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Born to Be a Marketer

It’s not often that children take time to examine advertising and marketing messages—but that’s exactly what Rebecca Selby ’18 did as a young girl. “I cut out magazine ads to look closer at the images and words they used,” she explains. “I’d turn magazine pages to the side to see if I could tell which company the ad represented without looking at the logo. That was my idea of a good time.”

Born in rural Minnesota, Selby always knew she wanted to major in marketing or advertising—she studied German and dreamed of producing print ads for Daimler-Benz. And she always knew she would someday earn a master’s degree.

Although her vision of marketing German cars never came to fruition, she graduated with a BA in Journalism from the University of St. Thomas and landed a job at a Minneapolis ad agency. “I wanted to be established in my field before getting a master’s degree,” she says.

After the agency, she opened a marketing consulting business, which thrived for 10 years. “I consider that my practical MBA,” she explains. “I worked with lawyers and accountants to keep the business side of the operation on track. I hired contractors, negotiated office leases—all of it. Through that process, I realized my heart wasn’t in administration—I needed to eliminate the noise of owning a business and focus solely on strategic marketing and driving revenue growth for brands. It was time for a degree and a career move.”

So she did both. She took a marketing leadership role with a global technology company, leading brand messaging and corporate identity development. It required extensive international travel, which made it difficult to earn a master’s degree like she planned.

“I’d always been drawn to Northwestern because of the caliber of their graduates,” she says. “I watched it grow in reputation and I admired the renowned professors who taught there. But there was no way I could commit to sitting in a classroom three days each week. When I started looking at programs, online programs were not of interest. They felt too removed.”

As she considered her options, she discovered Northwestern’s Master of Science in Communication and its Hybrid Leadership Program. Realizing that it combined on-campus residencies with online sessions, she crossed her fingers that she could make it work.

“I was hesitant to even ask,” she admits. “Other programs had billed themselves as options for traveling executives, but offered zero collaboration tools for students to join sessions from outside the classroom. I checked twice because it seemed too good to be true.” Because the Master of Science in Communication program schedule is established in advance, Selby was able to plan her business trips around her course calendar so she could be on campus every time she needed to be.

This gave her the best of both words: the opportunity to continue with her international travel while also spending time in a classroom setting. “I made professional connections,” she explains. “These are people I rely on to fill things like open positions and board of director roles. If I need contacts in any industry, I have a network I can turn to. And I cherish the personal relationships I developed—dear friends from across the country who still get together regularly.”

This February, she took on a new role as vice president of marketing for Arctic Wolf Networks, an extremely fast-growing SOC-as-a-Service company.

“In the cybersecurity space, you have to be nimble yet supremely strategic to differentiate your offering and keep pace with evolving threats,” she says. “I work with extremely bright people. With this degree, I’m better equipped to articulate and visualize data for the technical minds in the company and for our partners and customers.”

After earning her Master of Science in Communication, Selby says she’s also noticed that hiring managers are increasingly seeking her out. “There’s a constant flow of people knocking on your door because of the knowledge and experience you bring to the table—thanks to your Northwestern degree.”