by Claire Fitzpatrick
As a UTD MS Marketing student we were given the opportunity to attend the Marketing Edge Student Career Forum in Austin, TX. It was graciously hosted by IBM on their beautiful Austin campus.
When we arrived at the IBM campus we were greeted by IBM employees that escorted us to the building where we would be meeting. As we were walking we were able to get a good view of the entire campus. IBM has a group of about 6-8 building each about 5-6 stories high. In the middle of the campus is a beautiful green space with a fountain so employees can enjoy some outdoors space if they’d like. The meeting room was quite large with floor to ceiling windows to bring in lots of natural light. It was nice to be able to see outside while we were there. While we were sitting there, we noticed students primarily from 3 different schools; UT Austin, St. Andrews, and Texas State. There were about 10 of us from UTD in total.
After a couple of minutes, Terri Bartlett, the President of Marketing Edge, stood up and spoke to us about what Marketing Edge is.
“Marketing EDGE is the only national nonprofit of its kind solely committed to acquaint professors and college students with – and to engage and involve them in – the thriving business of marketing. Marketing EDGE is supported solely by corporations and individuals who want to give back to the community.”
I took that quote directly from Marketing Edge’s website (http://www.marketingedge.org/), but basically they are a non-profit organization that brings together employers and students to better the marketing industry. Our line-up for the day included, keynote speaker Paul D’Arcy, SVP, Marketing for Indeed, and a panel discussion with the following, Todd Watson, IBM, Social Marketing Manager, Developer Outreach, Amanda Cowan, Farmhouse Delivery, VP of Marketing, Tyler Hooper, IBM, Digital Marketing Strategist, Ryan Johnson, RetailMeNot, Senior Marketing Manager, Lauren Foster, Founder, CEO/President, Stretch Recipes, and Eric Jones, WP Engine, VP Global Brand and Communications.
Paul’s keynote was very enlightening. He spoke to us about how he has had many different jobs that have enabled him to be where he is today. He told us about how he has failed more than he has succeeded, but that he never gave up. He also discussed the skills needed to be successful in marketing which included, math, writing, communication, and an overall sense of curiosity. Paul also mentioned that it was necessary to understand the technical aspects of marketing such as coding and analytics because companies are starting to rely on these skills more and more.
After hearing from Paul, we broke for lunch where IBM had catered very delicious Mexican food. It gave us an opportunity to mix and mingle with other students attending as well as employees from IBM and some other company representatives. After lunch we heard from the panel speakers. Initially, Todd, Amanda, Tyler, Ryan, Lauren, and Eric each discussed how they came to be in the job position they are in now and what they wish they had known when they were just starting out in their career. A lot of what they said mirrored Paul’s experience. The main takeaways were to immerse yourself as much as possible in the industry you want to be in; learn everything there is to know about it. As well as to connect with as many people as possible and find a mentor who is willing to help guide you your career.
After the panel interviews finished we were given the opportunity to tour around IBM’s design lab and Watson lab. On the 3rd floor of one of the buildings, through big double doors, the design lab looked just like a marketing agency. Bright colors, small group meeting “rooms” with walls made of moveable whiteboards, foosball tables with hip-hop music playing, and a break room with Starbucks coffee. Everyone had large iMac’s and desks that could be made to stand up at. There were walls that could be written on and funny pictures of the employees. It seemed like a family environment where everyone was in it together. This is one of the main places where IBM designs some of its new products. Most of it is pretty top-secret stuff so we didn’t get to see anything specific.
The guide moved us quickly on to the Watson lab, another top-secret product of IBM’s. It was a dimly lit room with a large glowing square box enclosed behind a glass wall. Watson is a series of servers that can accurately answer questions and critically solve problems given a set of data. The guides allowed us to ask Watson questions and he (it was coded to sound like a man) responded with correct answers. Watson can only give answers to information it already has which is a differentiating factor compared to other similar machines. It is not just spitting out random facts it finds on the internet, but combs through the data it was loaded with to find the best answer to the question. We were also able to see inside how it comes up with the answers as it breaks down the accuracy of the answer by the probability of it being correct. The higher the probability of that option being correct the more likely it will use that option.
Overall, it was a wonderfully hosted event by IBM and an excellent opportunity to hear from successful people in the marketing industry.
I thank everyone at IBM for lending us their campus and Marketing Edge for giving us insight into the industry and our careers.