Be a Sponge: SPARKsouth 2017
Last Friday, I attended my second annual SPARKsouth Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This digital marketing conference allows college students and business professionals from all over Georgia and the southeast to meet for one epic day of networking, skill development sessions, and keynotes from marketing insiders. As a Digital Marketing student in the Terry College of Business at UGA, attendance to SPARKsouth is required at least once. Since I went last year, I technically didn't have to go again - but I learned that in addition to being an excellent teacher, my digital marketing professor is also a very talented persuader. Her "anyone who's anyone will be there" sentiment was enough to pressure me into attending the conference a second time, and I am so glad I did.
This year, the conference was held at the brand new SunTrust Park. Like many other mid- and downtown Atlanta natives, I was initially turned off by the relocation of the Atlanta Braves. ("Cobb Braves," anyone?) This fear of the unknown (Cobb county) combined with my general disinterest in baseball (#fakefan) meant I was a stranger to SunTrust Park until I attended SPARKsouth 2017. My opinion quickly changed when I realized it was a minute outside the perimeter and was, quite frankly, huge and beautiful and amazing.
The conference is split into four main tracks: agency, brand, entrepreneurship/platform, and career development. Students have the opportunity to hear from multiple speakers in a wide variety of industries, which is invaluable for students who don't know which path to take after graduation. There is also a mentor lunch, where students and mentors are matched up for the chance to have a more personal conversation about marketing, career guidance, and whatever else is on their mind. I chose to attend the agency, brand, and career development tracks. During the sessions, the speakers gave all the classic advice: send prompt thank you notes, do your research, don't show up for the interview an hour early. I also learned a few new insights: you shouldn't just ask "softball" questions at the end of interviews, using bold text in emails isn't actually too aggressive, and CNN's Marcos Acosta adorably refers to Anderson Cooper as "AC."
In each session I attended, I heard the same specific piece of advice: be a sponge. The notion is nothing new, but hearing speakers of all experience levels and backgrounds use the same choice of words cemented the phrase in my mind. Every time someone said "be a sponge," it took on new meaning for me. To be the best student/employee/person with a brain you can be, you have to be willing to learn. You have to soak up knowledge from your peers, managers, and professors. You need to be resourceful and seek out information and opportunities that will help you grow. Attend meetings and take on projects in other departments to broaden your understanding of their roles. Be excited for the skills you'll gain, not discouraged by what you don't know yet. Wear square pants.
SPARKsouth is more than just a digital marketing conference, it's a beacon of light for soon-to-be graduates like me who will soon navigate some pretty uncharted territory. Many thanks to the organizers, speakers, and professors who work tirelessly to make these events happen. I also want to give special thanks to the event photographer who captured the back of my head on a particularly good hair day.