For students interested in marketing careers, the options can be overwhelming. Advertising or PR? Analytics or integrated marketing? What about brand management? To help answer questions about the various paths and positions in the field—as well as how students can best determine their own preferred roles and strategize for pursuing them—McIntire’s Careers in Marketing Forum invites expert professionals and alumni back to Rouss & Robertson Halls for a two-day, deep-dive exploration on the subject.
On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 24, the Forum kicks off with “The Story of My Career” panel, featuring guests Michael Foroobar (McIntire ’07), Head of Global Performance Measurement at Google, and Karen Seminara (McIntire ’94), CFO of Nickelodeon Group, Production Operations & Consumer Products Operations, at Viacom.
McIntire Marketing Professor and Marketing Area Coordinator Rick Netemeyer, who will moderate the first day’s event, says the Careers in Marketing Forum offers a great opportunity for both undergrad and M.S. in Commerce students who are curious to find out what marketing is all about.
“Commerce Career Services and the Marketing faculty at McIntire have been hosting this forum for several years,” he says. “The student feedback has always been overwhelmingly positive.”
Many Ways to a Future in Marketing
Invitees such as Foroobar are responsible for the Forum’s ongoing success, as experiences like his serve as enlightening and instructive examples of career possibilities available to students.
Regarding the start of his career and the professional accomplishments that followed, he insists that after graduating from McIntire, he was in the right place at the right time. Originally drawn to pursue a marketing career when “big data” first began bubbling up as a buzzword, he found himself satisfying companies’ growing need for people capable of analyzing and making sense of the explosion of data. Simultaneously, positions requiring increasingly quantitative and data driven vision came with the proliferation of new advertising platforms.
But to get from the Comm School into a career of his choosing required determined action and focus on his part that carried him from his internship days and pre-Google employment into his current position.
“Through my coursework in computer science, I knew I enjoyed the intersection of business and technology. I sought out opportunities where I could learn more about what this meant practically and ended up connecting with Rebecca Weeks Watson (McIntire ’01),” Foroobar says. “Rebecca was a great mentor and coach; working with her opened doors to new opportunities for me. These early experiences gave me a sense of ownership over both my work and my career and helped prepare me for roles like the one I’m in today.”
At Google, Foroobar and his team function at the cross-section of product, engineering, sales, and marketing, while working with other stakeholders and senior leaders to carry out Google’s mission of allowing customers to accurately measure the effectiveness of their advertising with better measurement solutions. In this regard, he says that McIntire taught him several skills that he relies upon daily, including the ability to structure information for problem solving; communicating and adapting his messages for different audiences; and operating effectively in team settings with indistinct ownership and accountability.
Go Soft or Go Home
In advance of the Forum, Foroobar notes that students interested in entering the marketing field have to look beyond simply mastering their technical skills. “In my experience at both small and large enterprises, the most successful marketing leaders can navigate different levels of problems—from strategic to tactical—and are great communicators,” he says. “Invest in these skills, and, over time, students will find themselves ahead.”
Alumna Jessica Herfurth (M.S. in Commerce ’19), who attended last year’s Careers in Marketing Forum, came away with likeminded advice.
“I remember speakers emphasizing the necessity of soft skills in any career path you choose, which the M.S. in Commerce curriculum also emphasized,” Herfurth says. “Teamwork, flexibility, organization, communication, crisis management, problem solving, reliability, and time management were all mentioned in the panels. I recall many of the speakers saying that hard skills are more teachable, but hiring managers and organizations want to hire graduates who already have these soft skill abilities, along with the willingness to learn and a strong work ethic. I found it helpful hearing this because I previously thought soft skills were less important.”
The morning of Oct. 25 features a keynote address from Allie Egan (McIntire ’08), President and CEO of global lifestyle brand Cynthia Rowley. A series of breakout sessions follows, providing informal discussions and networking opportunities, with panelists representing a range industries. Each includes a subject-specific focus on advertising/PR/digital; brand management and consulting; sports and entertainment marketing; and analytics and market research, which also welcomes Foroobar as a panelist.
Herfurth says that one particular session during last year’s Forum bolstered her confidence about reaching out to people for advice, as the three panelists insisted that people established in their careers are often more than willing to help students and recent graduates. One panelist promised his assistance to her and a classmate provided they connected with him on LinkedIn.
The second day of the Forum continues with small group coaching career meetings that delve into tactics for branding resumes and cover letters, job search strategies, preparing for interviews, and best practices for networking. Wrapping up the event, the closing reception provides students with the perfect environment to try out their networking skills.
“Make connections with the people there, as they are really truly willing to help you,” Herfurth says. “They expect you to awkwardly approach them after lunch and strike up a conversation. It feels forced at first, but once you get talking, you can learn a lot. Although I didn’t form a connection that led to a job offer, it never hurts to build your network or just practice your interpersonal skills. Being able to hold a professional conversation is an underestimated skill that can take you further than you realize.”
Foroobar also offers advice that stresses the strength of individuality: “Don’t be afraid to chart your own path. UVA has an incredible alumni community, so I’d encourage you to not limit yourself to the formal recruiting processes. At the same time, when you are networking, take time to craft your message. Keep your emails short and to the point. Be responsive. These details make a difference.”