Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
My undergraduate experience concluded right as Facebook and digital marketing exploded, and I was teaching myself the skills I needed to join the digital marketing realm. For years I was building my skill set castle-wide, but not not very tall, in expertise.
When I saw the offerings and skill track that Harvard Extension School offers within the Digital Media Design program, it wasn’t even a question. I knew I wanted to learn everything the scope of the program had to offer, and I wanted to join a community full of vibrant thinkers and doers. Coupled with the fact that it was built for a full-time employee, I was able to take a mix of online and on-campus classes that fit my life. It really was the dream program for me.
How has this experience helped you in your career or personal development?
Studying at Harvard Extension elevated my technical skill set and also allowed me to think and work in ways I never had before. Learning the fundamentals of coding showed me there are at least three or four ways to solve anything, and that the best approach comes after taking the longer road a few times. The photography and film classes allowed me to access my creative passions and see the world through differing lenses (pun intended). I now bring these combined learnings to my digital marketing work and create experiences to engage audiences in new ways.
After working for 10 years in higher education, obtaining the master’s degree helped me transition into the corporate consulting realm and offer my skill set on a global scale.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect was to step outside my comfort zone and enroll in classes that were uncharted territory for me. I pushed myself to learn back-end coding and development, and other skills that did not come naturally for me. Fortunately, the instructors and teaching staff were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful every step of the way.
Time management was also difficult. One of the most important lessons I received while completing this program was how to set and manage milestones—to pace myself and always create a plan before diving in. My approach to the program’s workload has been extraordinarily helpful in my day-to-day professional life.
It’s most rewarding to look back at all I’ve created throughout my coursework; the output is a wonderful portfolio of creative and technical work that I can showcase and apply to a variety of cases.
If you took most of your courses online, what was the online experience like for you? How did you ensure success?
I was fortunate to live and work close to the campus, and I took a few on-campus required classes. I especially loved the single, full-weekend commitments because I was able to meet students from around the world. During my first on-campus class, I met a photographer from France and a small business owner from Utah. Forging these relationships has been incredibly valuable to my professional circle, well beyond the program.
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
At times it was difficult to balance everything. It was a bittersweet realization, especially in the busiest times, that it would eventually come to an end. I worked to stay present in every moment, whether in the weeds on an assignment or spending a weekend away with my family.
There were many long days that led into long nights spent at my office or in the computer lab, and weekends set aside to complete projects, but I am immensely proud of my learnings and output over the past four years. Also, the wide availability of classes and variety of the coursework schedule fit incredibly well with the other parts of my life, thankfully.
What types of student resources and special options did you take advantage of as a student at Harvard? How did they help?
The most helpful and memorable offering was the ALM Capstone Fair. I attended the Spring 2018 event and was able to see the culminating work of the class graduating before me. It was amazing to meet other students, see what they created, and ideate on what I would create for my own capstone project.
The 53 Church Street Lab was also a sacred space for me to tackle much of my classwork. There were a number of webinars on related digital design topics (e.g. how to be a successful freelance designer) that complimented much of the formal class materials. All of the extra options helped pave the way to my post-graduate career vision.
In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community?
I worked at Harvard Business School full-time while completing my ALM, so I was no stranger to the Harvard community. I spent time across all Harvard campuses, and it’s a place like no other. The notion of countless students before me, the atmosphere of esteemed learning, and collaboration in every sense can be felt in every building and seat across Cambridge, Allston, and Boston. I was very humbled and grateful to be part of a place that felt like home for so many years.
Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?
I have a trifecta of love for Allyson Sherlock, Jen Kramer, and Susan Buck. Their respective film, front-end design, and Capstone studio expertise and support are unmatchable. I have endless respect and admiration for these fellow women and digital tech devotees who continue to push boundaries and exude their passion to educate. Each class strengthened a different branch of my technical desires and showed me where my acquired skills could take my career and professional growth.
I especially loved the Capstone class—it was an amazing opportunity to make something useful and applicable to a real-world business. I created a full digital marketing suite of content (graphic design, website, video, and photo library) for a women’s sober living home in the Boston area. My project gives a digital voice to this living place for those struggling with addiction to get well and restart their lives in a safe and stable environment with peers.
I was also fortunate to work with Susan Buck as a teaching assistant for the Spring 2019 Capstone class. It has been an invaluable opportunity to see the other side of the Capstone process—to see the amount of work the faculty brings to every individual student. It’s been a full circle experience to pay it forward and watch other students create amazing products.
Do you have any advice for new students?
Always continue to learn. Stay open to feedback, ask lots of questions. Reach out for every opportunity and connection that Harvard Extension School offers. Every experience is an opportunity to learn something new—even the mistakes. Ignite your passion through Harvard Extension School; push forward when school, work, and life get tough.
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.