By Heream Yang
When most people hear the word “marketing,” they think of the creative side: social media, copywriting, and ad design. However, for Katie Pisarek (MMark’18), the quantitative aspect is what drew her into a marketing career. Having studied Applied Mathematics and Psychology at the University of Notre Dame as an undergraduate, Pisarek knew she didn’t want to pursue a traditional STEM career upon graduation. A mentor suggested she look into marketing, which turned out to be the perfect combination of her interests in quantitative analysis and consumer behavior.
“I always joked that…I’m good at math so I should be doing finance and accounting, but I don’t want to just crunch numbers all day,” Pisarek said. “I’m also good at psychology and consumer behavior, but I don’t want to do consumer behavior research, so what I (do) in marketing is the perfect combination of that.”
With little previous experience in the business world, Pisarek decided to pursue a Master of Marketing at Vanderbilt Business before launching her full-time career. “To me, (earning a Master of Marketing) was an investment of time (to) get my degree and really figure out what I wanted to do…It made the job application process so much easier and my career path easier.”
From Undecided to Data Analytics
The Master of Marketing program offered Pisarek countless opportunities to explore what a marketing career could look like, including BrandWeek, a three-day series of real-world marketing challenges presented by local businesses. Her team ended up winning the Mars Petcare, Inc. challenge, in which they recommended growth strategies for a brand owned by the multi-billion dollar petcare branch of Mars, Inc. “(BrandWeek) brought the MMarks as a group closer to the rest of Owen,” Pisarek said. “I still talk to a bunch of the MBAs that I was in BrandWeek with, so that was a great experience.”
As Pisarek began taking more marketing classes and attending career fairs with her classmates, she was drawn towards data analytics roles. “(The Vanderbilt Master of Marketing) was the perfect program for me because one thing that I really focused on when I was considering it was how much data analysis there was, and there’s actually quite a bit,” she said.
Megan Nichols, an Associate Director at the Career Management Center, immediately thought of Pisarek when she learned of an opening at New Engen, a Seattle-based startup that leverages data and technology to help companies improve their marketing campaigns. “As soon as I heard the details from the recruiter, I thought it was perfect for Katie’s background and something she would find interesting,” Nichols said. The day after speaking with Nichols, Pisarek connected with the New Engen recruiter by phone, ultimately landing a full-time offer within three weeks.
Starting Up in Seattle
Pisarek now works as a Performance Marketing Specialist in New Engen’s Seattle headquarters, driving customer acquisition across digital channels like Facebook and Google Search. She collaborates with client companies to track and boost their account performance. “Often data gets overlooked in marketing, and marketing is treated like a really fluff type of thing… and it’s definitely not that, at least in my profession, just because we are so data oriented in terms of how we drive performance in the coming months,” Pisarek said.
Pisarek found the perfect fit not only in the analytical nature of her role at New Engen, but also in the company culture. “New Engen’s great because it’s very social in the sense that… you’ll be working together then go to happy hour right after,” Pisarek said. “We’re very classic startup in that we have a tap and wine in fridge. Everyone brings their dogs to work. Everyone knows each other, everyone’s friends.”
New Engen offers flexibility in terms of relocating to its other offices in New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Charlotte, but, for now, Pisarek is content to stay in Seattle. She enjoys exploring the best bars and restaurants in the city’s diverse neighborhoods and visiting South Lake Union and various other waterfront spots. “I actually really, really love (Seattle),” Pisarek said.
Ultimately, Pisarek encourages other quantitatively inclined students to give marketing a try, especially if they are interested in making an impact on the consumer side. “Everything that we do on a day to day basis is very founded in data,” she said. “It’s very intentional and it can actually make or break a business, so I think that the role of marketing is not trivial…Finance and accounting are really good careers…but marketing is the side the consumer actually sees.”