Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

How my biochem degree got me into marketing

What is your name and title? And how long have you been in this role?

I'm Jeff Waite the sales operations manager at Destiny Solutions. I have been in this role for just over a month. Prior to this, I was digital marketing co-ordinator at Destiny Solutions, a role I held for just over a year.

Destiny Solutions provides a business software platform to the continuing and non-traditional education divisions of tier one universities. We work with some of the premier brands in North America: Stanford University in California, the University of Southern California (USC), Duke University in North Carolina, New York University (NYU), and the University of Toronto, to name a few.

Story continues below advertisement

What exactly do you do?

My job has a variety of facets. I'm responsible for our digital communications, and managing the progression of our sales pipeline. This includes strategy, execution and everything in between.

Strategy includes things like researching and profiling prospective clients and identifying attractive market segments. Beyond that, I'm responsible for coming up with a comprehensive campaign to regularly engage the most attractive prospects. But I love rolling my sleeves up and implementing, too.

On the execution side, I'm doing everything from organic search engine optimization (SEO), to managing our implementation, and executing our e-mail marketing operation. I also oversee social media. The end result is that our sales efforts are more focused and effective.

I didn't learn any of this in school. My university experience was fantastic, and I don't regret studying science. But these are the tangible, valuable skills that deliver results. And I had to learn them myself after graduating. It has made a big difference for me in terms of delivering value to my employer.

Describe what you do on any given day.

On a typical day, the first thing I do is fire up my Google Reader and check my work-related RSS feeds. This is the most effective way I've found to keep my finger on the industry pulse. But then my day could go in a number of directions.

Story continues below advertisement

I spend a day or two each week researching prospective accounts and understanding how we might be able to build a relationship. Then I spend another couple of days a week experimenting with new e-mail or social media outreach tactics, to confirm which prospects are interested in talking about a given issue. For any prospects that are actively engaged I'm responsible for making sure we are interacting with them regularly and moving the relationship forward. This last part doesn't sound so glamorous, but it helps my boss get more done, which is important for the growth of the company.

What's your background and education?

I attended Queen's University where I majored in biochemistry. In the fall of 2009, (my fourth year), I took a marketing course as an elective. This got me started down the path of sales and marketing. From there, I read every book on the subject I could find.

How did you get to your position?

Jobs, especially for new grads and youth, are hard to come by these days. After I graduated from Queen's, I moved to Eastern Europe (Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia), where I took a business development role with a company offering research services to the pharmaceutical industry. This is what confirmed my interest in sales and business development. After about a year and a half overseas, I moved to Toronto, where a friend of a friend needed help expanding the digital footprint of their company. Maybe it sounds crass, but the network of friends I made at university were apparently just as instrumental in landing this job as was my degree.

What's the best part of your job?

Story continues below advertisement

I have always liked sales. Something feels good about getting people to buy in to your solution. But sales has limitations. Even if all of your sales calls go well, there is a limit to how many people you can contact in a day. Marketing is interesting to me because of the opportunity to scale the sales process, and deliver massive results. E-mail, search and social media marketing allow you to do this in an incredibly cost-effective manner. I think that's powerful and it excites me.

But I also like the industry I work in. The higher education landscape is undergoing immense transformation, right now. And we're at the forefront helping these leading schools adapt to the new way of doing business. We help them better serve non-traditional and adult students, which has big implications for the development of the work force, and society. That's something I feel good about.

What's the worst part of your job? Be honest.

Working primarily online is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the rapid pace and the robust analytics that are available. When you are doing marketing and sales online, the data is everywhere . You don't have to estimate how many people drove past your billboard. Google analytics tells you everything. All this can really inform your decisions. But on the other hand, it can be overwhelming. You're always getting feedback, whether you want it or not. The Internet doesn't stop just because it's Saturday night. That's something I'm always trying to manage.

What are your strengths in this role?

First, the thing that helped me the most is learning a few tangible skills that would deliver a lot of business value to an employer. SEO is a good example. Everybody wants to rank higher on Google, so why not learn how to be the guy to do that? Another example of this would be to focus on becoming proficient with common business software tools for your industry. If you can learn to be a whiz, there are thousands of companies you could add huge value to. And the great thing is, there are tons of free webinars on just these topics. You'd be hard-pressed to find a college course on these subjects. But anyone can teach themselves.

The other thing that matters: Just try stuff. Just do it. Start now. I've heard when Richard Branson is considering testing an idea, it almost always ends with him saying, "Screw it, let's do it." I try to keep that in mind.

What are your weaknesses?

Try to find one! I know failure is an important part of success yet I still struggle not to take it personally. In sales and marketing there is a lot of failure and rejection, just by nature of the job. I'm getting better at dealing with this, and seeing my job an an ongoing experiment. But I wish I had learned earlier in life that failure is a stepping stone to success, not an antithesis. So, I'm always trying to improve my perseverance by accepting failure as a learning moment. That's easier said that done.

What has been your best career move?

My career has been relatively short, I'm 25. I think my best career move was working internationally for a few years. It was uncomfortable at first but it gave me valuable perspective and forced me to survive on my own. I'm not saying everyone needs to travel, but I think young people would be well-served to put themselves in a sink-or-swim position. Of course, I had my parents to fall back on if everything collapsed. I'm grateful for that. But I believe you should commit to doing something that's exciting but that scares you a little. You'll probably surprise yourself with how well you do.

What has been your worst career move?

I hope I haven't dropped the ball too much, yet. My career moves have been pretty limited. But I'm sure there are still plenty of foibles to be had in the coming years.

What's your next big job goal?

In the last year we have been laying a strong foundation, in terms of understanding our market and implementing marketing automation systems. My next big goal is to use these platforms to double the effectiveness of our sales team in three to four months. It sounds aggressive. But now that the foundation is laid I am moving pretty quickly. By using digital marketing tools to scale our prospecting, I'm ensuring my boss is only conversing with the most interested prospects.

What's your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?

I can only talk about what has worked for me. The first thing is you really need to focus on how you can deliver business value. Where can your skills actually add to the bottom line? If you can't define that, in this economy, you're going to have a tough time.

The second is that you need to just start doing it. Preferably yesterday. I don't think there is anything as effective as informed action. You can start small. But start taking action.

Do you know an executive or leader who has an interesting career story for My Career? E-mail

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to