Young Advances Marketing Career With Gies MBA
Gabrielle Young (MBA ’19) was tired of people asking her to make PowerPoint presentations look pretty. The Atlanta-based advertising and marketing executive said she felt like she’d been put in a box at her company.
“When I sought out a mentor to ask why people only saw me as a creative person, she told me I didn’t volunteer for anything that went beyond that,” she said.
Young admitted she didn’t know what else to ask to do.
“Exactly,” said the mentor, who encouraged her to pursue her MBA, but to choose wisely. She advised that in the business world, the institution you get your degree from is just as important as the degree itself.
Her deadline-driven job, three-hour daily commute, and finances made a traditional MBA program unrealistic. She began researching distance learning solutions in 2017 and found Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had just launched an online MBA costing $22,000. Illinois is her dad’s alma mater, and she had planned to attend Illinois to get her graduate degree as well. However, just weeks before classes began in Fall 2003, a split-second decision took her elsewhere. She pursued the opportunity to attend the Creative Circus, a creative portfolio school in Atlanta, instead of pursuing a full-time MBA at Gies Business.
“My dad wasn’t exactly excited about me going to a school with the word ‘circus’ in it. I actually had to present a 14-page report with a cost-benefit analysis to convince him to let me pursue such a non-traditional education,” Young laughed.
She began her career working at ad agency BBDO and then as a freelancer before transitioning to the client side. She was first an art director and was later promoted to director of marketing at Southwire Company. There she built a full in-house agency complete with capabilities in design, copywriting, UX, and web development.
“One day after researching for months I said to myself, ‘Why don’t you finish what you started at U of I?’” she said, noting that after making her decision, colleagues confided they wished they had pursued their MBAs as well. Young says she reminds them they can get an MBA at any age, citing some of her fellow graduates pursuing their second, third, or even fourth careers.
Young admits she faced challenges along the way. She says she’s thankful that when she hit a roadblock at 2 am, she could reach out on the program’s Workplace app to classmates around the world. They were always willing to provide feedback, direction, and encouragement at any time of day.
“The whole experience toughened me up about what I make space for. I learned that with energy, focus, and time you can accomplish anything,” she said.
Young began interviewing for new positions while pursuing her degree and was firm in every interview that continuing to do so was non-negotiable.
In January 2019, Young joined Mighty Auto Parts as director of marketing. She oversees franchise and corporate advertising and orchestrates the strategy and direction of digital marketing, omnichannel communications, marketing business intelligence, digital transformation, and multi-touchpoint sales opportunities. She says her MBA has given her the confidence to speak up.
“I present business cases, new concepts, and can even run statistical analysis to show a program’s viability,” she said.
Young calls herself an aspiring behavioral economist, a blend of her advertising roots and business acumen. She has come a long way from the 12-year-old girl who openly critiqued ad campaigns while watching TV before starting her homework.
“Pizza Hut had just launched its stuffed-crust pizza campaign, and I turned to my mom and said, ‘I think they missed an opportunity here.’ What kid says that?” she asked.
Young recounts that her mom didn’t skip a beat and suggested when she went to college she might want to go into advertising. And she’s never looked back.
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