When I graduated from Michigan State University in 1988 with a degree in Advertising, the last thing I expected was to one day own my own web design firm, handle search engine optimization and implement social media campaigns for clients all over the world.
The most important part of my education at MSU was in how it prepared me for a career that didn’t yet exist while I was on campus. Throughout my four years there, I took classes that at the time were required or encouraged or simply fit in nicely with my schedule. I had no way of knowing at the time that the many art history classes I took would one day become very relevant in my life. I lived as an expatriate in London and Asia, seeing many great works in person and learning how art related to geography and history was fascinating.
As a designer now, I use color and layout on a daily basis. Where I once detested every moment of accounting classes and assumed it had no relevance to me in the end, as the owner of my own business, accounting is the foundation of every decision I now make. It wasn’t until my senior year that computers began to take precedent in student’s lives. At that time, Macs were set up and were mainly used for word-processing. I was fortunate to have taken a senior year spring term class on graphic design in which we used MacPaint, revolutionary at the time. While now obsolete, that one course was the start of my fascination with Apple.
In the end, I feel the most valuable experiences came from the campus structure. If you can figure out how to manage yourself among 40,000 undergraduates, you can do just about anything. Clearly the academic staff wants you to succeed and make themselves available in countless ways, but you need to execute on your own-which is a challenge in and of itself. As a business owner, I need to find new clients and make sure existing ones are satisfied, a juggling act taking place on a daily basis. Its not hard for me, I learned how to navigate people and work loads while I was a student in East Lansing. While the geography may have changed, the principals have not.
The exposure to ideas and technology provided me with the curiosity to want to continuously learn new things and instilled in me the confidence to put myself out there and try. So, while I didn’t major in computer science and my niche didn’t exist when I was on campus, I thank MSU for the foundation I built as a student. That education and experience helped to serve me well for the future, personally and professionally.
Eileen Lonergan owns a Website Design & Internet Marketing business based outside of Boston, MA. She specializes in WordPress websites and works with clients on their digital marketing strategies.