This week we are spotlighting amazing alum Katie Czerwonka! Katie is currently an Associate Director at Digitas in New York City. Katie shared what led her to Marketing, the most rewarding project she worked on, and advice for current Marketing students.

How did you know that marketing was the career for you? 

I started at Tech undeclared. I hadn’t decided my major and came to realize that if I did a business major I would have the ability to use those skills for any area I became passionate about later. For example, if I decided that I was obsessed with surfing I could go work with a surf brand or whatever I was interested in. Naturally, I felt drawn to Marketing out of the business specialties we had at Tech. It just opens up the door to be able to work on a lot of different things. 

I saw that you were able to have an internship with the Martin Agency your freshman year at Virginia Tech. How did gaining experience this early impact your academic and professional experience? 

The Martin Agency was definitely my first experience with the world of advertising. I kind of had an idea of it from movies, but really no real world idea of what it was like. It was very eye opening to go into an agency for 2 weeks and actually see for myself what the environment was and how it was different from a very corporate, cubicle-dominated space and culture. It was awesome because leading up to then I just really didn’t have a clue what agency life was like and having that early experience opened my eyes to the possibility of a career that was a little more creative and a little less corporate. It shaped my entire time at Tech and my career path. When I got back to campus sophomore year, I got in contact with Professor Wertalik because she was working on starting PRISM and they were visiting agencies in New York. I focused my effort on getting into the agency world.

What does your day to day life look like as an Associate Director at Digitas? What’s the most exciting part of your job?

The exciting part of my job right now is that I don’t know what my day to day is going to look like before I get there! Every day, every week brings a new challenge or exciting new situation that we have to figure out a solution for, which I find to be very exciting and dynamic. I’ve also done jobs where it's very routine oriented and you kind of do the same set of tasks over and over. Let's say with an ad campaign, you go through a two year cycle to make an ad campaign, get it live, improve it, and then you do it again. At this job it's something different every day. We’re working on a lot of different types of business challenges which is really cool to me and I’m getting to use new skills and learn new things which I love. 

What is the most rewarding project you have worked on?

By far the most rewarding project I’ve worked on has been working with Jane Goodall on her Institute. It was a purely pro bono project, so I was really lucky and excited to work on it. She’s an inspiration to me, has an awesome message of hope, and her entire focus right now is reaching youth around the world about conservation and making the world a better place. I think that’s an awesome mission, so I was thrilled to work on that with her.

What has been the biggest lesson you learned since graduating?

I’ve learned many lessons, but I think the biggest one is it’s okay not to know and figure it out as you go. I think that some people have a really clear vision of what they want their career path to be or where they want to live, how they want things to be in their life and that’s awesome, but for me I’ve had a ton of fun exploring different cities, different places to live, different types of roles and seeing what I like. I learn best by experience so that’s what’s worked best for me. It’s okay not to have the whole thing laid out ahead of time. You’re going to figure it out and it’ll be great.

What advice would you give students who are currently applying to internships and full time jobs?

Look at different ways of getting in contact with the company. Maybe they don’t have an established internship program or they’re a smaller company. You can potentially reach out through social media or on their careers email, try different ways in and that’ll give you a better chance of getting a response. For full time jobs, for advertising agencies especially, they hire as they have need. Compared to other industries, you don’t really get hired in January to start in June, you get hired in June to start two weeks later in June. The market is totally flooded with new graduates in May and June, so what I did was wait until after the summer in September and October to start looking at full time jobs. I did one final season at my summer job and started looking at full time in the fall and had a much easier time being able to get interviews with companies I liked.