Derek Kim’s career journey took him from economics to graphic design to data science, but it wasn’t until he discovered digital marketing that he found the perfect blend of analytics and creativity he’d been seeking. From that moment forward, it all fell into place for Derek—he enrolled in Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, built his portfolio, and landed an internship in New York. Today, he is a digital marketing specialist, working for an AI company in the medical field.
This is Derek’s story of how he found his perfect career track.
Let’s begin by talking about your motivations for enrolling in the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program. What got you onto the digital marketing track?
I explored a whole range of different subjects and career routes before landing on digital marketing. I studied Economics for my undergraduate. I worked as a graphic designer for a few years. I did a bunch of online courses in data science. It took me a while, but what all this helped me do was realize I really wanted a career that combines creativity and working with data. When I started reading about careers in digital marketing, it felt like I’d found that balance!
In terms of gaining the skills you needed, what were you looking for in a learning program?
As I mentioned, I’d already completed a bunch of other online courses to learn about data. I really liked the flexibility of learning online, but I thought the courses I tried often focused too much on just the theory. But when I saw ads for the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, I loved that it sounded so practical and focused on learning real tools, so I enrolled.
Having now completed the program, was Udacity the right choice for you? Did you get the practical, hands-on experience you were looking for?
Udacity was awesome. The projects were great, my mentor was great. I really liked how the whole program was structured around projects and practical experience. You really felt like you were learning skills that actual companies required.
Of the Nanodegree program projects you worked on, did you have any favorites?
I think the Facebook campaign was my favorite. I think I did well, and had good results. And, as I was working on it, I realized that I was practicing a skill set that businesses would actually need because I could see real companies running the same kinds of campaigns I was doing in my project. So I knew it was something that was going to be important to have on my resume.
“I could see real companies running the same kinds of campaigns I was doing in my project. So I knew it was something that was going to be important to have on my resume.”
As it turns out, you landed a digital marketing internship before you even graduated your program—how did that come about?
I’d started looking online at a few opportunities to see where I could start building experience. I put out a few speculative applications, but I really thought I’d need to complete the program before I had any real traction in the digital marketing field. However what I’d learned and built in the program was enough to get an interview. When I was invited in, they asked me about my past experience with data, and then the interviewers got really excited about my Nanodegree program experience.
“I explained to them about all the hands-on experience I’d gained running different campaigns. I think that was probably the biggest factor in me landing the opportunity.”
Were there particular Nanodegree program projects you spoke about during your internship interview?
I’d finished projects that involved Google AdWords and Facebook campaigns at that point, so I was able to show the recruiters exactly what I’d done, and how successful I’d been. They actually told me there were over 100 people who’d applied for the internship. So I was pretty surprised when I was offered the internship so quickly—within a week! I think they really valued the fact I was doing the Nanodegree program!
And what was it like once you started your internship, did you feel like you were using the skills you’d learned in the Udacity classroom?
I got really busy, but it was awesome to start using the skills I’d already learned in the program out in the real world. I was working on the company’s Facebook ads, and their SEO. All of their digital marketing efforts. It was a luxury candle company—fully-focused on consumer goods—so it was extremely relevant to digital marketing, because you can see an impact on sales really rapidly.
Safe to say the internship went really well, right?
Yes! The company actually offered me a staff role because they really liked my work. But while I’d learned a lot from the internship, I didn’t really see it as my long-term role, so I turned the opportunity down. I didn’t want to stay in New York, and I really wanted to find a role in a company where I could feel excited about their products. Candles wasn’t that, for me. By then, I felt like I had the digital marketing skills I needed to find exactly the role I wanted.
That’s wonderful that you had the confidence to hold out for something you really believed in, but it must of felt like a risk to turn down a good job; was it the right decision, and did you find the role you were looking for?
I found it! I got a job as a Digital Marketing Specialist, for a company that’s involved in using Artificial Intelligence to detect diseases. The company developed the first FDA approved autonomous diagnostic AI, which can make a clinical decision without a human expert. That sounded fascinating to me, and was the major reason I applied for the role. And AI is a subject that has intrigued me since I first started taking data courses. You only need to look at the enormous number of companies talking about using AI to see that it’s becoming a huge industry. I’m so pleased I get to be a part of it—it feels like a field that is just going to grow and grow, with so many future career opportunities.
So things have changed a bit for you!
AI is a change from high-end candles, for sure. And the role is also in Iowa, which is where my fiancee and I really wanted to be. I went to the University of Iowa, and it’s always felt the place I wanted to make home. So being able to come back here and work in an amazing industry makes it feel like everything has worked out perfectly!
Now that you’ve found a role in an industry that really inspires you, what are your longer-term plans?
I definitely plan to stay in digital marketing and to keep building my marketing experience with my company. I’m planning to keep taking Udacity courses—in the School of AI. I’m thinking about taking the Deep Learning program, and then I want to implement some actual AI into my marketing efforts next year. I think it would be great to use the same technology my company develops to actually help improve our marketing campaigns!
It’s so great to hear that you’ve landed a job and career that you are truly excited about Derek! You’ve achieved this because you were never afraid to try something else when you felt you weren’t yet on the path that was right for you. And you kept on learning, so that you had the skills to make the leap into a new career interest. Congratulations!