'To be quite honest, I did not want to get back into school.’
Hearing those words, it might come as a surprise to see how much Denise is enjoying studying for an MSc in Strategic Digital Marketing with Arden University.
When she isn’t studying, Denise works full-time as a Marketing and Knowledge Lead for Terra Caribbean Trinidad, a major real estate agency operating across the island. Denise’s role is split between content creation (working across script writing, emails, website, and social media), assisting the estate agents with their marketing and digging into different trends on commercial reads.
On top of those responsibilities and the pressures of her full-time job, Denise also contends with the lure of living in the Caribbean.
‘I love the warmth of our people – you can just randomly talk to a stranger on in the grocery shop and make a friend – and I love the warmth of our weather. I love the sun.’
Why then would she want to add a distance-learning programme with a UK institution to an already busy workload, especially when blessed with an incredible climate to enjoy? It’s no surprise Denise might initially be unwilling to sacrifice the sunshine to spend more time studying behind a screen.
Well, as Denise points out, marketing isn’t an industry where you can afford to stand still.
‘Marketing is always evolving, so you have to be on top of the trends in the market.’
Having studied with international institutions in the US and the UK before, Denise was no stranger to distance learning, and she came across Arden through a friend and former boss who recommended it’d be very much within her wheelhouse.
Denise says she loves the mixture of different skillsets a job in marketing puts to the test.
‘I guess I'm both creative and logical. I was always a math brain so I do enjoy the analytic part of it. But I'm also a creative and, in marketing, you need to constantly reinvent and be innovative. I like that duality and it keeps me interested.’
However, whilst loving the variety of her role, Denise has also found herself wanting to specialise. So, when the opportunity to study with Arden came up, she put aside her reservations about studying and dived in headfirst.
Designed to open up a variety of career opportunities in marketing, across a variety of sectors, the master’s in strategic digital marketing provides learners with a range of skills, as well as developing knowledge of data driven marketing practices, user experience, and Martech, alongside skills in critical thinking, building brands, leadership, and digital creativity.
What makes this masters in strategic digital marketing stand out is its focus on practice-based learning, allowing marketing strategies and tactics to be placed in appropriate context. This allows learners to graduate with a deeper understanding of how to shape high-level marketing activities and manage creative global marketing plans successfully.
The course is perfect for someone like Denise, who has worked in marketing for a number of years now.
Since the very start of her career, Denise has also been dedicated to reinventing herself by learning more about the industry – juggling her nascent marketing career with obtaining a first degree and a subsequent master’s. Her time so far with Arden though, has started to add more in depth knowledge to complement her experience, as well as what she has learned from elsewhere.
‘I think what this programme has helped me do is just marry what I already knew with all the theoretical frameworks. Putting those two things together has really helped me and I'm sure, when I'm done, I'll be even more marketable.’
On a personal level, one particular aspect Denise has found the course helping with is in adding structure to her working patterns.
‘This programme has helped me implement a lot more structure than I had before. If you’re too much on the creative side, you can end up losing some of the structure and not looking at your metrics and so on. And it's like, why bother to do what you’re doing if the impact is not what you want?’
Meanwhile, Denise has also found herself putting that knowledge into practise in a noticeable way.
‘I have applied a lot of the things that I've learned to the business. They were small changes but impactful ones. Things like, for instance, in social media marketing, looking at what KPIs you're using. That was something from the Social Media Marketing Module, and it’s a thing that I would not have implemented if I had not done this programme.’
As well as planning, strategy, and big-picture thinking, she has also found the course engaging some of her specific marketing interests; notably when she talks about a recent branding module.
‘Branding has always been something that I've absolutely loved outside of digital, socials, and whatever. In this particular module, I’ve learned about brand inventory and brand exploratory, and how in depth you can get with a brand.’
‘Assessing things like the sentiments, and the judgement, and feelings towards a particular brand is something I really appreciate. I think I'm probably going to do a brand audit for us after I'm finished with my assignment.’
Its clear that Denise loves marketing, but that passion doesn’t automatically make studying the subject the easiest thing. Denise might be well placed due to her prior experience in the field, but, like all degrees, it still takes dedication and motivation to get over the line, something that the enthusiastic Denise seems to have plenty of.
‘I always tell people; you can come here for a pep talk. I guess I'm just excited. I just want to finish, and I want to learn, so I just keep going.'
That motivation also comes from unfortunate circumstances, with her situation when she was younger fostering a sense of resilience that has served her well.
‘My dad had a stroke when I was about 15 years old and he was paralysed, but just before that my parents conceived, my little sister. So, it was a lot of responsibility to take care of him and a newborn. He died in 2020 from cancer, so I have taken care of him for many years.'
‘I had to constantly give myself pep talks through that time. Taking care of him, not really having much of a life, school-work – all of it, at the same time. I've always given myself pep talks to to motivate myself and get me through.’
Those initial pep talks, however, alongside the ability to motivate herself, very much appear to have become a cornerstone of Denise’s success.
‘I'm very competitive with myself. I just know that I'm putting time and money into this, and I know that I want to excel. I've got really good grades in the two modules that I've done. So, I want to keep that up.’
As well as the knowledge and skills Denise is obtaining from the course, she is also quick to praise her tutors (‘They’re engaging and reply within minutes’) and also the variety of digital-first resources Arden make available.
‘I love the fact that you're providing an online library, and student support just for a check in with different people, and there's an entire student forum. Those extra add-ons help me, as an online student, be part of the entire community. Rather than you know, “Hello, I'll see you when the assignment is due.”’
Having firmly settled in when it comes to her own studying, when asked what she’d say to anyone else that was on the fence about taking the course, Denise says: ‘I'd say definitely invest in yourself. It's worth it.’
From someone who didn’t want to go back to school before they started with Arden, that’s a pretty big endorsement.