“I firmly believe that with lifelong learning, you get out what you put into it. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and can’t wait to see what’s next.”- Lauren Hummel, SCS learner
“The world is changing so quickly, if you don’t take the time to re-evaluate your passions and know the impact you want to make on the world, if you aren’t learning new knowledge, you will fall behind,” reflects Lauren Hummel. “The same goes for a brand. In COVID especially, we are seeing what happens to companies that don’t adapt. Continuing education has helped me, and my organization, thrive during difficult times.” Today, Lauren is Manager, Marketing and Communications for the Ontario Library Association (OLA), however, her path to marketing and brand success was not exactly linear.
“I have a background in history and journalism, a Master’s in creative writing, and I’ve done some continuing education in digital media. Yet I started my career at an insurance broker as a graphic designer and administrator. In 2014 I felt curious about where I wanted to take my career, so I came to the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS) and did the Project Management Certificate” recalls Lauren. “This learning experience helped me shift into a role in marketing and communications at OLA. I was excited to enter this new career path, however, I quickly realized that there was a gap in my knowledge around branding, and wanted to improve my storytelling and brand marketing abilities.”
Lauren again turned to SCS and began her Brand Management Certificate in 2020. “The certificate examined everything I wanted to explore: brand management, brand finance, evaluation standards, and putting customers first. I was excited to gain a competitive advantage and bring my skills to work,” says Lauren. “During the first course in the certificate, I was promoted to Manager, Marketing and Communications. I was bringing my new brand skills to the table every day. Then, the pandemic hit.”
Suddenly, Lauren found that the need for strong brand management was more critical than ever. “As a new leader, I wanted to improve our overall marketing strategy, and increase consistency across channels. I also wanted to gain a great understanding of our customers’ experiences, and find new ways to communicate value. The pandemic made this all the more important,” reflects Lauren. “Many of our events were in-person, so we had to pivot and adapt our business model fast. The skills I was learning at SCS helped me strengthen our brand during this time of turmoil. Brand strategy helped our non-profit organization survive COVID.”
Mid-pandemic, Lauren’s role shifted to part-time due to financial impact. “I was so grateful to have a job, however, I was concerned about my ability to continue studying at SCS. That’s why I applied for the Marilynn Booth Award of Excellence to help fund my studies. Winning the award meant I could keep studying and growing my brand management skills,” says Lauren. “Academically, I did face some challenges: the content shared in the Finance of Brand Management course was very new to me. At the time, I wasn’t a super data-driven person. This course encouraged me to investigate my biases, and practice gathering and analyzing large amounts of marketing and brand-relevant data. It stretched my ability to be more data-informed, and examine information from different viewpoints. I love language; I am a storyteller at heart. But this course helped me develop new skills that are invaluable in my work today.”
Reflecting on how continuing education at SCS has shaped her career, Lauren says that her confidence has skyrocketed. “SCS provided a safe environment for me to explore my interests, identify areas for improvement, and learn new skills. I’m excited about what the future holds,” says Lauren. “Next, my goals are to finish writing an adult-fiction manuscript I’ve been working on, and dig even deeper into brand management at work. I firmly believe that with lifelong learning, you get out what you put into it. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and can’t wait to see what’s next.”