Gatepost Interview Ella Karat Marketing professor

(Photo by Corey McFeeley / THE GATEPOST)

What is your educational and professional background?

I worked in the marketing field for over 18 years. I worked for some multinationals, big advertising agencies, big corporations – anywhere from European companies like Fiat to American products like Coca-Cola. I have my undergraduate degree, and then I did my master’s at the University of Florida in journalism and mass communications. After that, I got into the field of brand marketing, advertising – the whole nine yards, and that was a lot of fun. I got to travel the world and lived and worked in three continents: America, Europe and Asia. I lived in countries anywhere from Uzbekistan to Georgia to Turkey to Italy. That kind of workload is very challenging, as you can imagine, traveling all the time. So, after I had my child, I kind of slowed down a little bit. I always wanted to teach because when you have so much experience, you want to translate that to teaching. I just didn’t know how to start, because I didn’t have my Ph.D. Framingham was nice enough to actually offer me my first teaching job. Once I started teaching here, I also started teaching at Salem State and Clark University. The more I taught, the more I loved it. It’s just wonderful to be connected to the younger generation, and at the same time, they learn something from you and you learn something from them.

Why did you pursue marketing as a career?

I love advertising because it’s never the same thing two days in a row. It’s not a boring thing, and I’m very type A and a very creative mind. I just love the challenge. You go to work every day and there’s a new challenge. Although you are going to the same company, things are always changing – that kept me on my toes for a long time. When you are in marketing and advertising, you always have to think outside the box, and that’s something I love. Even for a simple campaign, like Tide detergent, the creative director would want it in London, but the account person would be in Italy. So, if you want something to happen, you have to go from one place to another. I always had a small suitcase ready to go.

What do you like about working at FSU?

I love the fact that it is a small community and it’s almost like you know everyone in your department. The faculty is very nice and caring. It’s a feeling of belongingness and everyone is very supportive. I’ve worked at different places so I can compare them, and this is where I found my voice. I’m doing my Ph.D. at UMass Lowell, which is a big school, so it has its advantages and disadvantages. Different schools have different challenges, and [Framingham State University] has the least in terms of if you want to teach – this is a good place to be.

What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?

It is not a one-time event, but a series of events and a time frame. I was at the right place at the right time with the right education and right connections. I would call that lucky in some ways. I ended up working for very major corporations early on – I was in my 20s. My first job gave me a $20 million-dollar budget to spend in the media when I was only 22 years old. Looking back, that’s a lot of money. I started off well, which got me to roll in the right direction and it was a snowball effect after that. This gave me a very strong resume in terms of where I’ve been and who I’ve worked for and what I’ve done. This made me overqualified in my early 30s.  Having been there, done that, actually gives me the confidence to move forward and to teach better because I know what’s important.

Do you have any advice for students?

Build a strong resume early on – it will give you the edge and will get you to the next level much quicker. You have to be very proactive. You can’t be behind a phone or computer, trying to meet people – it doesn’t work that way. You have to be social – you need to have connections. Go out there physically. Attend meetings and seminars.