Class of 2007
- Bachelor of Arts in English, Penn State Altoona (2007)
- Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, University of Arizona (2009)
- Executive Master of Business Administration, University of San Francisco (2020)
What do you currently do professionally?
I lead growth marketing for Cisco Networking Academy, a skills-to-job program that has helped prepare 17.5 million people in 190 countries for in-demand technology jobs. I am also an adjunct professor of digital marketing in the Master of Arts degree program in Professional Communication at the University of San Francisco.
How has majoring in English helped you on your career pathway(s)?
Majoring in English allowed me to pursue various opportunities that ultimately wove together the unique skillset I leverage in my current role at Cisco. The range of experiences—from teaching an online poetry class with over 8,000 students to working as an investigative journalist—have equipped me to approach marketing and business challenges from different perspectives, which I've found is often helpful for finding solutions.
This diverse array of experiences also propped open new doors to passions that would have never been on my radar. For example, working in various domains, sectors, and countries has allowed me to give and receive feedback in many different environments. Today, my passion for the art and science of feedback is a topic I talk and write about frequently (including here at Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2022/06/the-right-way-to-process-feedback).
What knowledge and skills help you succeed in your job on a daily basis (and, possibly, in unanticipated ways)?
English classes at Penn State Altoona sharpened my critical thinking and collaboration skills, which are vital for the business world. As an English student, I was always fascinated by how a group could read the same passage and come to different valid takeaways. Then, through discussion, you would get a fuller picture than you could have achieved alone. The topics are different, but this underlying practice of collaboration is a daily occurrence for me at Cisco—and I built these foundational skills at Penn State Altoona.
In what (unanticipated) ways has the English major impacted your life beyond your profession?
Being an English major gave me a glimpse into the sheer complexity of the human condition. This has helped me be a better partner, son, brother, friend, and teammate.
What is your favorite experience from your time in the English program?
Returning, many years after graduation, to teach a class and be the spring 2015 commencement speaker. After years abroad, the campus provided a sense of home I still think about. I don't know where I'd be personally or professionally without my time in Penn State Altoona's English program. The faculty allowed me to blossom in ways I am still experiencing nearly 20 years since I first set foot on campus.
What advice do you have for current English majors or students considering entry into the field in which you’re currently working?
For current English majors: connect with your faculty outside of class and attend all the speaker series events you can.
For those interested in digital marketing: get in touch! I'm happy to help however I can. https://cameronconaway.com