I get asked by people if I had a degree in marketing since I got my first marketing job at Google. Since then I went through the best life university – working in direct sales to end up in senior digital marketing role and start my own consulting. All this without a degree in marketing.
Recently I was invited by the university, Goldsmiths, University of London, where I did my Masters in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy to speak in front of a group of high school students. It was a panel of four alumni, two of us were in digital marketing, a third was a successful blogger. A student asked the inevitable question: Do you think you would have ended up in your job without doing a degree? A moment of silence during which I quickly re-imagined my past and answered for myself – probably not.
Even though my degree was in a different field, I had my first and only marketing lecture there. Working on my dissertation about marketing for arts organisations opened my door to get a job at Google. Arriving from Eastern Europe to London and finding job would have been even harder for me if I did not have the brand of a UK university on my CV.
However, thinking about whether anything I do today, I cannot lie that I pretty much all the skills I need for my job, I acquired outside of university. If it wasn’t for my proactivity of finding information – taking extra hours to study online courses like the Squared Online and the Udacity Digital Marketing Nanodegree, various courses on Udemy.com, I would not have ended where I am now.
I recently came across an article by a university professor defending the Marketing education in academia. The point was that Marketing is considered more of a learn-from-experience kind of subject and the industry is suffering by lack of official marketing training. As a proof, he shared recent studies showing most marketing campaigns in the UK end up failing.
This made me think. Could he be right?
Are marketers without a degree bunch of impostures after all?
Absolutely not. Let’s imagine two people – one has a degree in marketing, the other – doesn’t. The one who has a marketing degree, puts zero effort in learning new things, reading, taking any additional education after graduation. The other person knows they lack the academic preparation, so they go with full strength into studying and practicing. They buy and read all the textbooks, they study extra courses, watch tutorials, observe the biggest influencers, try making their own campaigns, invest money and time consistently. At the end of 5 years who do you think would be able to execute a better marketing campaign?
What about a person who has a Marketing degree and does not stop learning after graduation? Where they will end up?
Until recent years Marketing and Advertising education has been a module, part of a broader Business course. It was the same for many well-known professions, which were not taught in university – Journalism, Creative Writing, Interior Design. They were all part of other disciplines like Literature or Architecture.
Many of the pioneers of advertising and marketing had no official training. They were just businessmen and businesswomen who were looking for ways to capture people’s attention. Still methods and strategies developed by Eugene Schwatz and Oglivy are taught and applied nowadays.
The article went further attacking a saying from Gary Vaynerchuk about the importance of watching “winners winning”. Gary has no degree and still is one of the most influential social media experts, simply because he adopted YouTube and other social media channels and used them to successfully promote his businesses. What he meant was observing what successful marketing campaigns do and do the same, which is logical. As a matter of fact, Marketing degrees rely a lot on case studies and examples from the industry to teach students.
I believe that the whole argument whether a Marketing degree is important or not is useless. The only thing important is whether after graduating this degree, you keep on learning and developing yourself. In a few years, most of what students study in universities today will be outdated. New technology is disrupting every sector. Digital skills are crucial for anyone who wants to create successful marketing campaigns.
How do you stay relevant in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world?
The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world perceived as resulting from the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Since then this term has been used to describe situations out of the military, too.
First of all, by keeping yourself updated with the latest events happening. Learning about changes and updates in Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and other online marketing will help you stay ahead. Taking online and offline courses from people who have real experience can make a lot of difference. This is one of the reason why I created my course Digital Marketing Strategy for Business Success on udemy.com. I realised a lot of people out there were looking for a simple guide to just get started.
Second, try to practice. If you are looking to change career and get a marketing job, try practicing on your own. Creating a website with WordPress is really easy and it gives you visibility online. Making organic social media campaigns on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook does not cost any money. You can even try making your own paid campaigns of Facebook or Google AdWords by testing a small budget. At the end of the day, not having a real account to practice is just an excuse.
Finally, I think watching winners wining is not such a bad advice. Even if you are a qualified marketer with a diploma from a university, you might learn something from people who have influence online. Taking ideas from the Kardashians on Instagram and Snapchat marketing is not a bad idea. After all they have managed to generate millions from selling fashion and cosmetics to their followers.