How Mike Hennan moved his career from engineering to marketing with Udacity.
I left school with qualifications in math, physics, and product design, then studied product design engineering at Loughborough University. My degree included a year-long industrial placement within the mechanical engineering department at Visteon, a multinational automotive electronics supplier with customers including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Renault. After graduating, Visteon hired me as a graduate mechanical engineer.
On paper, life was great. I had a well paying job straight out of university; one that I enjoyed and found challenging. But I didn’t feel at ease. I certainly couldn’t see myself working in engineering for decades, like many of my more senior colleagues had done. This feeling of unease silently ate at me until after two years, I decided to leave Visteon and try something different.
At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d spent four years working towards an engineering degree, only to realize an engineering career wasn’t for me.
It was around this time that I had a number of conversations with my dad and brother about joining the family business.
I joined my dad’s company the day after leaving Visteon. The business had been started by my grandad and specialised in industrial services. We sold, installed, serviced and repaired air compressors and water pumps. Customers ranged from factories that required compressed air to run manufacturing equipment, to local councils that needed to keep the water running in apartment blocks. I spent the majority of my time wearing many hats; front of house, customer service, sales, purchasing, accounts, everything! The work was varied, the perks were great, and I genuinely enjoyed working with my relatives. Not many people can say that!
So, once again, life seemed great on paper. I didn’t work for myself but, being a family business, I didn’t have a boss in the traditional sense. Working was very flexible and I knew that, one day, my brother and I would hopefully inherit the business. It sounds great, but deep down I had serious doubts about whether this was really my future. The decision to leave was made harder by the fact I would be walking away from family and a potentially very comfortable future.
In the end, I felt trapped and knew I had to leave, which led to me making the wrong career move. In my desperation to start afresh, I hastily accepted a job at a fintech company in London. It seemed great at first, but I quickly realized it wasn’t for me and left after only a month. From there, I took a few months off to pursue personal projects, but really I was just burying my head in the sand — I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.
After several months of unemployment, the pressure to find a new job started to build up; internally and externally. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. As a compromise, I returned to my family business, based on the understanding that it wouldn’t be permanent. This gave me an excellent opportunity to regroup and figure out exactly what I wanted to do.
I started exploring different career options before deciding that marketing was the direction for me. I didn’t have any marketing experience, so getting a job would be difficult. I realized pretty quickly that I would need to demonstrate my interest in marketing by completing some form of recognized training.
That’s when I found Udacity. While searching for online marketing courses, Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program really stood out due to its close partnerships with leading companies, breadth of program material and utilization of real people to mark coursework and provide feedback. I looked at other course providers, but they just didn’t compare.
I enrolled and joined the October cohort. I instantly realized I had chosen the right program and industry when I couldn’t stop working my way through the course during my free time. I was devoting way more than the recommended 10 hours per week! I completed the Nanodegree program just before Christmas, roughly two months after I had started.
I didn’t wait to finish the course before applying for marketing jobs. I knew after a few chapters and coursework assignments that I wanted to work in marketing, so why wait? I applied for a few entry-level marketing roles, but didn’t get many responses until a fateful day at the end of November. I received an invitation to attend an assessment day from iCrossing — a global performance media agency — for the position of digital intern. I was ecstatic!
The assessment day was in early December and I remember being both excited and nervous, but confident that the knowledge gained from the Nanodegree program would be hugely beneficial.
I was blown away by the iCrossing office, which was based above the Lego store in Leicester Square, London — it was so swanky! The day involved introductions, presentations from departments heads, a math test, a group exercise, and interviews. It was basically the Hunger Games, with 10 candidates for only two positions! During my interview, I was asked how had I demonstrated an interest in digital marketing? I told them I was currently enrolled on Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, which covered all the elements of digital marketing — from content to SEO, and paid search to analytics.
My interviewers were especially impressed when I explained that some of the coursework projects involved working on Udacity’s live Google Ads and Facebook Ads accounts, running real campaigns!
Just before Christmas, I received a call from iCrossing offering me the job. I could not wait to start! The role of digital intern involves spending three months in three different departments — SEO, PPC and display/programmatic, before spending a final three months in our preferred department. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the industry in general, as well as the different disciplines, before picking one to focus on.
The internship only started in January, but I can honestly say I am loving every minute! I’m really enjoying learning more about digital marketing in an agency environment. The Nanodegree program gave me the perfect foundation in digital marketing, we even use the tools introduced during the course on a daily basis.
I am extremely happy with my new career direction and don’t think I could have achieved it as fast as I did without Udacity.