Our latest TMM Success Story features James C. Smith. A recent graduate of PSU’s CEPE Digital Marketing Certificate Program, James is transitioning into a new and exciting role. He is an experienced technology sector analyst but has taken the daring step of heading back to school in order to directly work in digital marketing.
He has stepped up as TMM’s Director of Partnerships and is a vital part of the TMM community. When he’s not wearing his TMM sash and writing AWESOME and thoughtful content he’s helping organize initiatives behind the scenes. He has also been instrumental in creating the social media strategy for one of the biggest content strategy conferences in the country, LavaCon 2013. The conference is taking place in Portland this month with over 112 sessions on digital media and content strategy.
James is a shining example of the advice he gives below – follow your own path to joy and everything else will flow from there. Well said James, well said. Congrats on finding your joy and helping others find theirs along the way!
1) What challenges have you faced moving from being a recent graduate of the digital marketing certificate program to a working professional marketer?
As someone making a career change, I find that I am navigating a divide between being perceived as simultaneously over- and under-qualified. I have over 15 years of experience working as an industry
analyst in the technology sector working within B2B account teams, but have just recently started working directly in digital marketing. People have a hard time fitting me into a predefined bucket.
2) What have been the biggest factors leading to your success?
The Digital Marketing Strategies program at Portland State University has been essential. The early
work in the program made me create a personal brand building strategy and action plan. This was an
unexpected, but critical part of the process. Additionally, the opportunities for networking quickly exposed
me to industry leaders in Portland. I was also introduced to TMMPDX.COM which has allowed me to
continue my education by putting my studies into practice. I really can’t say enough good things about
the PSU program.
3) If you had to give ONE piece of key advice to young digital marketing enthusiasts and students, what would it be?
“Show me don’t tweet me.” I am a big NBA fan, so I recently followed a Twitter tête-à-tête between stars
Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant, where Durant ended the exchange with that quip. It really is a modern
way to say “actions speak louder than words.” Find a way to put your skills to use – whether it is in a
passion project, a favorite non-profit, or an industry association. Volunteer and build a project portfolio to
show clients or employers.
4) What skills have you developed that were essential to your new positions?
Writing skills. My experience as an industry analyst honed my abilities to write concise, easy to
understand material for busy tech executives. Concise, organized writing is even more essential in the
world of social media, where space is limited. Being active in social media as well as social business
tools in the enterprise environment has made the transition to digital marketing easier for me.
5) How have groups like TMM and PSU’s certificate program helped you be better at what you want to do?
The PSU program really re-focused me on strategy. It is very easy to just want to jump into the tactics –
the part that everyone sees. But ignoring the business strategy driving the tactics leads to wasted time
and energy. And these days nobody has time or energy to waste in our rush-rush, busy-busy, over-
The biggest thing TMM has offered is a support group of like-minded people. I have built great
relationships with the other directors and contributors. Additionally, I have been able to continue to track
the tech sector by attending tech conferences as a TMM reporter and by writing about digital marketing
tools for the site. As a Board member, I have also been able to put my PSU studies to use – for instance
I recently built a Success Metrics Dashboard for the Board to track key performance indicators (KPIs) as
we launch a new marketing plan.
6) As you anticipate the next 5 to 10 years of your career – what do you hope to accomplish?
I expect to lead my own business taking advantage of my digital marketing skills.
7) How do YOU define success?
Success means following my own path to joy. Everything else will flow from there.