Hi. My name is David Ebden. Last summer I made a difficult, life-changing and very scary decision. I left my job as communication manager in a large public organisation to enrol on a one year, full-time masters course in digital marketing at the University of Salford, Manchester. So why would I do that? Well, for me there were two compelling reasons – one logical, the other emotional.
The rise (and rise) of online marketing
First, I recognised that digital technology has transformed the marketing sector and will continue to do so for years to come. Online marketing should now be an integral part of any business; however, the speed and pace of change in the industry has made it difficult for many marketing professionals to keep up. In fact, a recent survey by the Digital Marketing Institute reported that “the majority of marketers tested in our research failed to achieve entry level competency in digital marketing skills.” I didn’t want to be one of those marketers.
Fortunately, during my career, I’ve had lots of opportunities to develop both strategic and technical marketing skills. I’ve delivered integrated marketing strategies using both online and offline channels, developed websites and an intranet, produced content for online media, used content management systems (CMS) including WordPress, and generated insight using Google Analytics. However, I was aware that if I wanted to remain competitive and stay relevant in the industry, I needed to develop a wider range of digital marketing skills. Encouragingly, a survey by Manchester Digital also revealed the growing digital skills gap, which means there are currently many employment opportunities in the region.
A passion for digital
The second reason was my passion for digital. I’ve always loved using digital technology both professionally and personally. For some time I had been thinking about focusing my career in a digital marketing role. Technology has brought a greater degree of control and precision to the marketing sector. These days marketing is much more science than art. However, this has brought increased complexity and new challenges to the role of a marketer.
An aspiring digital marketing specialist
So last summer I decided to get serious about digital. My aspiration was to become a digital marketing specialist, an expert in a diverse range of digital disciplines: digital strategy, content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, conversation rate optimisation (CRO) and digital analytics.
After reviewing digital marketing courses across the region, I enrolled on the MSc Digital Marketing programme at the University of Salford in September 2016. This taught course provided the range of skills I wanted to develop, was available as intensive study over one year and provided the opportunity to work with industry as part of my dissertation.
Masters programme in digital marketing
The masters programme is made up of five modules: Digital Marketing and Analytics (digital strategy, Google Analytics, data analysis using SPSS, and data visualisation); Search and Social Media Marketing (social media marketing and search engine optimisation); Digital Innovation (the Internet of Things, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, and WordPress); and Marketing Services Management (marketing models applied to the service sector). The final module is a Business Innovation Project (BIP), an alternative to the traditional dissertation route. The BIP involves a placement in a company working on a live project with the opportunity to apply digital marketing skills.
I’m now seven months into the course, so how have things gone so far? The breadth and depth of new skills I’ve developed over the past months has been incredible. The course has a practical focus so learning is very much about real-world projects. The time requirements are demanding, with an expected 50 hours of study each week. In addition, as part of my professional development, I also need to regularly review the latest industry news, journals and blogs to keep up with developments in this fast-changing sector (I now start each day doing just that).
Next steps – SEO and CRO
So, what’s next? I finish my fourth module (Search and Social Media Marketing) in the middle of May. I’m now seeking a three-month placement with a business or agency in the Greater Manchester region for my Business Innovation Project. For my project I’m hoping to gain further experience of search engine optimisation (SEO) and/or conversion rate optimisation (CRO).
Although taking a break to specialise my career in digital marketing was a tough decision, I believe I made the right call. The course has strengthening my passion for digital and I feel excited about what the future will bring. I’m looking forward to my job search this coming September and becoming part of the Manchester digital scene.
Connect with social media
Over the coming months I’ll be writing regular blog posts about my journey from communication generalist to digital marketing specialist. I’ll also share my thoughts on digital marketing. To stay in touch, connect with me on social media (see the icons on this page) or contact me using the form below.
Also, if you’re getting serious about digital marketing, or an experienced marketer who has recently taken the plunge into the world of online marketing, share your thoughts by commenting on this post. Just click the green box by the post title.