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Marketing Analytics Student Follows Passions, Pursues Career Advancement

By Samantha Beavers

While building a career in the hospitality industry, Master of Management, Marketing Analytics (MMA) student Kayla Layden first discovered her passion for marketing. Between serving as a character attendant for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, working with residents as a leasing manager with Greystar and serving guests as a front office manager for The Umstead Hotel and Spa, she learned the art of curating services, experiences and events for customers – and began to see marketing as a promising career path. 

“I’ve always enjoyed learning about customer bases and target markets and catering offerings to them. Seeing that, I wanted to strengthen my marketing skill set in order to advance my career. Marketing is such a growing field – and with more companies moving to the Raleigh area, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to grow here,” she explains. 

A career in marketing is also an opportunity to leverage her creative background, Layden says. As an undergraduate at Western Carolina University, she completed a second major in stage and screen alongside her hospitality and tourism management degree – and completed a minor in art to boot. Tapping into her creative side within a growing field, then, provides the best of both worlds.

“Compared to customer service, where most of my career has been focused, marketing allows me to be a little more creative – and it has more job security than some other artistic careers I’ve considered,” she explains. “Whether it’s designing advertisements or developing campaigns, I can use my creative skills to add value to marketing efforts.”

To get the foundation she needed, Layden started exploring programs to further her education and found the MMA program at NC State. 

“I put in an inquiry and Allison Anthony reached out and connected me to more information about the program. Hearing more about it, it just sounded like a great opportunity to develop some in-demand skills and do something that I enjoy,” she says. “Allison and her colleagues were so willing to answer my questions and guide me in the right direction – and that played a big part in me choosing NC State. The support that the university gave me was really great and it made me feel like I belong there.”

Those first interactions inspired her to become a student ambassador for the MMA program and offer herself as a resource to prospective students. And, Layden says, they’re illustrative of the larger culture of support at Poole College of Management.

“The staff and faculty have all been extremely supportive and are very easy to talk to. They have this really great culture of helping students and ensuring they have what they need to succeed,” she says. “It’s the same with students. We all lean on and support each other – and I’ve really enjoyed the community that our cohort has been able to maintain.”

That support has been invaluable, she says – especially as a full-time working professional balancing a career and coursework in new marketing and analytics concepts.

“It’s all fascinating – but definitely complex. Business analytics, in particular, is so different from anything else I’ve done before. But it’s a really nice challenge and I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to achieve when I master some of these techniques,” she says. “Already, I’ve learned a lot and have been able to make some great connections between my marketing courses and my analytics courses. The curriculum has flowed really nicely.”

Learning these concepts while also working as a sales manager for The Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club – a hotel focused on delivering a luxury experience to high-profile customers – Layden’s passion for marketing has continued to grow. Working with several high-profile clients, she enjoys making connections between her work and her studies – and finds that each day is an opportunity to learn more about how to engage target markets effectively.

Looking ahead, she plans to use the new skills she’s learned to land a role as a marketing analyst and work her way up to a managerial position.

“I’d love to be in a marketing manager role where I sort through the data to create effective marketing campaigns and turn out the best results for the company,” Layden says. “I’m not positive what industry I want to be in – I certainly have a lot of experience in hospitality and tourism and a soft spot for that industry. But there are many other industries I’d love to work in as well – including beauty, fashion and wine. I’d also be interested in a role in consulting down the road.”

The beauty of marketing analytics, she says, is that there are a lot of ways she can pivot.

“Marketing is a very in-demand job – and across industries, everyone is wanting to really embrace data analytics. So while marketing analytics is pretty niche, it’s a great opportunity to challenge myself and open doors in a lot of different places – it won’t box me in.”