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How Networking Opened Doors for Kirstin Johnson (MMark’18)

Sep 27, 2019
The Master of Marketing graduate leveraged her connections from Vanderbilt Business School to build her career in digital and paid marketing

By Jong Eun Jung

Kirstin Johnson (MMark'18)

Kirstin Johnson (MMark’18)

Even before college, Kirstin Johnson (MMark’18) knew she wanted a job in marketing. “It was kind of the perfect mix in my mind of being in business but having all these ads and slogans,” Johnson said. With a volleyball scholarship in hand, she decided to leave her hometown on the West Coast and pursue her love of advertising at Dakota State University. There, she majored in marketing and confirmed that the field was the right career path for her.

However, she wasn’t sure what area of marketing she wanted to work in after graduating college. She decided to apply to graduate programs, including the Vanderbilt Master of Marketing. Johnson enrolled in the program and moved to Nashville with the hope that she would build a bigger network. “I was going to undergrad in the Midwest. I knew that I wanted to be in a bigger city with a little bit better of a network from my school. And Vanderbilt really offered those opportunities for me,” Johnson said.

Learning How to Network

Johnson (middle) and her Master of Marketing classmates at the annual Marketing Madness event

While in school, Johnson worked part-time at the Career Management Center (CMC) by helping out with hosting recruiting events at the CMC. This gave her the opportunity to meet recruiters from different companies. Interacting with these recruiters, who came to the business school to promote jobs and internships to students, allowed her to gain communication skills for the business world.

“It was teaching me the proper etiquette of how you navigate networking conversations. Being fresh out of undergrad, I didn’t necessarily have a polished career sense that a lot of people do when they’re going into their MBA because they had worked previously,” Johnson said. “I enjoyed my hosting gigs, whether it was an event that I was interested in or an event that might have been outside my focus. It was giving me the idea of how (the business world) works as a whole, and it was really interesting and beneficial for me.”

Getting Started in Marketing

Infosys Consulting came to recruit at the Vanderbilt Master of Marketing program very early in the school year. Thanks to her part-time job, Johnson had the chance to network with Infosys recruiters while helping with one of their events. “(Infosys) came in November, and the ability to find a job so early on in the process of the program was very enticing,” Johnson said. “I didn’t exactly know what realm of marketing I wanted to be in, and consulting gave me the opportunity to be in different projects that would expose me to different areas.”

Johnson interviewed with Infosys, and they extended her an offer; she started working there full-time shortly after graduating. Johnson was placed on a project that involved creating a digital marketing platform for a finance company to optimize user experience. Through that client work, she gained valuable skills in interacting with clients and leveraging communication between a company and its customers. “I really liked the client relationship with consulting. I enjoyed that aspect of hearing what they have to say and giving them suggestions based off of my research or experience,” she said.

Taking the Next Step

Kirstin Johnson at New Engen, Inc.

Kirstin Johnson at New Engen, Inc.

Although the work at Infosys was intriguing, Johnson started to miss the West Coast. The opportunity to return to the West Coast came to her through networking: One of her friends from the Master of Marketing program talked to Johnson about her experience at an agency called New Engen, Inc., which was located in Seattle. “She was talking about all the things that I liked from Infosys, but she was more stationary, and she was on the West Coast. It’s a start up, and it’s constantly growing, so there’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” Johnson said. “I would like the opportunity to potentially be on a project train and see all the things through, which is like consulting.”

After half a year at Infosys, Johnson entered New Engen as a Performance Marketing Specialist. At her new position, she controls paid marketing on Google and Facebook by strategizing ads to get the best return out of consumers online. “What’s great about New Engen is, that’s what our platform is all about. We create these campaigns online, and our software has the ability to analyze and see what works and what doesn’t,” Johnson said.

Recently, Johnson was promoted to Performance Marketing Associate, which allows her to unite her passion for advertising with her client service skills. “I’m doing really cool things: I’m analyzing how well the creative ad is working, analyzing how long the ad can do, constantly keeping the ads fresh, and making sure that they are more suited for the consumers,” she said.

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