About Michal Varga: Michal Varga is the Manager of Creative Services at Hearing Care Solutions (HCS), a small hearing healthcare company based in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He started with HCS in 2017 as Lead Creative Specialist, and now handles a wide range of marketing duties, including managing company websites, producing content for digital platforms, writing copy, and graphic design. Prior to this, Mr. Varga worked as a Social Media Senior Specialist at TeleTech in Denver. He has also held a number of marketing and graphic design internships both in Colorado and Eastern Slovakia, where he grew up.
Mr. Varga holds a Bachelor of Arts in Film and New Media from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He completed his master’s in 2016, graduating from the Media and Public Communication master’s program at the University of Denver with a concentration in Strategic Communication.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Michal Varga] I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and New Media from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and my master’s degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Denver.
I started my communication career as an intern for a small advertising agency in Eastern Slovakia when I was 19, taking over the local mall account. I got to utilize the entirety of my rather rudimentary skillset, from video production, through copy writing, to graphic design. It was then that I realized I would like this internship to be a sort of a blueprint for what I’d like my career to look like, thus focusing on further developing my skillset, trying to become a sort of a universalist within the field of communication.
This has followed me throughout my career, as I usually found myself working for either smaller companies or within tight communication departments, which has allowed me to touch various aspects of the communications effort of each organization I have worked for. I have been a graphic designer and a videographer for a small bike company, I worked on competitive research for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and I spent a year in event planning with Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD).
I am currently a one-man marketing department at Hearing Care Solutions, a small hearing healthcare company. I get to write a decent amount of copy, I am responsible for a number of company websites and a wealth of graphic design tasks. I enjoy the variety that comes with this job and absolutely love it.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program at the University of Denver (DU)?
[Michal Varga] The decision to pursue a master’s degree was based on my desire to further expand my skillset in a formal way, while gaining what I perceived to be a distinctive advantage in the job market. Based on my experience, a master’s degree sets a candidate apart from a sea of applicants with bachelor’s degrees. I perceived my undergraduate degree in Film and New Media to be a little obscure, in comparison to more mainstream communication and marketing degrees, and wanted to get one that would solidify the direction within my communication career path.
I hoped to create a quality portfolio of work, while networking with other professionals within the industry. I had looked at a number of programs, but DU’s program was the one that very clearly advertised its nature as one that successfully connects theories with their practical application.
It was my on-campus visit where I got to sit in on the Global and Multicultural Campaigns class that sold me on this program. The professor teaching the class spent a good amount of time walking through various theoretical concepts relevant to the specific area of campaign writing covered in class that day, while actively involving students and encouraging them to utilize those concepts in the campaigns that they were working on.
The location of DU also played a part in my decision, as I was looking for a move to a larger city after four years in Colorado Springs. Denver is a booming city with a great cultural landscape, thriving restaurant scene, reliable public transit system, and a wealth of career opportunities. DU has an on-campus light rail stop, and is close to Denver’s downtown and other attractive neighborhoods, thus being fully integrated into the city.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is DU’s 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?
[Michal Varga] The program’s emphasis on combining theoretical and practical skills is obvious from the very first class. The Strategic Communication concentration is structured in a way that classes build upon each other, constantly expanding the theoretical background needed for successful practical implementation of a comprehensive communication strategy.
Every quarter, at least within the first year, included a class in which I worked with various non-profits to produce campaign plans, press releases, media advisories, and other deliverables. This allowed me to practice and significantly expand my writing and strategic thinking skills, while I was provided a theoretical framework in classes that enabled me to understand the reasoning behind decisions made in the more practical classes.
I really appreciated the emphasis placed on basic campaign writing skills. From Global and Multicultural Campaigns, through Strategic Messaging, to the Strategic Communication Seminar, the professors focused on teaching us the differences between strategies and tactics, objectives and goals. They provided us with the analytical skills needed to successfully identify the communication needs of the entities we were working with, and they shared their real life experience in helping us to propose realistic budgets and timelines. I never understood what a comprehensive, well-prepared campaign plan looked like, or how to prepare one, before I started the program at DU.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your internship? What kind of role did you take on, and with what organization? What were some of the key learning outcomes? Did you have to complete a paper or other project-based deliverable as part of your internship experience?
[Michal Varga] I had an internship with the local transportation agency – Regional Transportation District (RTD), working as a Special Events Intern for 12 months. I was part of a small events team that was in charge of preparing a number of new project openings that were part of a voter approved $6.1 billion public transit expansion in the Denver Metro area.
It was an amazing experience, as my events organization background was rather limited prior to this internship. Thanks to the size of the team, I was able to get myself involved in a lot of the various aspects of event planning. While some of my previous internships did essentially end up as a company ploy to get an unpaid (or underpaid) employee, the time at RTD was very educational. My supervisor made sure that I understood the importance of every task I completed and took the time to explain how I could improve my performance, while teaching me handy tips and tricks of event planning.
I really appreciate the high-pressure environment I experienced at RTD. I don’t think anything will come close to the stress levels I experienced during the opening of the University of Colorado A Line. We worked more than 14 hours a day during the three-day opening, dealt with the public, governmental stakeholders, and a wide range of other audiences. Keeping my composure and knowing the answer to every question, while executing every task perfectly, really prepared me for the common stress inducing situations I may face nowadays.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from DU’s Media and Public Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Michal Varga] The focus on the development of strategic thinking has been instrumental in my growth as a communication professional. Whenever I intend to propose any communication strategy, I remember the framework taught in class, that allows me to look at every idea critically and make sure that it makes sense in the overall communication strategy. I have learnt to make very deliberate decisions, and to back them up with solid reasoning. This sort of thinking has been vastly appreciated by my supervisors in every position I have held since graduation.
The refined writing skills have also come in handy. Having to produce a significant amount of copy on relatively tight timelines prepared me for similar situations in the work place, and gave me the confidence to produce high quality content. The amount of research required for academic literature reviews in classes such as Media Theories, or for my final project in the Mass Media Law class, prepared me for the research I need to do in a professional role within an industry I don’t have any background in. I write confidently about hearing healthcare issues nowadays, partially thanks to the research skills I gained during my time at DU.
I also appreciate the legal background the Mass Media Law class provided me with, as I used to be rather careless when it came to copyright issues, which could have potentially resulted in getting myself into trouble. The class made me aware that some common practices I have witnessed over the years were not necessarily fully legal, mainly in regards to copyright of images used online, which resulted in me being a happy customer of numerous photobanks.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the University of Denver’s MA in Media and Public Communication 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 DU or another university?
[Michal Varga] Make sure you immerse yourself in the experience and actually enjoy it. I think that by the time one starts a master’s program, they may be quite anxious to get into the “real world,” or, if coming after some time spent in the professional environment, they see the degree as a means to an end. While both attitudes are understandable, I really think that simply immersing oneself into the experience, reading up for every assignment, and taking time to come up with some great writing is extremely rewarding. I fell into the first category and I definitely wish I just let myself enjoy the little time in academia I had as much as I could.
Also, do not be afraid to network. While I am not a big fan of networking, it’s much easier to find something in common with people you share the school workload with. Chances are you are going to be applying for very similar jobs, which will allow you to exchange information about the interview process and will make you better prepared.
Ultimately, make sure to grow your skillset as widely as possible. While being a great strategic thinker and a proficient writer are highly appreciated skills, the marketplace expects much more. Make sure you have a basic understanding of the Adobe Creative Cloud, take some online classes and complete a few tutorials. Read up on SEO, and if you have the time to get certified, absolutely do so. Being able to produce all around quality content is not optional nowadays, it is a requirement, and if you’re able to be a one-person marketing department, you’ll do very well.
Thank you, Mr. Varga, for your excellent insights on the University of Denver’s MA in Media and Public Communication program!