Finding your way into a career in MARKETING can be filled with mis-steps or big self-assured leaps. Taking advantage of opportunities at Holy Cross such as the Alumni Job Shadowing Program can help you make more steady steps. We interviewed Nerelly Checo who, after her experience shadowing ’99 alum and Senior Vice President of National Ad Sales at Music Choice, Tom Soper, is more confident in taking steps to pursue a career in marketing.
Here is what Nerelly and Tom had to say…
Describe your visit and what did you gain from the experience?
Nerelly: For this visit, I was assigned to shadow Tom Soper. After introducing myself and learning what his job entails, in addition to explaining my own future plans, he scheduled meetings with two of his colleagues in order to give me information that was more directly related to my future career plans. Through these meetings, I was able to gain useful and applicable information, especially considering both of these colleagues were minorities and also did not major in Marketing. This experience gave me confidence that I can actually pursue my future career, despite the additional obstacles I might have to face. After these meetings, I was able to sit in a staff meeting which Tom himself led. It gave me insight into what my experience would be like working with a team, in a professional setting.
In one sentence, what does your job entail?
Tom: The role of my team at Music Choice is to partner with advertising agencies and their clients to place video advertising across our TV, web, and mobile platforms.
How did this experience influence or connect to your future career plans/goals?
Nerelly: I have always struggled with the idea of how to succeed in a Marketing career as a Psychology and Sociology double major. However, this visit in itself really provided me with the confidence that I needed to continue pursuing this career. I learned the importance of internships especially considering I am not a Marketing major. I also received information about how to “sell” myself and make myself stand out, despite my inferior marketing skills.
What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?
Tom: Entering senior year, I knew that I wanted to find a job working in sales and/or marketing. Through the on-campus recruiting process I was recruited by GE for a position in a 2-year sales and marketing leadership program.
GE was extremely strong in their training, and they taught me a lot about how to sell and how to market products. I ended up working for GE for three years in Louisville, KY and Baltimore, MD and then my wife (Kim Smith Soper ’99) and I decided to move back to the New York area — where we grew up.
Media had always been a passion of mine and once in NY, I decided to take the skills I had learned at GE and apply them to this industry. I worked at Disney for three years and I’ve now been at Music Choice for 10.
What were you involved in when you were on campus?
Tom: Public service and community involvement were important to me. I worked with SPUD all four years, eventually running the classroom reader program my junior and senior years. Like a lot of students, I also participated in the Appalachia service project junior year. And of course, intramural sports were also (way more than they should have been) important for a group of us.
What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?
Tom: I was an English major with an Economics minor. What I found extremely valuable about being an English major was that it taught you to take in a lot of information, to find the key themes in the text, and then to pull together a compelling argument to support your theses based on the texts – usually in a short amount of time. When you’re in college, you don’t have the perspective to understand how valuable this skill is and how you can apply it once you begin your career.
What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?
Tom: One, don’t be afraid to work hard. Holy Cross is known for its rigorous academic requirements and it helps prepare you well for when you’re thrust into the “real world” after graduation.
Two, keep your mind open when it comes to your career. The benefit to a liberal arts education is that you get exposed to many disciplines. At 21 or 22 years old, it’s rare to know what you want to do with your career.
What is some helpful advice your alumni host shared with you?
Nerelly: The most helpful advice my alumni host shared with me is emphasizing the use of the Holy Cross alum network community. He really highlighted how essential it is to have those connections in terms of obtaining a successful future career. While this information is also emphasized within the campus, it was more effective for me hearing it from an alum and seeing how accomplished he was in his career because of these connections. Through the meetings he scheduled with his colleagues, I received information about internship programs and how to gain marketing skills on my own. This information was extremely helpful to me because I gained other sources, in addition to Crusader Connections, to find internships.
and some more advice from Tom…
After graduation, start working as soon as you can. I tell this to every student who I work with through the alumni shadowing program – the first few years you’re working, you’re learning “how to work”. Don’t wait for the perfect job, because you might not know what it even is yet. Just start working and be open to future opportunities.