About Megan Fullagar, M.P.S. Megan Fullagar is a Marketing Manager at Penthera Partners, a startup based in New York City that focuses on developing and optimizing mobile and download technologies for video. As Marketing Manager, Ms. Fullagar oversees the development and implementation of integrated marketing campaigns and other strategies for target audiences.
Prior to her role at Penthera, Ms. Fullagar was the Marketing and Communications Manager at FreeWheel, where she oversaw marketing operations, including digital ad campaigns and business-to-business marketing strategies. She was also Marketing Manager for Global Consulting Services for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, Marketing Manager for Microdesk, and Marketing Coordinator for Ismael Levya Architects. Before entering marketing, Ms. Fullagar worked as an Architectural Designer and Project Manager for numerous architectural firms based in New York City.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from The University of Kansas and her Master of Professional Studies in Branding and Integrated Communications from the City College of New York.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have an overview of your professional background, and how you first got involved in the field of communication? What initially drew you to advertising and marketing, and how did you grow into your current role as Marketing Manager at Penthera Partners?
[Megan Fullagar] My path was not linear. I studied architecture school in 2006 and got my first big job in New York City, where I worked for the first five years of my career. Shortly after that, the Great Recession hit. It was, for me, a shocking experience, something that kind of turned my world upside down. That was also the start of my move into marketing because it was at that point that I decided that I wanted to help businesses be profitable. To start that transition, I began doing marketing tasks for architecture and construction companies. That was a wonderful opportunity, and I was so lucky to be able to get my foot in the door. A couple of years in I realized that it was really important for me to go back to school to get the foundations of understanding exactly how the entire marketing and communication world worked.
I applied to graduate school, and enrolled in the City College of New York’s Branding and Integrated Communications (BIC) program. This is a program that is really geared towards people who are working professionals. While I was completing graduate school, I also worked full-time as a marketing manager. Those years helped me understand how the agency world works—all the little components that need to come together to make any project successful.
In graduate school, one of the best opportunities was the chance to participate in competitions. The One Show puts on a competition where you have to choose between two briefs. For our year, one was a brief about Legos, which was super fun. But the other was a broader brief that was about putting together an advertising campaign about gender inequality. I chose the latter prompt, and worked with a student group to put together a campaign talking about the discrepancy in representation of men versus women in history.
Specifically, we looked at the lack of commemorative statues celebrating women in public places, namely Central Park. Central Park has an incredible number of statues, but none of them actually celebrate significant women in history. There are a couple—Mother Goose, for instance—but they are fictional characters, rather than real historical figures. We wanted to figure out how to highlight historical women who deserved recognition. We put together a great campaign that took on elements of experiential marketing, and designed a website around the theme of putting together a day where we plant living statues of women next to all the statues of men in the park.
The idea was that people would come to the park on National Women’s Day, and see these living statues of women next to statues of men and be able to recognize that there are indeed plenty of women who deserve recognition in history, and that it’s really doing a disservice in New York City and all the cities over the world that they don’t recognize famous historical women. It was a really fun campaign to put together, and it was very interesting doing the research. When we looked into cities all over the world, we saw a huge disparity between men and women being recognized. It was neat to create a campaign that spoke to all the achievements that women have contributed to our society. We put together a list of women we thought should be recognized, and it was endless. It was an empowering project, and we were thrilled when we won the Gold Pencil at the awards.
When I finished school, I was lucky enough to get a job at an ad tech company called Strata, which merged with FreeWheel. I could really see the fruits of my efforts in going to graduate school. I now work for a tech startup called Penthera, which is a mobile video experience company that specializes in download and fast-play technology. Any time someone takes their phone out and they want to have a better mobile video experience, they are probably using our technology. It’s been very exciting to be put into and to grow with the tech startup world.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Throughout your professional journey, what skills and knowledge have helped you most in your career? How did you build this toolkit of skills and knowledge, and how do you advise other professionals in marketing and communication stay apprised of developments in their field?
[Megan Fullagar] There are a couple of things. One of the really neat things about the BIC program is that it is very multi-faceted. It allows students to pick an area of focus within advertising, whether it is creative strategy, PR, or marketing. And throughout all the classes, students work together. And it was so incredibly helpful to be able to understand how these different mindsets and career paths work. Every day I work with creative people: strategists, PR folks, and designers, to create marketing initiatives. And I had the training to collaborate with these different professionals due to my graduate program.
The BIC program is also optimally located near a great many conferences. New York has a great Social Media week and a phenomenal Advertising Week. Being able to attend these conferences and hear from our peers and leaders in the space is something I found really helpful, and these conferences are open to all professionals in the space, so I highly recommend people make use of these events as educational and networking experiences. I also love to keep up with the industry magazines, like Ad Week, Ad Age, etc., which have very helpful articles on trying to identify what makes a successful brand.
What I have also learned during my time in tech is that you need to be resourceful. I don’t often start out with knowing the answers, but I have to be willing to dive into the unknown, and to look for opportunities to contribute at my company that will also give me important skills. For example, I worked for a company where we had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to have someone do all of our webinar editing. And I thought, “Well this is definitely a place where we can cut costs and I can learn something in the meantime.” I approached my boss and pitched my idea, saying, “I think we could save a ton of money if I just did this for the team.” I took a video editing class over the course of a two-day workshop. Now I can edit all of my company’s videos, and have a skills set that has followed me around professionally through all of my jobs since that position. So being curious and trying new things and being willing to search and figure things out is so important when it comes to being successful.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What was the deciding factor for you to go back to school, versus continuing to learn on the job?
[Megan Fullagar] There were so many things to consider—after all, graduate school is not cheap, from a financial, an effort, and a time perspective. I think I needed to find a program that offered me all the things I wanted while also allowing me to work while doing it. If I hadn’t found a quality program that allowed me to work while completing my graduate degree, I’m not sure I would have done it. I have an architectural background, and so in my case I wanted to completely transition into a new industry. Graduate school was therefore incredibly helpful, as I felt I needed an entirely new foundation. After acquiring this foundation, I felt more comfortable in learning new skills on the job and taking the initiative to take on tasks in the workplace that would give me the skills I wanted.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Who have been your primary professional mentors, and how have they supported your development? How important do you feel is mentorship to career growth, and what recommendations do you have for women in the communications field who are seeking similar mentoring relationships?
[Megan Fullagar] That is a great question. When I finished graduate school, I went and worked for a big company, FreeWheel, which was under Comcast. It was a massive company. My boss at the time, Judd Rubin, was SVP of revenue and he was wonderful in helping me build my professional skills. I know the theme of this interview is women in the workplace, and what Judd taught me is how to negotiate, how to stay firm and ask for what I wanted. And since I have left that job, we still meet up regularly to talk about the challenges I am facing and ways to approach them. That has been one of the most fulfilling relationships in my professional career.
My current boss, Jodi Susman, is also amazing. She really pushes me to be a strong woman in the workplace and speak up for my worth. I come from a lucky team; my team is currently all women right now, and we are in an environment where we push each other up, and that is incredibly supportive. We set goals every quarter, and it’s been great to work with people who support my goals and vice versa. It is one thing to have the initiative to set and go after your goals, but it’s another to have someone else who is backing you and supporting you—it’s a recipe for success, to be able to bounce ideas off of that person and to receive their encouragement and feedback.
For women seeking similar mentoring relationships, I recommend that they be consistent in putting themselves out there, and to make a habit of it. Ask for a cup of coffee once a quarter to catch up. Take advantage of the mentorship programs available at your company and through other organizations. For example, I still work really closely with my undergraduate school, and a lot of universities encourage mentorship programs, which is a great avenue for finding mentors if you are a student and want to speak with someone who has, say, ten or more years of experience in the industry that interests you.
The BIC program works closely with alumni who come back and teach and sit on advisory panels. I think it’s great that they harness the power from their old students. And they have an entire board of really powerful people in the advertising industry on whose expertise we were able to capitalize when there. During the program we also got to sit in on seminars and workshops with people we wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to meet otherwise. For example, a couple years ago I sat in on a seminar with one of the original marketers behind SoulCycle, and that was fascinating, hearing her input on how a startup can become that successful.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What have been some of the principal challenges and barriers you have encountered during your career, and how have you addressed them? What advice do you have for women in communication facing similar challenges? How would you recommend women individually and collectively address the barriers they face to career advancement in the workplace?
[Megan Fullagar] When I was younger in my career, one of the things I struggled with most was asking for what I felt I was worth, during salary negotiations in particular. And I think that is something that women do a lot—they undervalue themselves. And I think what has helped me the most in that is talking to my friends and peers who have been in salary negotiations before. It’s really empowering to find people who know what they are worth and who are not afraid to ask for it.
To make a broad generalization, I would say that as women in the workplace, we tend to want to please and appease. But sometimes you need to step back and say, “What do I actually need out of the situation?” The other piece of advice I have in this area is to do your research so that you are totally prepared for these negotiations. Many of the issues that we face have to do with how we communicate.
I think taking a step back and taking emotion out of what you’re asking for, making it more logical/tactical/strategic, is a much smarter way to approach things. That is definitely something I have changed in how I’ve approached challenges professionally. I think it is important to set professional goals that you are able to reach so that, at the end of the day, or the end of the quarter, you can go in with the data and say, “These were the goals I set, and I have numbers behind them. We’ve increased website traffic two-fold since I started, and we’ve doubled our social media base. I have produced these eight documents, and they’ve created this many leads.” You can’t argue with results. So having that concrete evidence to objectively explain how much you are worth is great.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Recent research conducted by Cornell University found that many companies hire predominantly women for social media management roles, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that women tend to dominate in public relations and marketing. However, most leadership positions in communication-related fields are still occupied by men. Based off of your professional experiences, why do you feel this incongruity exists, and what do you feel needs to happen to address these inequalities in the workplace?
[Megan Fullagar] I feel that this incongruity absolutely still exists. I’ve seen it. I’ll preface by saying that one of the coolest things about being in marketing is that this has been a field that has historically been championed by women. It’s a rare thing to have an industry that was built up so predominantly by women. It was a gateway that women have had into the professional world. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, secretaries were taking up marketing roles and working themselves into leadership places where they hadn’t been before. And I think that that is so amazing.
But the problem is that marketing often is kind of the catch-all role. Even in my job today, I see that. We don’t have an admin staff, so when the time comes for people to order lunch, that task often falls on the marketing team, nine times out of ten. So I think that people in marketing are often the default admin team, event planners, a sort of catchall for other tasks around the company that need completing, with the mindset that, “They have time to do all this other stuff.” I think in those cases, it comes down to pushing back a little, and at the end of the day, we should call out this discrepancy and stand up for our own needs and time commitments.
I have worked for a lot of companies where, when you look at the executive board, it is all Caucasian men. And that can be frustrating sometimes, when there are certainly incredibly smart, capable, and experienced women out there. We have to question, “Why is it this way?” There has certainly been progress, albeit slow. More women are feeling the confidence to speak up and demand these types of leadership roles.
When you look at the advertising industry, there has been a giant call to action to have a lot more diversity within boards and leadership teams because it is so important for those voices to be heard. I attended a really interesting seminar when I was in graduate school, where they were talking about when they were first building cars with airbags that were killing a lot of women and children. And that was because they were testing the airbags out on adult men. So they had no idea how these airbags would impact women and children. The key idea is that when you have women in these leadership and directorial teams, they will create other ways, other angles, to think about things, which then creates a more successful company.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What communities and resources would you recommend women leverage either while in school or working in the communication industry? What have been some of the most helpful professional resources and networks for you in your professional experience?
[Megan Fullagar] I think that number one is to keep in touch with your undergraduate and graduate program faculty and peers. Your university often has really interesting and accomplished people on the board, and faculty who have connections to people who can be instrumental in your career.
When I started my career in marketing, I worked in architecture and construction. And I worked really closely with a group called the Society for Professional Marketing Services, or SMPS. This organization was more engineering and construction focused, but to me it was a community of professionals in a specific area that intersected with where I was and where I wanted to be, and that was very helpful for me. Currently, I really love One Club for advertising—they are a group that encourages diversity and female representation in advertising, and that has been a group that I have found very empowering.
At the end of the day, I also think that women need to advocate for women. And as the younger generations become more powerful and more seasoned, we can come to the table knowing that and push other women up as a community within a company, in a way that benefits everyone. It’s important to remember that it is not all just about you—it’s also about being a mentor, helping others, championing each other.
Thank you, Ms. Fullagar, for your excellent insights and advice regarding how women can advance in the workplace!