About Emma Crnkovich: Emma Crnkovich is a Senior Analyst in Sales Enablement for Salesforce in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to her current role, she worked as a Client Project Manager at retail technology company Freeosk for over two years. Her background also includes positions as Marketing Associate at ZeroCater and Account Executive at Ketchum Public Relations, both based in San Francisco.
Ms. Crnkovich earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Santa Clara University in 2012, with a focus on Writing and Journalism. In 2017, she completed her master’s through the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) Custom Leadership program at Northwestern University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Emma Crnkovich] I attended Santa Clara University for my undergraduate degree in English. My focus was Writing and Journalism, with a minor in Communication. After graduation, I joined the Customer Operations team at a (at the time) small payments startup in Palo Alto. After working there for six months, I made the leap to Ketchum Public Relations, where I was on the Consumer Food and Nutrition team based in San Francisco.
After two and a half years of agency life, I joined a catering startup as a marketing associate in San Francisco. They hired seven of us to form the marketing team… and six months into it, laid us all off. Hindsight really is 20/20, isn’t it?
After getting laid off, my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I decided to move to Chicago. Cheaper cost of living with big-city lifestyle attracted us east. I found a role as a client service manager at a retail technology company called Freeosk. The job was a perfect blend of CPG/food, client-facing, and project management. During my second year at Freeosk, I decided to go back to school to get my master’s.
Fast forward past graduation at Northwestern University with an MSC degree, I knew I wanted to change roles at Freeosk. I learned about Sales Enablement in school, and tried to write myself a job description for it at Freeosk. My boss was onboard, but the need didn’t quite yet exist for the sales team. I began looking for roles and landed at Salesforce working in Sales Enablement, in a communications role. Truly my dream job!
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) Custom Leadership program at Northwestern University?
[Emma Crnkovich] I had long identified graduate school as a goal of mine, made most especially clear during my time at Ketchum. My Senior VP was completing her master’s through USC, and I was inspired by a more business-oriented approach to a creative role. My education was heavily liberal arts focused, so I knew that school would be a great opportunity for me to build those quantitative muscles.
I first applied to the MSC program in 2014. I was admitted, but my employer was unable to help out with tuition. This got the gears turning and settled into place as we relocated to Chicago, I applied again, got in again, and the rest is history.
Northwestern held my attention for a number of years considering its vast network, the university’s real relationships with alumni, and the program’s convenience played a huge role in my decision making. A Saturday-only program was perfect for me as I worked full-time while earning my degree.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Northwestern’s MSC Custom Leadership 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?
[Emma Crnkovich] The program was structured by quarter, students take two classes per Saturday. The program concentrated on elegant communication, collaborative leadership, and managing complexity as its core themes.
Exposure to students from all walks of professional life was most eye-opening and one of the biggest areas from which I learned. We spanned age, industry, and experience, but each learned from each other in telling our own stories about companies, explaining our points of view, and grounding our conversations in data.
Our professors were experts in their fields. Whether they were working on communications plans for international space travel, developing theories and validating experiments regarding leveraging your network of connections, or award-winning authors, the entire staff was chock full of experts who were looking for students to apply our real life examples as fodder for class discussion.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Emma Crnkovich] The MSC program offers a couple of different routes for the Capstone project. I chose to create my own adventure and focus on my employer at the time, Freeosk. My thesis sought to solve a hiring issue for Freeosk as it pertained to top talent. The communication needs revolved around a solid recruiting strategy, a plan for exec communications, and finally, distribution.
My faculty advisor was hugely helpful in helping me bring the project over the finish line. He helped me articulate the problem I was trying to solve, empowered me to constructively challenge our leadership team, and finally present a compelling case that sought to set Freeosk up with a successful recruiting strategy.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Northwestern’s MSC program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Emma Crnkovich] Most notably, I learned about Sales Enablement as an industry and how it perfectly summarizes the role I’ve long wanted to play at an organization. My organizational communications course exposed me to this entire world that existed, that fits my skill set almost perfectly.
In addition to finding a new career path, the network of professionals I became connected to, and friends with, are irreplaceable forces in my life from a professional and personal standpoint. Most importantly, I found friends and mentors who continue to influence my career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication Custom Leadership program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Northwestern or another university?
[Emma Crnkovich] Take the time to understand where other people are coming from. Do your research, network, and lean into the hard work in front of you. There may be days that are daunting, as working while going to school always is, but the more you put into the program, most assuredly, the more you will get out of it.
Specifically for prospective Northwestern attendees, take advantage of the network. The MSC program encourages cross-collaboration and exposure to new areas/viewpoints. Take advantage of the diversity in thought, perspective, and personality the program has to offer.
Thank you, Ms. Crnkovich, for your excellent insights on Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication Custom Leadership program!