Tifair Hamed, who credits the Medill IMC Professional program with giving her the skills and confidence to become the Chief Marketing Officer of a technology-focused Chicago nonprofit, nearly dropped out of the program.
Continue reading for more about how the flexible IMC Professional program helped Hamed further her career while handling life's challenges and some of her key takeaways from the program.
“Life happens when you’re in school,” Hamed said. “There are babies and deaths and marriages and job changes.”
When she enrolled in the hybrid program offered by Northwestern University, Hamed was a marketing professional with over a decade of experience and a working mom with two very young children. Not long after, she was swept up in the tragedy of the COVID pandemic with the untimely death of a family member.
She didn’t know if she could continue, but with the help of her Medill professors and the program's flexible structure, Hamed returned to school and expects to complete her degree this year.
Using the skills she learned at Medill, she became the CMO of P33 in January. P33 aims to “transform Chicago into a tier one technology and innovation hub and promote inclusive economic growth.”
She regained her momentum with an immersive course
“Oh my gosh, two classes may seem a bit much going back,” she thought when she was ready to resume her studies. “So I was able to take one class during the quarter and then an immersive course. That immersive course allowed me to be away from home, be off work for a week, and fully dive into the coursework.”
Immersive courses are five-day classes open to students who’ve completed the IMC Professional core classes. Held in major U.S. and global cities, the immersive courses offer intensive learning and networking opportunities and the same credit as a 10-week course.
So, how did Medill help her become a chief marketing officer?
Instructors have contributed to Hamed’s growth while at Medil, but so have her fellow classmates, in ways she did not expect. “There are people in every facet of marketing in this program, and it's amazing to be able to learn from them,” she said.
Hamed had set her sights on becoming a CMO and benchmarked her skills against her classmates, which helped her “see where I was in my journey and where I needed to go.”
Then she emphasized leadership development courses when choosing her electives.
Hamed supports the Chicago economy with marketing strategy
As the CMO of P33, Hamed works with many different stakeholders on behalf of the city of Chicago. “We partner with everyone from Microsoft to local school districts to employers–you name it–to make sure that Chicago is a world-class city for tech,” she said.
Her workday often includes meetings with stakeholders, including the mayor’s staff. “So it's been a rise, but I can't tell you I would've been here without the frameworks and the curriculum that Medill has provided.”
She developed key marketing skills in the IMC Professional program
Students in the IMC Professional program have the flexibility to shape their curriculum after taking three core courses. Hamed began her program with the IMC Strategic Process class, which presents a strategic approach to managing communications between an organization and its stakeholders.
“The first class was a breakthrough,” Hamed said, because it brought marketers' frameworks into sharp focus. She uses the knowledge gained in the course with her marketing team members and vendor agencies to evaluate marketing efforts' success.
Because she has been able to keep working while in the program, Hamed could apply her expanded skill set immediately. “I literally felt like I was cheating every day when I came into work and I had a new model I could apply.”
Financial Accounting and Marketing Research are the other two IMC Professional core classes. The three classes prepare marketers with the essential marketing skills employers seek in management and leadership roles.
The Financial Accounting class emphasizes the economic rationale for managerial decision-making and gave Hamed confidence in conversations she has in her new role with CFOs and others focused on financial metrics. “Making sure that I can translate those numbers into a story that is impactful is just as important as knowing the numbers themselves.”
Soft skills are just as important for successful marketing leaders
Two leadership classes have significantly helped Hamed on her career journey. The Leadership Strategies online course helped her recognize how her skills and experience fit the requirements for a chief marketing officer role and prepared her to confidently discuss her qualifications. The Leadership Strategies course blends self-awareness training with organizational development, innovation management and leadership communication skills.
The Digital Leadership immersive course also takes a holistic approach to leadership development. “It was amazing,” Hamed said. “It impacted the way I saw my strengths and my north star as a marketer and as a person.” The Digital Leadership instructors shared a five-step methodology for defining and refining digital leadership skills, along with strategies for adapting leadership style for any organization or industry development.
Hamed said “the courses were instrumental in securing the job that I currently have and will be instrumental for the rest of my life. So if you desire to be a CMO,” she continued, “I think it's so important to understand those frameworks and the leadership that Medill teaches.”
Society increasingly demands that businesses and other organizations embrace diversity. Hamed, who has previously worked on multicultural marketing campaigns for large clients, including McDonald's and Walmart, believes “It's really important to understand nuances in multicultural advertising and how that may impact consumers.”
Highlighting the course on Culture and Inclusion in Marketing, she said, “You know, there's diversity in thought, there's diversity in race, and there's diversity in the discipline. There's so much diversity at Medill in all three of those.”
The academically rigorous yet flexible IMC Professional program draws marketers from around the world. While the global scope sometimes complicates scheduling work for student teams, it broadens their cultural horizons, making them even more qualified to lead international marketing teams.
Surround yourself with a community of marketers
Successful marketers are drawn to the IMC Professional program at Medill by the expert faculty and the program's continued thought leadership in the field.
“The network at Northwestern is amazing. There are people who are in digital marketing, who are copywriters – in the agency world, on the client side–that network is vast,” Hamed said. “They're going through the same thing that you're going through while you're trying to build your career...They become family, and they want to see you win.”
When you're ready to take your marketing career to the next level, the expert faculty in the Medill IMC Professional program can help you find your success. Request a brochure or talk with an admissions advisor today to learn more.