- Travis Summers

Term : February, 2016
Department : Business and Management
Program : Marketing

Travis Summers is a triple threat communicator: he knows broadcasting, print journalism, and Web writing. When he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications in the mid-2000s, focusing on print journalism, the job landscape for his chosen field had already begun to shift. He quickly rose the ranks at his first job, where he worked as an assistant sports editor at a newspaper, and soon realized that he’d already met his glass ceiling. When he and his family moved from Texas to California, he found freelance work but soon realized that the job he had been trained to pursue didn’t exist as such anymore. He turned to his local employment development agency and learned that he was eligible for workforce retraining funds through the government. Working closely with the agency, he discovered UCSC Extension’s Marketing program, which offered the mix of copywriting, search engine marketing and social media marketing that he was looking for. Within a month of completing the certificate in early 2016, Summers landed a job as marketing project specialist for a global housing corporation.

 What made you choose UCSC Extension?

When I went to college in 2001, all of my print journalism professors had been recently bought out from their newspaper jobs—fantastic jobs at fantastic papers—because they were unwilling to transition into digital media. Because of that, my four year bachelor’s degree prepared me for a career in 1980. I knew that if I were going back to school, I wanted to be focused and prepared for a career in 2020. To find a career job in Silicon Valley, I needed to switch from print journalism to digital marketing, with a focus on copywriting. I knew that I could take my writing abilities and focus them on marketing to create a consistent source of income.

When I compared programs, I felt like UCSC Extension offered the best chance to prepare for a digital marketing career, between its search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Web writing and social media marketing classes. When I started interviewing for jobs, I felt like now I have both the writing background and the digital marketing knowledge to push an organization into the next 10 years.

What kinds of practical skills did you gain?

The final for my “Web 2.0: Social Media Marketing” course was to create a social media marketing strategy for a business. At the time, I was bartending, so I did my research on the customers—their demographics and psychographics—and crafted a social media marketing strategy for the bar. When I turned it in to the instructor, she replied with feedback, and said I should share my strategy with the bar to gain practical experience. I ended up starting an Instagram account and managing the bar’s Facebook account, and I was able to use the analytics from Facebook insights to highlight what I’d learned on my resume and my blog.

I also learned a lot in my “Web Writing That Works” course that I’ve applied to my blog. One main thing I learned in that class was to write to your demographic as well as your secondary market. My blog speaks to people who don’t have a job, and it also functions as a portfolio piece. The secondary market for me was recruiting agencies and HR representatives, so when they come to my site they see that I’m speaking to their industry. I also follow the online formatting standards that I learned in class. My blog is heavy on headlines; I write 200 words, and then introduce a new sub-topic.

I learned some of my most marketable skills in my “Search Engine Marketing” class. Now I can prove that I know SEO and SEM best practices, and while I don’t know how to code, I know how to speak the same language as someone who does. I’ve noticed that people who code can’t write, and the people who can write, can’t code. Being on the same page as coders is a big help, and can help you resolve issues that an employer might have.

 What advice do you have for professionals seeking retraining assistance?

If you’re trying to retrain for work, go see what your local career development center has. I was lucky to work with the Tri-Valley One Stop Career Center, where I had an education agent who helped cut through a lot of the red tape to help me get government funding. I am incredibly grateful for the support of UCSC Extension’s WIA representative and the One-Stop representative. Once you can access the retraining funds and find your program, there’s not a whole lot that’s stopping you from a first-rate educational foundation. If you work with the instructors, you’ll get a nice kick in the butt to prepare you for the next step. The state of California gave me money to transition into a career field, and one month after completing my program, I have the perfect entry-level job.

When I was going on interviews and shopping my services around, I used a lot of the skills that I learned at UCSC Extension. I was able to make some of my class projects into portfolio pieces and build out my blog, which allowed me to stand out in a crowded field.

Visit our Marketing Management program page to learn more about Extension’s unique offerings. Browse upcoming Marketing courses. Learn more about workforce retraining opportunities at UCSC Extension. 

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