After College of Business senior Sam Tomlinson walks out of his April 30 commencement, he will have a full-time job and a diploma.
The digital marketing major is proud of this — but even more important to Tomlinson is gaining the education and experience to speak up and act ethically when marketing to audiences.
Tomlinson said his journey to digital marketing started in a therapist’s office when he was in middle school. An introverted student at the time, Tomlinson said he didn’t say much and his parents wanted him to have a mental health professional as another trusted adult in his life.
Even though Tomlinson wasn’t sending messages out, he picked up on the constant barrage of persuasive information around him. Even as a preteen, he recognized that words and images had the ability to impact human behavior. Some messages were neutral — like Coca-Cola putting people’s names on the side of their 20-ounce bottles as a cue to share with a friend — some were affirming and others created division.
Tomlinson talked to his therapist about his life and his observations. He had such a positive experience with his therapist, he wanted to become one himself. When it came time for college, Tomlinson first studied cognitive psychology at UM-Ann Arbor. But, as college progressed, he realized that he wanted to draw on the lessons he’d learned about cognitive psychology on a broader scale professionally.
Tomlinson began looking into digital marketing. It's the business area he’d interacted with most and he realized that work in that field has the potential to reach large audiences. He noticed UM-Dearborn had a highly regarded digital marketing program and since it was in the U-M system, the transfer process was more streamlined.
“At the end of the day, everyone will be influenced by advertisements. It’s important for people who put out the content to have practices in place to make sure that it’s benefiting the consumer, as well as the business,” Tomlinson said. “I wanted to learn more about how marketers influence behavior. While doing this, I keep a couple questions in the back of my head: ‘Are we the ones responsible for creating this dopamine hit issue?’ and ‘Am I negatively impacting someone or is what I’m doing enhancing someone’s life?’”
Once he got to UM-Dearborn, Tomlinson said the benefits went beyond what was offered in the degree program. He was impressed with the smaller class sizes, the opportunities to interact with successful alums and his professors’ industry connections.
“At UM-Dearborn, you get to know the people in your classes and your professors get to know you. Not only do your professors know you, they help you advance your career,” he said.
In COB Lecturer Jeremy Sutton’s Digital Consumer course, Tomlinson built a website and learned how to strategically use digital ads and SEO keywords. During the class, Tomlinson shared that he’d like to get an internship to ensure this field was a good fit for him. Sutton passed Tomlinson’s resume along to connections, which led to interviews and ultimately an internship offer with OneMagnify, a Detroit-based marketing firm with offices around the world.
“UM-Dearborn says they have the resources to help you advance your career — and it’s true. The people I’ve met, like Professor Sutton, actively reach out on your behalf and connect you to people that will change your life,” he said. The OneMagnify internship Tomlinson landed a year ago led to a fulltime job offer. Tomlinson will start his new position at OneMagnify as a junior SEO analyst after graduation.
Tomlinson said he’s proud of his Wolverine education — he’s following in his parents’ footsteps, as they were both UM-Ann Arbor graduates. And he’s pleased to work in a field where he’ll continue to find ways to connect people with what they are looking for in an authentic, affirming way.
“We all want to make a difference,” he said. “Therapy and college has helped me find my voice and strengthen it. I want to use what I’ve learned to help businesses grow, while also making sure that what I put out into the world will help make people’s lives better.”
Article by Sarah Tuxbury.