Certificate in Public Relations – A Student Perspective
Chad Mack is a 2009
graduate of the Certificate in Public Relations, and currently the Community
Development Manager for the Microsoft Store in Bellevue. He is also Event
Director for the Seattle Sounders & Portland Timbers Corporate Charity
Cups. In this testimonial, Mack discusses his decision to change careers and
what he gained from his experience in the certificate program.
Tell us about your
educational and professional background
I received an English degree from the University of
Wisconsin in 1998, and my first job was for a small book publisher. I moved my
family to the West Coast and San Francisco right around the time of the tech
boom. I got a technical writing certificate from a private school there and
worked for two large software companies, Oracle Corporation and SAP AG over the
course of 6 years. I was doing a lot of travel and wanted something where I
could be more with my growing family. I was recruited by Microsoft and have
lived up here for 8 years, first as a Content Publishing Lead for Windows Mobile
and then an Internal Communications Manager for Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate
Affairs Group, writing speeches and other internal communications.
Why did you choose
this program? Did you compare this program to other training opportunities?
I decided I wanted a career change, and signed up for the
certificate. At first I was looking at grad schools, but I wasn’t really
finding anything that would be a good fit. The certificate was attractive
because it was only a year and it was very practical, and I knew Microsoft
would pay for it. The fact that it was taught by PR professionals active in the
field was also really appealing.
What sort of skills
did you learn? What types of projects did you work on?
I got a lot of hands-on experience. It really opened the
door for me, and helped me land my current job. The instructors gave us several
different case studies and we studied strategies for different companies and
events. There was a crisis communications event on-site at Boeing where we went
through a day-long, mock crisis communications exercise, and I loved it! We also
completed a practicum project, and my practicum was on the city of Bellevue and
their desire to increase enrollment in their city summer camps. It was not only
a great learning experience, but later when I transitioned into my community
role for Microsoft Store, I immediately contacted the Bellevue Parks and Rec Department,
and I already had a relationship with them, so it worked out really well.
Tell us a little
about your classmates. What was it like being part of that group?
It was different than I expected. I felt I came in with more
professional experience than most of the others in the class. There were maybe
two or three of us who were more veteran, most were just starting out in their
career. I felt like I was able to contribute insight and be helpful to the
class which was great.
I actually had better networking experience with the
instructors, which I wasn’t expecting. I would encourage more people in my
shoes to take the course, I think they’d get more value out of it than they
expect. Having that kind of experience positions you in a leadership role which
is different but generally illuminating. I still give a guest lecture for instructor
Heidi Hutchinson every year. She’s still a really great mentor for me in my
What did you gain
from this experience? Do you feel this certificate program has helped you
advance your career or shape your goals?
I received validation that I was ready to take this next
step in my career, that I was already doing a lot of this kind of work in my
current job and that I knew what I was doing. It also stretched me; for example
I had never been exposed to community relations, and to see the connection to
that and to philanthropy was really great.
I now work for the Microsoft retail team in Bellevue, doing
community relations and outreach. I manage our event programming, which
includes supporting the public with the free use of the store’s community space
for meetings and presentations, as well as the technology workshops, Summer
Camps, small business meet ups and executive engagement for the store. I also
handle local advertising and social media – I have a hand in a lot of areas and
it’s been great. The certificate gave me a lot of hands-on experience; it
really opened the door for me and helped me land this job.
The program also inspired me to create a charity event,
which has now grown across the Pacific Northwest – the Seattle Sounders Corporate Cup
and Portland Timbers Corporate Cup. I had started work on the Sounders Cup before I took the certificate,
but afterwards I felt like I had the tools to take it to the next level. I
wouldn’t have been able to do that without the program. In a way, I had been
creating two careers for myself, and this certificate sort of helped marry the
two together, which was a pleasant surprise.