IT career roadmap: The journey to digital marketing executive

Sharon Florentine

Kristine Spence never set out to have a career in digital marketing -- in fact, when she entered the job market, the term didn't even exist. But as technology evolved, so has the role, and Spence's career has evolved along with it.

Spence graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management and began her career handling day-to-day management for a Walt Disney World resort restaurant group. When the opportunity arose for Spence to move into a sales and marketing coordination role for a luxury restaurant group, she jumped at the chance.

"I had taken the required marketing courses for my degree, but at that point, 'digital marketing' didn't exist. But in the mid-1990s with the advent of email, every aspect of sales and marketing began to move away from print and toward online, digital media; I had a solid background, but I had to learn as I went. Everything from email marketing, search marketing, Google ads and Adwords, banner advertisements, pop-up ads, building links," Spence says.

From there, Spence served as an executive assistant to the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute's CEO, the institute's senior vice president and executive vice president of marketing and parlayed her success as a liaison between sales, marketing and IT into a promotion to senior director of marketing for the Institute in 2010. Since then, Spence has driven successful social media, email and SEO/SEM campaigns and worked to enhance the nonprofit's Web presence and Internet traffic using her sales, marketing and technology skills.

"All of my previous positions have touched on aspects of marketing. I've learned by doing and I've taken lessons away from everything I've done whether that's trade show management, print advertising, sales management, product marketing and product prelaunch and launch. Within that, I've kept pushing myself to master the technical aspects by working closely with IT and our content marketing specialists to maximize our site through SEO, and really understand the digital space," Spence says.

Demand for digital

Demand for digital marketing professionals, like Spence, has skyrocketed as technology keeps evolving, says Chris Taylor, director of executive search at Onward Search, an executive search firm that specializes in digital marketing and creative talent, but demand for certain specialties within the field have shifted.

Five years ago, most of Onward's clients were looking for talent with SEO and paid search experience, and could expect $30,000 pay increases if they landed a position with a hiring client, Taylor says. With changes to search engine algorithms, though, that demand has leveled off in the last year or so, and companies are looking more for social media-savvy talent and those with experience crafting content for paid search, he says.

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