About Javier Garcia: Javier Garcia is an Entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor with extensive experience in communications, advertising, and brand building. He currently teaches at both The City College of New York (CCNY) and Manhattan College, and previously served as an Assistant Professor at the New York Institute of Technology for over three years. In addition to his work in higher education, Mr. Garcia is the Founder and CEO of Suyo Group, Inc. – less formally known as “Suyo” – an impact-driven activewear brand that produces clothing made of recycled fabrics and seeks to make an active lifestyle accessible to all.
Mr. Garcia attended The City College of New York for both his undergrad and graduate studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2009, majoring in Media and Communication Arts with a focus on Advertising and Public Relations. In 2015, he competed his master’s through CCNY’s Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC) program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Javier Garcia] I first attended The City College of New York and completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, in 2009. As soon as I graduated, I was fortunate enough to be hired for an entry-level Account Management role at the award-winning advertising agency Young & Rubicam (Y&R), where I worked on projects and huge advertising campaigns for massive brands such as Colgate, LG and Dell.
But before I even entered my career, I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree and someday dabble in teaching. I discovered that the Master’s in Branding & Integrated Communications – aka the BIC program – would be launching at CCNY several years into my career, and later learned that it would offer a terminal degree. As soon as enrollments opened for the program, I immediately jumped at the chance to apply. I was excited at the prospect of returning to my alma mater with a fresh perspective, armed with a new set of skills and a fresh set of goals in mind.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC) program at The City College of New York?
[Javier Garcia] Jumping straight into “agency life” and working immediately after completing my bachelor’s degree introduced me into a world of new skills and knowledge, and gave me a load of insights into how some of the world’s most successful businesses operate. I also realized that any role I might find myself in will likely only teach me what I needed to know to do that one job. Moving forward, it was up to me to continue to seek out opportunities to continue my education.
While working at Y&R, I was open about my intention to continue my education and was fortunate enough to be awarded a professional development scholarship that afforded me the opportunity to compete in (and win) the 4A’s Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS) competition in 2011. While this competition cemented my talents in areas such as research, strategy development, creative development and presentation skills, I knew this was merely a warmup before I took the leap back to school.
Entering the BIC program was the next piece of the puzzle in my path of professional development. I was at a high point during my time at Y&R, working tirelessly on a high-profile campaign for Dell while juggling a full-time course load at the BIC program. It was an exciting, yet incredibly challenging time in my career that had once again reminded me what it felt like to be hungry, demanding the best from myself in everything I set my heart out to do. That “working full-time while in grad school” struggle is something most of my peers endured while in the program, so we were able to identify with and support one another in staying sane along the way.
While in the BIC program, I was able to expand upon my swiss army knife-like skillset as an Account Executive, having worked extensively on creative development and production, and gain new skills working in team leadership, strategy development, PR, media, brand strategy. Thanks to the diversity of skills I built in the program, it prepared me for the mix of roles I’ve had since grad school including serving as an adjunct lecturer, consulting for clients, and starting my own business.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is the BIC program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Javier Garcia] The BIC program is a two-year experience where students apply into one in three distinct “tracks” (specializations): Management & Planning, Creative, or Public Relations.
The beauty of the program was that despite students choosing a track to follow during their time in the program, they could still take elective courses and opt-in to other experiences – such as competitions and hackathons – which would allow them to expand their knowledge and talents beyond their track of choice. The program encourages students to explore other disciplines, resulting in more well-rounded and more versatile professionals emerging from the program. In my case, I opted to pursue the Management & Planning track, sticking with my craft while dabbling in courses on PR and media strategy. I even returned to the program to audit a Digital Integration & Analytics course a year after graduating from the program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your final portfolio? What projects did you decide to include and why? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their portfolio?
[Javier Garcia] Building a portfolio for my BIC work was a major turning point in my career, as it made me reflect on my journey to date and made me consider how to best position myself as a professional. After much reflection, and even more wordsmithing, I realized that I am a multi-talented change-agent with a passion for building people and brands, guiding each of them to their fullest potential.
I had a modest amount of web development experience before building my portfolio, so the process wasn’t entirely daunting, but I did use an existing web hosting platform (Cargo Collective) to simplify the process a bit for me and offer a hint of functionality such as mobile responsiveness.
My portfolio focused on the areas of Brand Transformation, Brand Ambassadorship, and Cause Communications in a “Greatest Hits” collection of both my agency work and my BIC work. I opted for a simple site layout, minimal text and large imagery to let the work be the star. Having to defend my work was somewhat nerve wracking given the combined pressure of it being an encapsulation of my career to date. It was also my first major experience in “selling” myself and my credentials as a professional. Fortunately, the experience of doing so at BIC has made it significantly easier to speak to and champion myself in the workplace, as that was the final “lesson” I had to learn before graduating.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from CCNY’s MPS in Branding + Integrated Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Javier Garcia] My experiences at BIC changed me as both a professional and as a person. The Strategic Media course I took was invaluable as it helped me learn how to analyze an audience’s behaviors, build a strategy to best reach them, and do so in a cost-effective manner. The two capstone courses also afforded me the opportunity to pitch to huge clients from both a budding non-profit and a massive global brand. My team of six built a brand identity from the ground up and pitched an integrated communications campaign to promote a network of Columbia University-educated children’s doctors, broadcasting their name and their decades of excellence out across the world.
After enduring the incredible effort of producing that first pitch, we took our learnings and produced an incredible Business-to-Business campaign to promote media sales across the sprawling range of platforms offered by Univision, the largest media conglomerate dedicated to the Hispanic American audience in the Americas. Our pitches to both clients included ideas to leverage every form of media and technology at our disposal, ranging from the traditional with print, all the way to unique installations in New York’s Times Square and native advertising content pieces.
My combined experiences at BIC offered me the unique opportunity to learn from some of the best educators in the business in more ways than one. As I was studying for my exams and projects, I realized I should also be studying the ways in which my own professors run their classrooms so that I would be prepared once I finally had the chance to teach. The incredible faculty and staff at City College’s BIC program have continued to serve as my mentors and role models for both my career in higher education and as a builder of people (including my students and professional peers) and brands. My investment on attending BIC continues to pay off in dividends to this day, and I have no doubt it will continue to pay off for years to come.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the BIC program at The City College of New York? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at CCNY or another university?
[Javier Garcia] The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone starting the BIC would be to bring your best self and put as much of yourself into the program as you hope to get out of it. Do some soul searching, know what it is that you want to get out of your time in the program, and be open and vocal about your intentions with your professors and peers. BIC will present countless opportunities for you to challenge yourself and grow in the classroom, and it will drive you to get involved in events and competitions in the creative industry. But only you can set the vision and trajectory that you want your career to take both during your time in the program and beyond. Whether you decide to pursue the BIC program, or any other master’s in communication, you’ll gain so many valuable new skills that knowing where to invest this currency will be the hard part. Figure that out before lining up 2+ years of work for yourself.
If you DO decide to attend BIC, you’ll have the added perk of being in the heart of New York City (or somewhere close to the neck, given that we’re situated in uptown Manhattan) so take full advantage of it – immerse yourself in the culture, the music, the food and the sights like only New York can offer. Hunt for internships, participate in industry events, and make the most of your student discount while you can. 🙂
Thank you, Mr. Garcia, for your excellent insights on The City College of New York’s Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications program!