Home Marketing Innovation Resources Blog Home How Kelly Gallagher Fast-Tracked Her Marketing Career

How Kelly Gallagher Fast-Tracked Her Marketing Career

Aug 30, 2023

If you’re considering a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications, you’ll be very interested in what Kelly Gallagher thinks about this topic. Gallagher is a 2022 IMC Professional program graduate and vice president at Ketchum, a global communications consultancy.

This post shares Gallagher’s comments from a recent interview about how getting her Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications has helped her career.

“Getting an advanced degree really does help you in terms of career advancement, and I don't think I would be in the position that I am in now if it weren't for this degree,” she said. ”Sure, I may have gotten to it in a couple more years, but I feel like this program helped to fast-track where I am now.”

Gallagher is a Chicago native but spent most of her life on the East Coast and earned her 2014 undergraduate degree in marketing from Penn State University. She specialized in advertising and public relations in the Penn State marketing program and has concentrated on public relations in her work.

The Marketing Program Recommended by Experts

Gallagher recalls that she first learned about the prestigious IMC Professional program from one of her undergraduate professors, himself an IMC alumnus. “When I said, ‘I really do want to think about grad school,’ he said, ‘The best program that you can think about is the Medill IMC program.’“

After graduating from Penn State, Gallagher worked for some well-known agencies and brands, including Havas Formula, Ogilvy and Ulta, before enrolling in the IMC Professional program in 2020. Designed to help experienced marketers become leaders, the program’s admission requirements include at least three years of professional experience.

Learn Alongside Experienced, Engaged Marketers

“I wanted to work for five or six years after my undergrad (degree) before doing this program because, to be honest with you, I felt like I brought so much more to the table in the courses because I had real-world experience,” Gallagher said.

Medill's IMC Professional program has established itself as a leading integrated marketing communications program, renowned for its rigorous curriculum, leading faculty and distinguished alumni network. The program attracts top-tier students with a passion for marketing and a desire to excel in their careers.

“The type of people that Medill attracts from a student perspective is just…it's incredible. I've made lifelong friends and met people that I will consistently stay in touch with because they’re brilliant, and besides that, they're just great people,” Gallagher said. “And I think it's a testament to what Medill does.”

Why She Chose an MS in IMC Over an MBA

Many marketers wonder if they should pursue an MS in integrated marketing communications or an MBA. An MBA program typically includes broad coverage of all business functions, including such topics as supply chain management, operations, macroeconomics and financial institutions.

The IMC Professional Master of Science program has foundational courses in finance, market research and strategy, then allows you to shape your degree to suit your professional goals through your choice of 10 electives.

“I would be lying if I said I didn't think about getting an MBA, but along that journey, someone said to me, ‘Get your MBA if you have a desire to be a CEO and go to this Medill IMC program if your desire is to be a CMO,’” Gallagher said. That advice helped clarify her long-range career goals and degree choice: “I would much rather be on the CMO track.”

The Advanced Degree is Worth the Effort

“I went through this program while maintaining a full-time job, and that is very difficult, but I would say to people, ‘Do not let that deter you. It's going to make you a better employee. It's also going to teach you some of those other life skills that we don't always get to work on in our day-to-day.’”

I feel confident knowing the subject matter. I feel confident in my abilities to lead and to network with people and problem solve.

Because Medill created the IMC Professional program for working marketers, flexibility is an important part of its design. Once you’ve completed the three core courses, you can design your journey. Take classes entirely online or in combination with five-day immersive courses held in great cities worldwide. Read five student perspectives on Medill’s immersive courses.

Develop Domain Expertise and Leadership Skills at Medill

“My knowledge of the space and my knowledge now of marketing is much more in-depth than it was just when I was working,” Gallagher said. “I had to take a financial accounting course, and that was helpful because I'm now in a position where I am managing budgets, I am managing staffing. I have to have a better understanding of the bottom line and forecasting.”

Gallagher believes the IMC Professional program offers a perfect blend of business, communications and leadership courses.

“The biggest things I took away from this program, aside from all of the content, are how to manage my time and understand how to prioritize things, when to collaborate with somebody and when to decide, ‘You know what? This is not going to be a decision-by-committee thing.’

“I loved learning those life skills in this program as well,” she said, “I feel confident knowing the subject matter. I feel confident in my abilities to lead and to network with people and problem solve.”

Skills and Knowledge You Can Use Immediately and Every Day

Gallagher said every course gave her immediately applicable knowledge. “Depending on the subject matter, I was able to go in to work the next day and say, ‘Oh, I just learned this. We should be doing this.’”

As an example of the curriculum’s relevance, Gallagher said she uses the knowledge she gained in the Culture and Inclusion in Marketing course daily in her work. “The biggest thing that I took away, and I truly think about every day now, is when it comes to the audience or audiences that you're speaking to, truly understanding who they are and not assuming, ‘Oh, I think like this; this is my experience. They probably experience the same thing, too.’ It's really making sure you're thinking about who they are, where they come from, their background.”

You get the business side of marketing with the communications and PR side, so it's the perfect fusion. They got it right.

After taking the Culture and Inclusion course, Gallagher is much more aware of the business and strategic value of having the perspectives of diverse team members. She’s also more attuned to what’s happening in society and how current events may affect her clients. She regularly asks, “Okay, how is this impacting my client and their business? Should we be arming them with any messaging or support they can use internally with their employees and externally? Should they be changing anything?”

An Unparalleled Education for Marketing Leaders

“There's no other program, at least from my knowledge, that is like this,” Gallagher said. “The faculty is best-in-class not just because of who they are as people and leaders but because of their experience. They have all worked in this space. They have real-world insights and experience.”

“Integrated marketing communications is the future of our industry. And the fact that Medill has already been 50 steps ahead and has said, ‘Hey, this is the future, and we are going to help you foster a career so you can get there,’ I think speaks volumes about their reputation.”

​​She concluded, “They perfectly fuse marketing with communication, so it's all in one program. You get the business side of marketing with the communications and PR side, so it's the perfect fusion. They got it right.”

Get the Right Education for Your Career with the IMC Professional Program

Learn more about how the IMC Professional program can support your career goals and fit your life as a working professional. Request a brochure or talk with a member of the admissions outreach team today.