As the Vice President of Marketing for Deschutes Brewery (and previously the VP of Marketing at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery), Neal Stewart is an experienced marketing professional who wanted to continue evolving as a professional and as a marketer.
In response to his wish to further his marketing knowledge, Neal chose to pursue the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate degree, West Virginia University's cutting-edge, pioneer graduate program. Here's what Neal had to say about his IMC experience and specifically, how his IMC degree prepared him to lead the Dogfish Head Companies' marketing department.
Tell me a little bit about yourself!
My name is Neal Stewart, I'm 45 years old, and I was previously the VP of Marketing at the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The Dogfish Head Companies are best known for craft beer brands like 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, SeaQuench Ale, and many others, but the company also has a distillery, boutique hotel and two restaurants – all of which are based in Coastal Delaware.
At Dogfish, I led our marketing efforts across all of our business and manage an internal team of marketing ninjas that include brand managers, social media coordinators, internal creatives, event planners and PR practitioners. 99 percent of our integrated marketing campaigns were created and executed in house.
I’ve worked in the beer business for over 15 year now and got my start at Pabst Brewing Company as Brand Manager and later Marketing Director. At Pabst, I managed the company’s flagship brand, Pabst Blue Ribbon and helped revive it in the early 2000’s after it had declined for 23 straight years. Since then, I’ve worked on brands like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Miller Lite and Coors Light.
What drew you to WVU's IMC program?
What I liked about the WVU IMC program is that the curriculum aligned perfectly with what I do everyday, and I was looking for a program that would provide immediate value. Plus, I work in marketing for a reason - because I like it, so why not sharpen my skills in something that I enjoy?
Tell me about one faculty member who really made a difference in your education at WVU as a graduate student.
Bob Sukys was my first professor in 610, and I really enjoyed working with him and learning from his real life professional experiences. He was super engaged in the discussion boards and provided excellent feedback on the writing assignments. Being someone who is a little further into their career, it was reassuring to work with a professor right off the bat who could approach the curriculum from both an academic and practical point of view. He also did a great job of setting expectations on how we, as new students should approach the entire IMC program. I enjoyed his class so much that I sought out his Creative Strategy and Execution class later on in the program.
Why do you think pursuing an advanced degree in IMC is important for people who want to promote innovation in your field?
I answer this question a couple different ways, depending on where someone is in their academic and professional journey.
Early in my career, I was someone who fell in to a job that usually only considered candidates that had an MBA or graduate degree. I didn’t have one, so I had to compensate with my own personal learning agenda and sheer hard work. In Marketing and Brand Management, that need for a graduate degree has only intensified over the years, so I always recommend recent college grads that want to embark on a career in marketing to pursue their graduate degree early on so that qualify for the elite jobs early in their career.
For me, the situation was completely different. By the time I started the WVU IMC program, I was already 20 years into my career and had a great job at the VP level. It definitely wasn’t something I needed to do, but it was something I wanted to do because I wanted to continue evolving as a professional and marketer. Over the years, we all pick up bad habits and I was no different and what I’ve found is that the IMC program has helped me identify those bad habits and implement more rigor, discipline, and analysis into my professional responsibilities.
What advice do you have for prospective IMC students?
Just like anything else in life, have a clear vision of what you want to do, where you want to go and create a plan what what needs to be true to get there. From there, if advancing your education aligns with your goals, pick out the program you think you will enjoy the most. I did a lot of research on different programs and for a long time I thought an MBA was the right path for me, but when I finally decided that specializing in marketing was really what interested me most, WVU Integrated Marketing Communications was a pretty easy choice.
Integrated Marketing Communications could be the game changer you need in your career.
Here at West Virginia University, we understand that the marketing communications industry is changing at a fast rate. We are dedicated to preparing people who are passionate about marketing communications to thrive in this competitive field by offering a graduate program in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC is a fast-paced master’s program, and full-time students can graduate in 16-18 months).
If you’re interested in establishing yourself as a thought leader in the field of marketing, we encourage you to request more information today!