It’s an exciting time to work in media, and SJMC recent graduates have moved into roles that demonstrate the vast career options available across professional fields. Recent graduates from our Master of Arts in Mass Communication concentration in Digital Media include Sean Smith, Frontend Developer for Gatehouse Media; Alexandra White, Digital Marketing Specialist for Texas Restaurant Association (TRA); Nicole Jones, Active Channels Specialist at Google and Steffanie Agnew, Digital Marketing Specialist in the Division of Information Technology at Texas State.
White runs social media platforms for TRA, as well as both of their websites, txrestaurant.org and tramarketplace.com. She handles email marketing for events and other activities related to the restaurant industry. White credits many of her SJMC courses in the execution of this role.
“Coding definitely helped me. A lot of times I’m sent website or email marketing issues that I have to dig in the code to figure out what went wrong.” White said. “The User Experience class I took helped me gather the basics for learning what users want and how to design for that. The SXTXState class helped me become a better writer and manager of multiple social media channels.”
As Frontend Developer, Smith builds web-based digital products for a variety of GateHouse entities. “My first project was a site for a nationally syndicated series of stories on the Apollo 11 mission that went to all GateHouse papers,” Smith said. “Currently, I’m building a series of themes and plugins in WordPress to help reporters and editors at our properties create digital presentations for highly visual and impactful stories.”
“Lot’s of coding and problem solving!” Smith added. He credits several courses, including the various coding courses he took, but emphasizes conceptual learning, as well. “More broadly, the Digital Media Issues course and the two years of SXSW provided me so much context about the environment in which I work.” He says a background in journalism makes him more effective in working with his reporting colleagues.
Jones works in staffing for Google’s Software Engineering Internship program. She said Google looks for employees who are naturally curious, comfortable with ambiguity, critical thinkers and comfortable with change. “I think achieving a Master’s degree demands those qualities of you, but specifically, the digital aspect of the Master’s program allows you to practice by learning web development skills,” Jones said. “I also think understanding communication gives you an unmeasured professional advantage, regardless of your role and company.”
Agnew manages social media, websites and blogs for the Division of Information Technology, which involves content, strategy and analytics. She also creates and executes marketing campaigns, creates graphics and multimedia, assists with in-person marketing and outreach events and develops and monitors advertising campaigns on social media. “My role is heavily data-based, and I use data to predict and inform my own work in my position and the work my teammates do,” Agnew said.
Agnew credits the range of skills she received in the Master’s program for her current role. “Many of the skills that I use in my job, I learned and refined in the digital-focused classes in our program,” Agnew said. “In courses such as Online Media Design, Code Camp, and SXTXState, I learned a variety of skills, including coding, social media marketing, blogging, and most importantly, understanding data and how to use it to inform the work you do.”
Success for Undergraduate DMI Majors
Alumni of our undergraduate program in Digital Media Innovation have moved into equally emergent positions. Emily Ferris is a Content Specialist at GoDaddy, a web hosting and digital consultancy company and Jacklyn Mann is a Marketing Automation Consultant at Motiv, a digital marketing organization focused on cloud services.
For Ferris, getting the job at GoDaddy required a broad execution of skills. “They emailed me a seven-page work product that I had three days to complete. It was focused around copywriting and graphic design,” Ferris said. After successfully completing that project and a series of phone and in-person interviews, she was offered and accepted the position. Her role as Content Specialist includes working with a customer book building social calendars, as well as handling digital brand reputation.
Ferris credits the design and social media aspects of her degree in her execution of job responsibilities. “Being someone who has an eye for things like color, typography and the rule of thirds, this position was the perfect opportunity for me to showcase the skills I have been expanding throughout school,” Ferris said. “Furthermore, it is critical to understand and analyze the social media world and how people interact with brands online from classes like Advanced Social Media.”
Mann’s position works at the intersection of technology, digital marketing and data. “I implement and integrate marketing automation software. I help multiple clients, both large enterprise and successful start-ups, imagine and execute digital marketing campaigns,“ Mann said. “I also measure the performance of campaigns and other marketing efforts by creating custom reports and dashboards, and manage day-to-day activities with the project team.”
“When needed, I’m the company’s HTML resource,” Mann added. “There are a lot of terms that are used in our business, as well as my clients’ businesses, that have related back to what I learned in the DMI program.”
Other more experienced alumni have recently moved into new roles leading innovation and digital technology efforts, as well. Anna Tauzin graduated with a Mass Communication degree in 2008. She was recently promoted to Chief Revenue and Innovation Officer at Texas Restaurant Association. After working several years at Spredfast, Andrew Waldrup (Public Relations, 2010) recently accepted a position as Senior Product Manager for the HEB grocery chain, working on mobile strategy for their online ordering system. Alumni like Tauzin and Waldrup have influenced the direction of our programs with the successful trajectories of their digital media and innovation careers.
We’re proud of all our alumni and are glad that our program has prepared so many students to influence these emerging roles!
Advice for Students
For students about to graduate, recent alumni had the following advice:
Smith: “Never do the bare minimum in a project, especially if it’s something you’re directly interested in. When showing a potential employer your school work, you can mention how you went beyond requirements or learned a skill outside of class to add something extra.”
Mann: “Don’t be a lazy applicant. Tailor your cover letter to every single job you apply to. Highlight your experience and what you’re good at and why. If you don’t have a cover letter, or if you don’t have experience, Google has a lot of awesome examples and templates to help get you started.”
Agnew: “Work hard and give your projects their all! I know that sounds a bit generic, but it really is true. Your school projects and even work you do outside of classes are where you will learn and build the skills you need for a position such as mine. Also, give your projects their all! Each project you do in your classes is a portfolio piece. I’m still using projects I created from my classes on mine! When you graduate and are ready for a job, you can show that you know how to do the work based on the projects you produced in your classes.”
Jones: “Think about your experiences and where you want to go, and identify your three non-negotiables for your career. For me, I knew I wanted to continue to stay close to tech, I needed to be in an environment where I’m learning new things constantly, and I needed to work for a structured organization that fosters and encourages career development.”
White: “Find something you’re passionate about, and stick with it. My photography skills set me apart from the other applicants at my current job. While I had most of the skills they were looking for, they knew they could also get me to photograph their events and actually create the good content they were looking for. You never know when your passions will come into play in your career!”
Ferris: “Above all, don’t lose hope. Searching for jobs can feel like a job in itself, but if you apply yourself and strive to find an environment that’s fit for your lifestyle, then it will come. I think too many people had scared me into thinking I was going to get some dreadful 9-5 job after I graduated, but I ended up in a youthful, colorful environment that I truly see myself thriving in. I’m so grateful!”
Many of these alumni will be appearing during Mass Comm Week. Stay tuned for details.