamental question was diplomatic but had a ring of truth to it. “I see great value in both formal and informal education. It’s equally important to learn on the job and in a classroom,” she says. Formal learning, according to her, gave a solid base to the knowledge that she had picked up along the way.
“Northwestern filled all the (knowledge) gaps for me and gave me a solid foundation in digital marketing,” she sums up.
If you are interested in gaining a solid grounding in digital marketing like Johns, you’ll be thrilled to know that a new cohort of Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education is coming up.
Emeritus Careers affiliated with the Professional Certificates offers a complimentary and optional Career Development course to participants and helps them access additional, individualized career coaching and resume referrals to employer partners. We have partnered with organizations like TTEC to connect with prospective employers. Brands who are looking to reach out to great talent like Elise can learn more here.
By Anwesha Barari
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