Today’s Pro Interview features Wendy Zajack. She is the Faculty Director & Assistant Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.
Pagezii – Wendy, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Wendy – I’m a telecom industry survivor and technology marketer, having spent almost 18 years in communications at Lucent, Alcatel-Lucent and most recently Nokia. I love the challenge of making extremely complex technology simple and easy to understand. I’m one of the rare people I know who actually works in the field I have a degree in, a PR degree from Syracuse University with an MBA from NYU.
Pagezii – What drove you into marketing?
Wendy – I think I was a born marketer. I loved to spend money as a kid — I don’t remember on what, and I spent a good part of my childhood selling my used possessions to raise funds to buy new things. My sister was the victim of my early marketing efforts and I still wonder if she was moved by my words or more likely just wanted me to stop bothering her. In high school, I wrote for the school paper and I fell in love with communications and the power of words to move people to take action. I was good at making an emotional connection and it really became my intro into marketing.
Pagezii – Tell us about your role at Georgetown University.
Marketing and communications are in a major transformation
Wendy – I joined Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies this Fall. It’s a Masters program that focuses on professional degrees. What does that mean? It means we don’t spend time teaching theory to our students. We try to bring in mostly adjunct professors from the industry to teach practical and applicable knowledge. I’m the faculty director of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program. I teach, manage and recruit faculty and look after the development of the overall program. I believe marketing and communications are in a major transformation. What was once a set of well-defined and narrow channels to reach your audience has now become a messy environment — you can either see this as a huge opportunity or stick your head in the sand and try to stay in your swim lane. I think those who can ’embrace the blur’, as our Dean says … are the ones who will succeed in this next business cycle.
I’m the faculty director of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program. I teach, manage and recruit faculty and look after the development of the overall program. I believe marketing and communications are in the midst of a major transformation. What was once a set of well-defined and narrow channels to reach your audience has now become a messy environment — you can see this as a huge opportunity or stick your head in the sand and try to stay in your swim lane. I think those who can “embrace the blur” as our Dean says … are the ones who will succeed in the next business cycle.
Pagezii – What are the differences between academic training and corporate training?
Wendy – I think the biggest difference is the amount of time you can devote to learning. Most of our students are still part-time — so they’re working and balancing their personal lives — but we get them every week for a semester. This gives them and us time to really explore and practice the concepts we are discussing. I think academia is also a bit more of a safe environment. I have done a lot of corporate training too and while you can try to make it a judgement-free zone — it’s hard to achieve that.
re-ignite your brain and open yourself up to new ideas
I think what is the same is that once people engage in the process they become very excited and interested. Learning, in any environment, is an opportunity to spend some time on yourself, re-ignite your brain and open yourself up to new ideas. As children, we are constantly in learning mode, but for some reason, as adults, we start to feel we don’t have the time, energy or need to do this anymore. The amazing part is once you embrace learning again, in any capacity… you find you have more energy and more passion so it is well worth the effort.
Pagezii – And finally, what makes a good marketing student?
Wendy – I think what makes a good student is someone who is not afraid to fail. Today our society is very fixated on knowing the right answer all the time and saying the right thing. There is a constant pressure on performance and perfection. Sadly this means failure — to me the most important learning tool of all time — which is avoided at all costs. In a business environment, this means making safe and sometimes boring choices to reduce risk. In a learning environment, this means not opening up your mind to new ways of thinking, new ideas and to growth. The times I have learned the most in my career is when I put myself out there in a big way and failed big. Success is great — but failure pushes us further. So be able to be uncomfortable, have an open mind, a hunger for knowledge. Be passionate about pushing the limits of your industry. That’s what I like to see in our students.
Pagezii – Thank you, Wendy, for a very informative interview. Our readers will appreciate your candid views on the professional and the academic side of marketing.