Patrice Fontaine Nealon: Forging Paths to Discovery
As a senior lecturer in marketing at the Poole College of Management, Patrice Nealon leverages 20 years of teaching experience and a diverse background in sales and marketing roles to help students discover their own passions and build a rewarding career.
What do you enjoy most about marketing?
Marketing sits at the intersection between creative and analytical thinking. There’s a creative side to it in terms of capturing the attention of target audiences, but there are also an abundance of analytical tools we use to optimize decisions. I appreciate how marketing is constantly evolving because it opens the door for us to learn new methods of data analysis and storytelling.
What inspired you to pursue a career in academia?
When I was nearing the end of my MBA, I initially wanted to secure a marketing research position at Nielson, formerly known as AC Nielson. I would drive by their regional headquarters along the north shore of Chicago and I knew this is where I wanted to work. But one of my professors strongly encouraged me to consider teaching at the college level. To this day, I don’t know what prompted him to reach out to me, but he was right. I’m fortunate to be in a profession that enables me to grow and learn alongside students and colleagues.
What are the most rewarding aspects of teaching at NC State?
Whether I’m sharing the multifaceted nature of marketing, introducing students to industry connections or simply being available to listen, making a difference in a student’s life is its own reward. Teaching and developing curricula gives me the chance to share my passion and experiences in the food, technology and wholesale industries. I believe in enabling students to reach their highest potential both in and out of the classroom. It’s an honor to witness their perseverance and see them reach incredible internship and post-graduate opportunities.
I also have the utmost respect for my Poole colleagues. They are passionate about what they do and driven to be excellent educators, professionals and mentors every day. When we get together, it’s like an endless cycle of inspiration where we mutually grow from each other’s ideas and enthusiasm. That’s the kind of environment that sparks the imagination, and it’s something I cherish about Poole.
What advice would you give students who are considering a career in marketing or sales?
Don’t let stereotypical pictures of success keep you from seeking unconventional opportunities. When I was fresh out of college, all I wanted was to work for a prestigious Fortune 100 company. There is a lot to be gained from working at an established corporation with ample resources, but don’t discount the value of joining smaller companies and start-ups or starting your own business.
Marketing is my passion, but it isn’t for everyone. If you take my class and discover you don’t love marketing as much as you thought you would, that’s absolutely okay. My highest priority as an educator is to help you find a career that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.
For example, at a previous institution, one of my students told me he enjoyed my class but his true passion was cooking. At the end of the semester, I referred him to culinary schools across the country. He went on to become a chef in the White House for then-President Barack Obama. Today, he is a celebrity chef and author in Washington, D.C. At the end of the day, you have to love what you do, no matter how winding your path might be.
How do you enjoy spending your time outside the classroom?
I love to travel, but the pandemic has limited international travel for the time being. I enjoy decorating my home, gardening, playing pickle ball, and truly love Pilates. I hold true to the mantra, “Dance like no one is watching.”
I am also blessed to have great friends and a wonderful family. Although we are dispersed across the country, we’re able to stay connected. When we do get together, it’s a whirlwind of fun, and I’m excited to share that I will be a grandmother next year. 2022 is going to be a very good year!
This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.