Creative Thinking Leads to Creative Marketing

Certificate graduate Marine Danielyan goes from tech journalist to growth marketer

Marine Danielyan bears witness to the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of both her homeland, Armenia, and the United States. From the beginning of her education, Marine has kept a creative mindset and forward thinking top of mind when it comes to understanding the business world and enhancing her career.

Marine tells me that the education system in Armenia is quite different from the one in the United States. “Armenia has many analytical thinkers with hard skills but not as many creative thinkers with people skills,” she explains. “There are lots of smart and talented young Armenians out there with very bright ideas in business, technology, innovation, et cetera, who struggle to communicate and sell their ideas to a broader world. The U.S. has a more creative approach in early education, and I think that analytical thinking and creative thinking complement each other and increase the chances of success if combined.”

This understanding of different perspectives has aided Marine in her own educational and professional journey.

“As I was graduating high school, I had no doubts about my higher education: I applied to the Yerevan State University School of Journalism,” she states. “My love for creative writing led me to journalism, which is not a popular profession in Armenia—and not many universities have a School of Journalism. I decided to apply only to the Yerevan State University (YSU). I successfully passed the exams and got a full-ride scholarship.

“I learned three important things while studying at YSU that I continue to incorporate in my professional life as a marketer: mass communication techniques; the understanding of content and how it works; and last but not least, photo- and video-editing skills.”

Marine was also a freelance tech journalist during her time at the university, where she became immersed in the booming tech industry in both Armenia and abroad—and met her future husband when she interviewed him about his startup.

“One of my professors at the university worked as a deputy editor at Hetq,” Marine recollects. “She liked my style of writing and invited me to join the team. Hetq is one of the most reputable online publishings in Armenia, and I was extremely happy for the opportunity to work with them. The tech industry was booming in Armenia, and they needed someone to write about it. I was offered to write about technology and innovation, and very quickly fell in love with the topic. I was writing about successful Armenian startups and how they were making it to Silicon Valley—it was very interesting and inspiring.”

Growth Opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area

After Marine got married, she came to the Bay Area to join her husband, who had come to San Francisco to grow his business. But the transatlantic move also opened Marine’s eyes to other career possibilities for herself.

“Moving to the U.S. was exciting and stressful at the same time,” she recalls. “Everything here was different; it’s like going through an emotional rebirth. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to pursue journalism as a career anymore. I needed a change.

“Because I already had knowledge and passion for the innovative technology industry, I found something that was close to my heart, and it was marketing. I started studying marketing at UC Berkeley Extension in 2018, and at the same time got my first job in an introductory role as a marketing assistant at Teamable. I worked with marketing, sales, product and customer-success teams, and assisted with growth and customer-facing initiatives. This really helped me learn new skills and define my future career in marketing.”

On choosing our certificate, Marine explains, "I had some quality, schedule, timing and convenience standards, and this program met all of them perfectly. It was designed by one of the most reputable universities in the U.S., had flexible schedules, had classes in San Francisco where I lived and—most importantly for me—was also designed for people who wanted to switch their career path.”

Marine says that while all of the courses and instructors in the certificate made an impact on her career, the introductory marketing course provided the necessary foundation from which to build.

“All of the courses were informative and had an impact on my career,” she relates. “Marketing Management established the hard baseline needed to succeed in the program. For someone who doesn’t have a background in marketing, this course provides foundational knowledge. It teaches all the marketing concepts and business vocabulary that I continue to use in day-to-day professional communication.

“The Marketing Strategy course was a very impressive one. We were discussing micro factors that are specific to a business and macro factors like demographic, ecological, political, economic, socio-cultural and technological environments that can affect a business. All the discussions were around case studies; most of them were from Harvard Business School, focusing on real-world business problems. This course helped me develop creative business thinking.”

Real-World Applications

Following completion of the Certificate Program in Marketing, Marine was hired as a marketing associate for Shoppies, a digital platform that enabled social influencers to create their own direct-to-consumer makeup and skincare brands.

“I was a key player as a marketing associate, working in close collaboration with the product development and design teams to craft compelling marketing copy for both the product and the website,” she says. “I was applying my learnings from the Marketing Research course by conducting insightful surveys to steer the product direction.”

After a promotion to marketing manager at the company, Marine’s role centered on fostering strong relationships with both existing and potential customers.

“I was responsible for driving customer acquisition through paid social campaigns, and my learnings from the Social Media Marketing Strategies course helped me with targeting the right audience. I had also applied my knowledge from that course to expertly manage the editorial calendar and supercharge the Shoppies Instagram account, growing its following to an impressive 115,000 accounts.”

In 2020, Marine became the sole full-time marketer for a friend-finding mobile app called Reach (Internet Best Friends). “This was a small startup and I worked directly with the founding team and reported to the CEO,” she recounts.

“I was in charge of all the marketing initiatives from user acquisition to product marketing. I also owned the social media channels and customer support. Here, I managed a six-figure monthly marketing budget, distributing it across multiple user-acquisition channels. Thanks to my creative approach, I secured a 15-percent month-over-month user growth while improving the cost-per-user acquisition by over 30 percent. I gained a lot of experience and new learnings and had an opportunity to work with amazing people.”

So how had the marketing certificate helped Marine be a better growth marketing manager? By furthering her understanding of business metrics.

“I was managing all the growth initiatives at Reach,” she says, “and for that, I needed a strong understanding of important business metrics and KPIs, as well as skills to analyze performance data and extract important insights from it. My previous work experience combined with the fundamental learnings from the marketing analytics course helped me make important business decisions that had a direct impact on the company's growth.”

Around this time, Marine became a mother. Multiple circumstances caused her to pause and take time to be with her growing family. In a good spot financially, she traveled with her family and began working on her personal, small business project:

“Cosmic Style is a fashion boutique—it’s my passion project,” Marine states. “Our mission is to provide our customers with 100-percent authentic, original designs at prices that won't break the bank. It’s the first business project that I built myself from scratch. It showed me the challenging side of the business that only founders are exposed to and is a valuable experience that will help me with my future career goals.”

Goals Become Realized

Those future career goals included re-entering the marketing world in October 2022, when she started a part-time marketing consulting firm for early stage and stealth startups while also keeping an eye open to full-time job opportunities.

“My work experience is tailored to early stage startups,” Marine tells me, “where they have to define the product-market fit and the ideal customer profile (ICP). This requires a lot of market research and competitor analysis. I learned and practiced the fundamentals of both at UC Berkeley Extension while working on individual and team projects.

“After we define the product market fit, we work on the go-to-market (GTM) plan and set the objectives. I do this using the SMART framework—setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely goals—that I also learned in the marketing certificate program,” she goes on to explain.

“Stealth startups are businesses that prefer to operate in stealth mode at early stages avoiding public attention. Generally, this is done to hide unique product and business ideas from competitors. In the early stages, companies don’t have (much) funding, but they do need marketing. In this setting, it’s critical to be able to find creative approaches for organic growth. The knowledge and skills that I’ve developed while studying and working in my previous roles helped me build unique go-to-market strategies based on a business need.”

Connecting Her Past to Her Future

“I believe that each person is unique, coming from different backgrounds and life experiences,” shares Marine as she reflects on her career journey. “My bachelor’s degree in journalism provided the foundation for my future studies in marketing that led me to who I am and where I am today.”

So what words of wisdom does she give to students currently considering a career change to marketing from another profession or looking to get a boost to their marketing skills?

“For someone who is coming from a different background, it’s important to be proactive and curious,” Marine answers. “Ask questions and involve yourself in class discussions. Learn from instructors and your classmates. Not everyone in the program is seeking a career change; I had classmates with years of work experience in marketing. They registered for the certificate to develop their skills in specific areas of the field, so there is an opportunity to learn from them and expand your professional network as well.”