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Kelsey Kates (IMC10)

Global Head of Learning Experiences and Faculty Enablement at Google
Kaitlyn Thompson

Kelsey Kates (IMC10) was an established marketing professional when she decided that she wanted more out of her career. She knew she still had a lot to learn about marketing, particularly about data. Through Medill IMC’s data-driven curriculum, Kates was equipped with skills that set her on a new career trajectory. She is now the global head of learning experiences and faculty enablement at Google using the skills she gained at Northwestern. 

Tell us about your role at Google. 

I lead a global initiative to create the best strategic and analytical thinkers at Google. I work hand in hand with the Google community to create application-based learning on topics like data science, storytelling, strategic planning and presentation skills. It’s like running a school, but at Google.  

 Where has your career path taken you? 

I started my career in the non-profit arena doing marketing at AmeriCorps and then Alliance Francaise. I loved it, but the opportunities for doing sophisticated work were sparse. I’ve always loved school, and with marketing being an applied field, I knew there was a lot I could still learn. I went to IMC with a business background, but like many, this was my first foray into true data-driven marketing. I was changed forever.  

After graduating from the IMC program, I was recruited to Epsilon as a strategic consultant. I was driven by the work that we were doing to evolve digital marketing, but often wanted to get my hands on more of the raw data. After four years at Epsilon, I left as the director of analyticsFrom there, I went to a creative agency (now owned by Leo Burnett) and started their analytics practice. I soon realized it wasn’t the right match for me personally. On a Sunday afternoon, I applied online to Google and a few other companies that I felt resonated with how I wanted to make an impact on the world. The following Monday, I heard from the recruiter.   

 How did IMC prepare you for your career? 

IMC radically changed my career trajectoryFifteen years ago, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about data-driven marketing – I was just focused on connecting consumer needs to products through a great experience (something I still practice). But now I can use sophisticated analysis to create customer segments at Google 

 How have you been able to apply the IMC way of thinking to your career? 

To put it simply, IMC has helped me to go deeper: Deeper on knowing the customer, deeper on knowing the business model, deeper on knowing how to build a great brand, deeper on understanding the marketing and technology implications… I could go on. Great marketing feels simple and natural to the consumer, but creating that experience is a terribly complex process. 

What is a class or experience from IMC that stands out to you? 

Strategic Planning in an E-Commerce Environment with Tom Collinger. It was my last quarter and I thought, I know this stuff. I’m ready.” But I wasn’t. It is in that class that I realized calculating lifetime value can be really messy, and good assumptions are critical. Anticipating customer demand while forecasting competitive market forces is pivotal, but it can’t always be packaged nicely into your business model. This course is a great analogy to life and the necessity of making hard tradeoffs while defining success from the start.  

You were recently named a recipient of the EDGE Rising Star Award. What does that award mean to you? 

I feel seen. Seen by my community, my peers, my company and by those I serve, all for doing work that matters and has a major impact. I feel fortunate that my job allows me to enable others to elevate their thinking and to bring really meaningful learning into the workplace. 

 What advice do you have for someone considering the IMC program? 

Be ready to be uncomfortable in the best way possible. IMC will stretch you to think differently about what good marketing really is. Enroll in IMC because you want to give more and do more for the marketing community. It’s about more than meeting the marketing status quo.