Greg Vandagriff, IS Alumnus - Business Intelligence 2014

Marketing Communications Manager Vivint

How has your degree from UVU helped you in your current position?

"I work in Marketing, which some people might think is a peculiar place for an ISYS major, but I found that it’s proven invaluable in advancing my career as an individual contributor within marketing organizations large and small due to my focus on Marketing Automation."

For example: My current role involves crafting very customized automated “customer journeys” for Vivint Smarthome owners within Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which is integrated with the Salesforce CRM. Our Salesforce implementation is… incredibly complicated, with literally hundreds, if not thousands of custom object types, we have a team of maybe a half dozen full-time salesforce admins employed to keep it running correctly."

Implementing Marketing Cloud into such a convoluted and messy SF implementation was challenging, so much so that Vivint pays me very well to do exactly this. We spend a fortune to have these systems, but they’re like Italian supercars: high performance, impressive, flashy, expensive… and very high maintenance."

Out of the box, Marketing Cloud is powerful and has a number of features, but due to the complexity of our customer database and the way it was structured, it became necessary to extend that functionality by way of SQL queries. Outside of queries, I have to define data relationships, keys, etc to help map how different data sets relate to each other. Why?"

Because Marketing Cloud, Salesforce, and virtually any other large-scale marketing automation solution, are basically gigantic relational databases. Marketing Cloud’s backbone is more or less a dressed up version of SQL Server. My background in information systems has been invaluable in helping me to do some incredibly cool things with this technology."

For example, automated SMS appointment reminders that fire before an installation, populated with the date and time of the appointment, with the option to confirm that appointment over SMS. When they confirm the appointment, it writes back to Salesforce and notifies our scheduling department that the appointment is confirmed. This in turn reduces the number of unnecessary truck rolls due to missed appointments, a major cost."

I run autodialer campaigns, email campaigns and SMS campaigns to over a million customers across the world, and I do a tremendous amount of database segmentation. Large portions of my day-to-day work involve whiteboarding processes and ERDs to figure out how to tackle the next big challenge. I am essentially a technical architect most days. I am indispensable to my team and never worry about my job security."

Once I graduated from UVU, that degree opened a lot of doors for me, I was receiving 5-6 job offers per year. Less than a year after graduating, I was tapped by L Brands (owner of Victoria’s Secret) to fill a $135k Marketing Manager position in Columbus, which I declined because I knew that I would get another job offer I would enjoy more sooner rather than later."

Marketing Automation is an Information Systems position, and it is extremely lucrative once you’ve built up experience. Salesforce alone makes ISYS relevant to a significant number of firms. These were positions that I never could have qualified for without my degree from UVU."

Industry view of UVU graduates

"Locally, the comparison is usually between UVU and BYU. I can’t speak to the point beyond generalities, but UVU candidates almost always have fewer entitlement issues than those from BYU. I don’t know if this is a function of many UVU students working their way full-time through school, or something else, but UVU students have a reputation for being ready to work. We turned down 30 BYU candidates for an entry level marketing position recently because, frankly, they held an unwarranted high opinion of themselves."

Anecdotally, I have beaten out other candidates for positions with my UVU Bachelors degree when the competition had MBAs."

I really think UVU offering more flexible class schedules to accommodate those working full-time (which is a SMART play for those in the IS&T field) translates into more work-ready graduates. This is the reason I transferred from BYU to UVU, and it has paid off for me."

Advice for new students

"I would strongly recommend taking advantage of UVU’s flexible scheduling to work at a real job while you’re in school. If you’re in the IS&T field, getting relevant work experience while you get your degree will make you a much more valuable commodity to the job market when you graduate. It will also make you a more valuable asset for your peers to network with. My final projects in classes during my last year at UVU resulted in a couple of my classmates reaching out to me to fill jobs at their companies because of the work I did on those projects."

"Switching my major from Marketing to Information Systems was the smartest decision I ever made. The week I did so, my boss found out and offered me my first salaried position in email marketing, citing that it really was an “Information Systems job”. He fired the marketing guy and gave the job to me when I was a sophomore in the UVU IS program."

"Speaking personally, IS&T is a very lucrative career even while you’re in school, and the earning potential goes up once you graduate. A friend of mine is still a UVU student in the same field as me, he earns $70,000 a year working for a very, very large organization in the area. Six figures is entirely possible here, and common in the Bay Area."

"Develop your written and verbal communication skills. The (perhaps sad) truth is that often the best jobs go to those who are able to best communicate the value they’re producing rather than the most talented coders or brilliant minds. This means learning to write well and being humble about seeking feedback."

"Finally, be aware that there is a high degree of Imposter Syndrome in any tech field, the belief that you aren’t as talented as others think you are, and the fear that one day someone will figure out that you aren’t that talented. I think the tech field makes this worse because there’s always new technologies, frameworks, and systems being heralded as the next big thing, and you feel like you need to know everything in a rapidly changing field."

"At the end of the day, know that if you’ve learned the fundamental concepts and principles from your courses at UVU, that knowledge makes it easier to learn the next thing, and the next. You don’t have to know everything. A lot of success in this field is understanding the basic principles (which you’ll learn at UVU) and how to use google. ;)"