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Rachel Walker (IMC18)

Senior Engagement Manager at Manifest

Rachel Walker (IMC18) has held roles at The Atlantic, CDS Global, the American Marketing Association and more. After earning her integrated marketing communications master’s degree at Medill, Walker found a company where she could combine her previous experiences and the new skills she had learned in IMC. That company is Manifest, one of the largest independent marketing agencies in the country. Walker says taking advantage of a Medill education—from its diverse curriculum to comprehensive career network—helped accelerate her marketing career. 

Tell us about your career path. 

Most people assume career paths are perfectly straight, upward lines, when in reality they can be winding and twisting paths. The latter definitely applies to me. I began my career over 10 years ago in the magazine circulation world, which is about as traditional as it gets. That path has taken me to roles in sales, marketing and account management up to where I am today, engaging audiences through digital. I find it exciting now to have many experiences to draw from, including my experience at Medill IMC. That path is still winding, and I'm excited to keep following it. 

What are your main responsibilities as senior engagement manager at Manifest? 

I work with a cross-functional team of creatives, writers, account managers, performance marketers and data analysts to optimize social content marketing strategies to drive audience engagement for my clients. I like to think of my role as a conduit between our creatives and data teams by connecting the ideas to our defined brand goals, measuring how those strategies perform and making recommendations to optimize our objectives. It's a creative, yet data-informed strategic role, so I get to wear a lot of hats.  

How do you apply the IMC way of thinking that uses both art and science in your job? 

The idea of using data to inform creative strategy and storytelling is a huge part of my job. There are so many stories you can pull from the data, so it's fascinating to see what the numbers say when making decisions about your next concept or campaign. I frequently draw from the IMC approach of being consumer first and ensuring all aspects of a holistic marketing strategy are taking our team toward that end goal. 

What was your takeaway from Immersion Quarter? 

For me, the short-term consulting aspect of Immersion Quarter was the biggest value. We were given a problem to solve within a narrow timeframe, and our team did what all good IMCers do: Identify the actual problems and present creative solutions to them. It was a useful team project to have in my toolkit as I headed back into the job market. 

 How did the Medill IMC network help you in your job search? 

The Medill IMC network was a big part of my job search after graduate school. I engaged with many alumni at companies I was interested in and in roles I'd been considering. Alumni I contacted were happy to pay it back when it came to offering candid advice and insights. For my current role, I was referred by someone in my cohort who had landed a role at the same agency. At Medill, we learned about the power of referrals and how far word of mouth goes. In fact, joining the Medill IMC network of faculty and peers was one of the biggest factors in me choosing this program, and it speaks to the value of the network. 

What is a class or experience that sticks out in your mind and why? 

Customer Value Innovation with Jonathan Copulsky was one of my favorites. We learned about the diffusion theory of innovation and how to communicate product value to consumers. Strategic Communications with Ernest Duplessis and Nancy Hobor truly pushed me out of my comfort zone with public speaking. It taught me to think on my feet and showed me that I actually enjoyed it. Brand Communications Decisions with Jim Lecinski and John Greening was also pivotal. In our second-to-last class, while we were still wrapping up the final touches on our last client presentation, Jim told us, "Today, you leave as marketers." It showed me that taking on the challenge of the journey itself was what made us modern marketers, not just delivering the pitch. 

What advice would you give to someone considering Medill IMC? 

During orientation for admit days, I had still not made my decision to return to grad school even though I'd been accepted. While sitting in a preview class given by John Greening, he looked at me in the second row and said, "This is a chance to reinvent yourself." He didn't even know me or my situation at the time, but what he said rang true. I was sold. And looking back, he was absolutely right. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

The beauty of the Medill IMC program is its diversity of backgrounds, cultures, ages, viewpoints, and experiences. When you come in, embrace all of it and understand that your story is a unique and necessary part of the program. It will only enrich the experiences of everyone else in your cohort.