Emily Todd graduated in May of 2011 from Columbia College Chicago with her degree in Marketing Communication and a concentration in Marketing. After interning with Bamboo Worldwide Inc. for only two weeks she successful secured herself a job with the company. Current Columbia student, Mackenzie Brayan, sat down with her to find out about the journey she took, the company she works for, and some advice she would like to give current students.
What is your current job title?
How did you get this job?
I interned with them, and then after two weeks they offered me a job. I started in January. The internship was supposed to be only until May. I ended up clicking with the company and everyone I worked with.
What do you remember about your interview?
Well, I had a few interviews. I didn’t meet with the C.E.O., Tracy Thirion, right away, I actually met with one of the strategist and she liked me so I interviewed with Tracy. We got along great and hardly talked about anything related to work, we mostly discussed clothes and food. She wanted to see if she liked me, if we would get along, and we got along great! She asked me, “Can you start on Monday?” and of course I said, “Yes!”
What kind of responsibilities were you given right away?
I was actually offered a lot of responsibility right away, which was awesome. It’s a very small company so we all wear many different hats. It’s not your traditional, “oh you do this,” “you’re in charge of that,” company - we’re all pitching in. There is no hierarchy, Tracy the C.E.O. will go get you coffee – there isn’t that feeling that someone is “higher up” than you, which is what makes our team so amazing because we are all equals. We do a lot of team building; we all get along great and are honest with each other. We eat out together, and we really value each other. It’s just like a family, they are my Chicago family.
Since it’s such a small company, they gave me a lot of responsibility very quickly. I learned on my feet. It was very “sink or swim”; they’re not the kind of company that has a training program they put new employees through. You just jump right in and if you make it, that’s great, and if you can’t, then maybe it’s just not the right fit. That’s the company culture, and you learn so much very, very quickly that way. I really believe in the company and their determination to value me as a person and not just an employee.
What kind of general skills are required at your job including computer programs?
PowerPoint is the greatest! I’m still actually learning about how to enhance my PowerPoint skills and do really great PowerPoint presentations. There is so much more you can do with it than your standard presentation. Everything we send to clients is on PowerPoint, so it’s a must-know.
Other skill sets would be being super organized and for me, especially at Bamboo, it’s all about your attitude. Being positive and upbeat, being open to any new experience – you have to be willing to jump in and try something new. You have to be friendly and open, especially with our clients. They come into our office and they look around and you can tell they are just thinking, “What is even going on?” We have a very non-traditional, creative company culture - we only let them write with smelly markers! You can tell they are uncomfortable, especially when we have a more conservative client come in, so we just have to be positive, friendly, honest, and able to adapt to multiple situations and clients – each client needs to be treated differently. You have to be able to read the room.
Listening is also very important. At times people don’t want to do that because they want to be the star of the show and do all the talking, but active listening is the way you learn. Asking questions is also very important. It’s not that hard to ask a question, but in order to ask a good one you really have to really be paying attention.
Being creative, I think in marketing it’s especially important, considering you have to balance creativity with strategy.
Communication and managing expectations with your team members is also very important. Letting him or her know the timeline, what’s possible, having foresight, knowing what each team member needs from you, so that everyone is very clear on what they are getting and when.
Bamboo has also taught me that it all comes down to people – business is about people. It’s important to be able to honestly connect with clients, to not forget that they have families and stories, too.
What is the importance of Social Media and understanding it in your job?
I’ve learned a lot about social media marketing, which is huge -- the statistics are that around 92% of companies are using social media right now. I find it fascinating and am subscribed to multiple newsletters to learn more because it’s always changing – it’s a BIG business.
At Bamboo we want to be more of a part of this. We are looking forward to embracing social media, whether it be through blogging or Twitter, we are working to integrate it into our culture.
Are writing skills important at your job?
So important! There is a lot of writing in marketing and being able to clearly communicate your ideas to your coworkers and clients is crucial. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved writing. When I was in high school, I was in in a special program that focused on writing; they built your course load to be very heavy on writing, history, and art classes. Writing has always been very important to me. On the side I write about food, my biggest passion, on my own food blog, Habitually Hungry. I also use social media a lot, personally and professionally and I think success with social media is very much linked to your ability as a writer.
How has Bamboo helped with your own personal growth?
I have changed in so many ways since starting with Bamboo. Bamboo has made me strong. I’ve gained so much more confidence in myself. I think you have to believe in yourself in order to be good at what do.
Bamboo supports your growth not only as a marketer, but as a person. After being around all these inspiring women (Bamboo currently does not employ any men), these great minds, I’ve been inspired to start my own business one day. Bamboo brings out the best in me, my coworkers inspire me.
My own personal road to success has really been just following my gut. I’m driven by passion, I can’t imagine going to a job where I wasn’t into it – life is to short! You work five days a week, so you should love it! Trust yourself and follow your heart.
What aspects of Columbia prepared you most for the “real world?”
Having professors who are working professionals in the industry. They were able to toughen us up and didn’t just have us stick our noses in old textbooks that are no longer relevant. It’s at a point where textbook from two years ago may no longer be relevant. The world is changing so quickly now, especially in the marketing field, and I firmly believe you cannot learn many of the most important skills you need to be successful in marketing from a book. The teachers at Columbia want you to know what is going on not just inside the classroom but, more importantly, what is happening outside of it.
What classes did you take that prepared you the most for your job at Bamboo?
Creativity in Marketing with Sandra Kumorowski. I had already been doing a lot of similar thought processes before the class with Bamboo, and her class helped me apply those skills in a different and exciting ways,
Also, Market Research with Dr. Bae. I learned so much from that class. I really got a lot out of it and I loved it because of that. It kicks your butt. One of the first assignments I had at Bamboo as an intern was to develop a survey for a workshop, which I learned from that class! It’s a great class to learn critical and analytical thinking.
What was the best part about being able to go to a school located in Chicago?
I love being in a diverse city. I lived in New York and London before moving to Chicago. Coming from a city like New York where everyone has the misguided attitude that “New York is the best city,” it was definitely hard to adjust to Chicago at first – those winters! Despite the cold, I love this city and I don’t ever want to leave it. I love the people, it’s cleaner and cheaper than New York, the job market is more open, and I don’t really see the opportunity I have at Bamboo being in New York. Everything I’ve ever done in my life, it all has made sense now. I’m so happy with where I am and so excited for the future.
What are some jobs or internships that you’ve had in the past?
When I lived in New York I did PR for a small vintage boutique. It was a “celebrity hotspot” of sorts, an US Weekly parade, where celebrities would come in and drop hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes. Working in PR was what sparked my interest in marketing. Bamboo was the only actual internship I’ve ever had.
How did you get your internship with Bamboo?
I went to Dave Gordon’s office and looked through the books, sent Bamboo e-mails and we talked through e-mail for a bit before I had my actual interview.
Any final advice for students?
Work on your writing skills, work on your knowledge of social media – we’re all using it but make sure you are staying up on social media marketing and the constantly evolving technology. You’re already doing it for fun; why not build your brand with it? Those things are so valuable – your Twitter description, that’s a business card! It gives you a voice. Networking is also so important. Teachers are really great resources so use them!
Follow Emily Todd on Twitter: @emilytodd