Burst Your Bubble

For Marketers, a Master’s Degree Can Be More Than A Piece of Paper.

Two years ago, I was bringing a new manager up to speed on my experience and how I viewed my segment of the business, as well as my career. Of course, this being Microsoft and me being an overachiever, I made a brief PowerPoint deck to illustrate my points. When we got to the slide about my development, he fixated on one bullet point.

“Get outside the ‘Redmond bubble’?” he asked. “What does that mean?”

It could be heresy at Microsoft to say that out loud, let alone write it down and hand it to your boss. “Our products are in over a billion machines around the world. The stories I tell, the content I publish, the value propositions I help craft, and the products I promote, need to be relevant to everyone. They need to be compelling. They need to connect. I can’t be at my best doing that if all of my interactions take place in an insulated way, which is why I’m going to grad school. Particularly, that’s why I chose West Virginia, where I can meet people I’d otherwise never meet.”

In the past two years, I’ve thought about that conversation a lot, and the points I made. Earning a Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications was not easy. There were dozens of late nights and early mornings. There were fights with hotel and coffee shop Wi-Fi to get an assignment turned in. Hundreds of thousands of words written. 628 pages of papers with over 1,000 citations.

The knowledge gained was not just from the research. Not just from the lessons. It was the offhand, informal perspectives derived from countless conversations. It helped me understand the mindset of entrepreneurs, students, small businesses, and large enterprises. At the office, it shaped the stories I told and the content I developed, and the strategies I nurtured.

Joe Gura & Maryanne Reed at WVU Graduation

Joe Gura shakes hands with Maryanne Reed, Dean of Reed College of Media at West Virginia University during Commencement at Morgantown, West Virginia May 16, 2015.

The page views went up. The video views increased. The content was sharper, better, more refined, and most significantly, more relevant to customers.

You cannot get much farther outside the Redmond bubble than Morgantown, West Virginia, where three weeks ago, I got hooded, and took my walk across the stage to receive my Masters’ degree. For marketers who want to excel, and get to another level, the Masters programs aren’t just about the research, the papers, the grades. It’s about the people you meet, the relationships you forge, and the perspectives you gain.

Take it from me: don’t just do grad school for the degree. Or to ask for a raise. Do it to get outside your bubble.

…and think about doing it at WVU. They have a good thing going there. JG Initial Mark_15x15


Joe Gura is a security communications strategist for Hewlett-Packard, and has a Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn or follow Joe on Twitter: @joegura

About joegura

I’m a technology marketer with a deep track record for success running B2B and B2C global campaigns and initiatives across large enterprises. With expertise that spans all facets of traditional marketing, I specialize in optimizing and connecting companies and customers via next-generation tactics such as digital, social, and content marketing.
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