Kelly Sharer graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an undergraduate degree in marketing and went on to earn an MBA from Northwestern. She had a successful marketing career working with brands such as Frito-Lay, Nabisco, and Kraft. “I like to say I worked my way through snack foods,” she said. “I started in sales then moved to marketing before entering brand management.”
In 2003, she stepped away from the workforce to be with her family full-time. During her hiatus from marketing, she volunteered in schools, sat on school boards, worked with nonprofits, and was elected to her local government. She knew she would formally re-enter the workforce one day, so she took these positions in order to stay relevant.
Kelly decided to rejoin the marketing world in 2020, but quickly realized that while her prior experience was valuable, she was missing some new key skills. “When I left, the digital aspect of marketing was barely on the radar, and now it’s such a huge part of it. I really wanted to gain those skills in order to be a valuable employee,” she said.
Getting back in the game
While scrolling through social media one day, Kelly came across an ad for Rice University Digital Marketing Boot Camp. As she began researching the program, she noticed it offered training for the skills she wanted to acquire. “I knew if I had these skills I would feel qualified and comfortable enough to work in digital marketing,” she said. “The advertising worked! I didn’t know what I needed until I saw it.”
Kelly enrolled in the 18-week boot camp in August of 2020. In the beginning, she was nervous about being an older student in the class and adjusting to online learning. Luckily, everyone shared the experience of getting used to Zoom and Kelly’s age wasn’t a concern after she got started. “It was a really diverse group of people — not only professionally, but also in terms of age and gender,” she said.
During class, there were regular breakout sessions where students collaborated on assignments. The groups rotated each class, so Kelly had plenty of opportunities to meet new people — something that positively impacted her overall learning experience.
Throughout the boot camp, students completed both a midterm project and a final project. Kelly stuck with the same group for both because everyone worked so well together. “We all grew so much from the projects, and you could really tell how much more we knew after we completed them,” she said.
The projects incorporated everything students had been learning in the boot camp, using digital marketing concepts to tackle real-world problems. This provided a valuable glimpse into life beyond the boot camp — allowing students to see how ready they really were to enter the field.
After all was said and done, Kelly learned over 100 new marketing programs in the boot camp, including a few that taught her how to build and use dashboards. “The technology and analytics tools we have at our disposal make it so you don’t have to be super technologically inclined in order to do things well,” she said.
An internship turned job opportunity
Kelly applied for an internship at Marketing Logix about halfway through the boot camp. She was hired immediately after the interview and started working the next day. With her prior marketing experience and the boot camp under her belt, she was promoted to manager on day one.
“If I could build the ideal person to learn under and work with, it would be my boss,” Kelly said. “She wants to mentor me, she’s always paying it forward, and she’s so invested in my learning.”
At Marketing Logix, Kelly works with a variety of B2B clients — some of which don’t have their own marketing departments. Marketing Logix does a complete sales-to-marketing integration for these companies, then works with sales teams to develop strategic marketing solutions. “Each day is different because we work with so many different companies,” said Kelly. “The boot camp gave me broad exposure to all kinds of marketing disciplines, and I use them all in this role.”
Everyone in Kelly’s 35-person class had their own reasons for enrolling in the boot camp. “Digital marketing is so dynamic and constantly changing,” said Kelly. “Different people enroll for different reasons — and in the end, I think everyone got what they needed out of it. I know I did.”
Interested in finding a career in digital marketing? Explore digital marketing and more at Rice University Boot Camps.