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Not your typical Mad Man: how a marketing student found purpose at an ERP company

Hi, I’m on the marketing team at Jonar, and I’m new to this whole adulting thing. Not to be melodramatic, but I woke up the other day and it was September… and I was going to work. As a recent university graduate, it felt like the first day of the rest of my life. I am both excited and unsure about starting a new chapter of my life. This transitional period made me think about how my experiences have motivated me to make certain career decisions. 

I feel fortunate to be working in a position that is related to my education, though it’s not exactly what I expected. After graduating from business school as a marketing major, some people had the perception (myself included) that I was going to morph into Don Draper overnight and start spitting out witty ad copy. Well, that wasn’t the case. But, I also did not think I would be working at a company that develops and sells business software. I know you must all be surprised, but examples of marketing ERP software are few and far between in the classroom. So, how did an internship at Jonar enhance my marketing chops? Or better yet, why did I choose to come back as a launching point for my career?                                                                                                             

A hopeless student with no experience

Let’s rewind 18 months or so. 

I was a broke student in the middle of your typical bone-chilling Montreal winter. The gloomy weather and endless deadlines only exacerbated the stress I felt at having not found a summer internship. In dire need of bulking up my resume and pocketing some money for my final year of school, I embarked on a frantic search for summer employment. After dedicating more time to scouring the Internet for a job than studying, I thought all hope was lost. That was until a small software company decided to give me a chance and offered me a position as a marketing intern. 

As a student, I was over the moon to finally apply my education to the real world. Now, to be clear, I’m not naive. I knew that I wouldn’t be applying all those very *practical* theories such as SWOT analysis, the 4 Ps of marketing, and Porter’s 5 Forces on a daily basis. However, I was hoping to apply at least some of what I learned in the classroom to the real world. Thankfully, I did.

These broad concepts I studied created a foundation for the way I thought about marketing. The next step was getting to know how Jonar and our software, ParagonERP, fit into these models. For example, a type of marketing communications strategy you might discuss in class is inbound vs outbound marketing, or pull vs. push strategies. At Jonar, we implement one of these strategies – we use inbound marketing, which is where we put valuable content out into the world to draw people in.

So, I may have had some marketing knowledge to bring to the table but I did not know the first thing about software development. So, working at a software company was not necessarily what I had in mind when looking for a summer gig. But looking back, I wouldn’t do anything differently. My first experience at Jonar was filled with learning things like how companies use an ERP system, how Scrum methodology works for product development, what EDI is (and how complicated it is), and I even got introduced to basic HTML. Learning these new things and molding my marketing knowledge to a B2B company selling an intangible product gave me a valuable perspective as a student going back to school for a final year.

I knew my internship at Jonar was a temporary experience with a defined end date. So, during my summer as an intern, the experience was geared towards trying to learn the technical skills they don’t teach you in school and using what I learned in school to support my critical thinking. As the summer came to a close, I felt proud of the work I had done.

Return of the intern

Fast forward 6-7months. 

It was, once again, a cold winter and stress began to settle in like a warm blanket. This time, however, with graduation looming, my decisions would put me on a professional path for the foreseeable future. My stress the year prior was rooted in the fear that I wouldn’t be able to find an internship relevant to my education. This time, I was facing an existential crisis of what to do for the rest of my life. What if I make the wrong choice? Or even worse, what if I have to move back in with my parents? This was the first time in my life where I had no clear idea of what I would be doing in the near future. It was both liberating and absolutely terrifying. I would be working somewhere with no end date in sight, repeating the same weekly routine. So to mitigate this sense of despair, I needed to work somewhere where I had a meaningful contribution and enjoyed coming into work at least most of the time. Then I got a call from Jonar, and it suddenly felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest.

There were many reasons to rejoin the Jonar team. The people and the culture are a stand out aspect, but I won’t repeat what’s already been said. I wanted to continue to apply what I learned at school, but now that I would be venturing out into the real world permanently, I was more concerned about exposing myself to opportunities that would enhance my marketing skills and develop my competence as a business professional. I wanted to learn more about the intricacies of how businesses work and understand business technologies. What better place to do that than a software company that sells business software?

To add to that, I’m currently growing into a new specialist role here. I get to experience new growth with the company every day and not only is it helping me become better at what I do, it is extremely rewarding as well.

Colleagues, friends, and relatives alike are relentless in their interrogative mission to ask if my education is actually relevant to my job. After several attempts of answering this question on the spot, which usually resulted in an empty answer along the lines of “yeah, sort of,” I realized that a better answer was needed. 

The thing is, work experience and education are two different but essential components to succeeding as a professional. The knowledge you acquire in school and the skills you learn on the job are complementary to each other. I can only speak for myself, but being a student supplies you with tools and a mindset that you can apply to most professional settings. It gave me a strong base so I wasn’t drowning in the deep end. Every business is unique and the learning doesn’t stop once school’s out. 

The first day of the rest of my life

Applying my education in marketing to an area that they never touch in school has been invaluable in expanding my knowledge outside of what you’re taught in your typical business class. Yes, marketing a complex system that you don’t fully understand can be incredibly challenging. So I’ve chosen to embrace the challenge and venture into unknown territory. We have an environment where you’re encouraged to take time to learn about things you don’t fully understand with a team of people that are happy to help you out. 

So, I’m not sitting in an office, smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey, contrary to what family and friends imagined when I said I wanted to major in marketing (it’s 2019 folks, c’mon). I don’t have everything figured out, whether it be professionally or personally, and that’s okay. But I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with the path that I’m on and I can’t wait for what’s next.

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