How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Wed Sep 19 2018
When I think about my story, my education and what got me to my career today: I'm a digital marketing professional at Progrexion with about 3 thousand employees. It's not something that I ever planned to become actually! When I was going to school, I was going to get a finance degree. So I went to various schools across Utah, I went to BYU, University of Utah, Salt Lake Community College. I was a just little bit more explorative about what I was looking for so I went to see what the finance industry had for me! After taking a couple of accounting classes, I realized that was not something I wanted to pursue for my full time career. I started exploring a little bit more _ school at a part-time job at a company called '1-800 Contacts', it's a company down in Draper, Utah. I started there in a call centre, but a position actually opened up in marketing and I took a risk, and spending an entire night studying and reading an entire book about Excel, how to use Excel because I was tipped off that Excel was a critical part of the marketing job! I guess I was able to do a good Seller's job with them and I got a job in marketing while working out here on (1-800) Contacts. And while here on Contacts, I became passionate about digital marketing! They certainly put a lot of trust in me, they wanted me to continue to grow my experiences with them and to grow my responsibilities with them. So when I started there as I mentioned on the phone (call centre), when I left I was actually over the entire digital marketing program which is a pretty cool opportunity! So I definitely count it to a little bit of grit and determination to figure things out but also a little bit of luck that allowed me to find that position. 

What are the responsibilities and decisions that you handle at work? What are your working hours like?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
I'll start with responsibilities and decisions part of the question. I'd say ultimately my responsibility is clearly defined as: I get a certain amount of budget that I have to work with and with that budget I have to deliver a certain amount of ROI (return on investment) for that budget. So ultimately I'm responsible to figure out a plan and what resources and other things that I need to accomplish that plan. The company gives me a lot of lattitude to accomplish that plan. So I really get a lot of freedom to determine who I hire, what my team looks like, how I engage with existing resources on the team and ultimately achieve that goal. There's a lot of data responsibilties that go into that. But usually what we do is we come up with a quarterly plan. We'll say, 'okay for this quarter we've been given this much budget, we believe that we can deliver this much ROI (return on investment) on that budget.' Once we come to that conclusion, then we come up with the makeup of what the plan is to get us there and how're we actually gonna achieve hitting that delivery with the budget we've been alloted. It's just a matter of executing the plan: making sure we have all the resources and we're hitting all the initiatives that we've agreed to hit. That becomes a daily, weekly, monthly exercise in making sure that we achieve those things.  Working hours: I work in an environment pretty flexible. Most weeks I'm probably working 40- 45 hours in the office but then I'm probably putting 5- 10 hours into work outside of the office, that'll probably add to 50- 55 hours workload. That's certainly as not consistent. Some weeks I work 40 hours and that's it, some weeks it goes upto 45-50. It really is depending on how we're tracking on the plans that we've set up. We're very much a plan-based organization. It's to the point where we actually print our plans in a magazine type publication that we hand out to all the team members to make sure they are all very clear about what we've agreed to do. And it is very easy to find when our plan is published, definitely doesn't need to be a secret! 

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) do you use at work? Do you prefer certain tools more than the others? Why?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
Certainly the standard answer that I use a lot of is Microsoft products; definitely using a lot of Word, all communication via email so Outlook, I use the Macs so equivalent to those, I definitely use a lot of Excel! Even though I'm in kind of the Vice President type role, you think maybe he just manages and works with people but actually its been very important for me to build and know how to use Excel daily, multiple- multiple times a day for just some surface level analytics. Often times the business would communicate the needs that we have for recording with like the finance team for example, they all send Excel spreadsheets. Its very important that I know how to interpret those and read those, open those! And even to make small adjustments to those to make sure I'm getting the information that they're trying to communicate to me. There is a lot of work in-depth: maybe next level type programs that we use as well, the tools. We actually work a lot with Adobe, so Adobe is a tool that we use quite extensively in a couple of different ways! We use it for analytics tool, so when people come to our websites we use an Adobe product like Adobe Analytics to determine what people are doing on the website, to determine how many business we're getting to any website, to any brand and just to figure out how long people are spending on the website, pages and things like that. So we spend a lot of time with the Adobe Analytics. We also use Adobe AMO; what that tool's for is actually making our media buys. We're buying media on Google or Bing, Yahoo... those properties. We're using Adobe product to actually manage that spend. And that allows us to leverage some kind of machine learning type applications to make sure we're spending that money most efficiently. I'd say the other big tool that we use from Adobe is AEM. What that does is that tool allows us to manage our websites: the actual content, the layout, things like that without having to have a lot of deep technical skills like coding! So we definitely work with the development team that helps get the tools setup and gets all the pages setup to be able to function with AEM. Then is the business team literally with no coding experience, that can actually setup pages and modify pages, and make sure that we have all the technical things we need to manage our jobs! Beyond that we work with an Analytics team, like the Data Science team. I don't personally but they employ a lot of Python and languages like that to provide us very detailed analytics and insights that we then go and use on our media- buying side of things.  The tools that I prefer the most: that's a good question! I would say tools that help me communicate more effectively are probably I'd make my most prefered tools. We use a lot of tools (things I haven't even mentioned) like slack, email, video chats, anything from like Uber Meetings and so on! A very critical piece of our being successful as a team is we have team members in San Francisco, we have team members in India, we have team members here in Salt Lake City and many other States. And if you're not able to communicate effectively then you can find yourself in a disastrous situation pretty quickly! So we definitely prefer to use whatever tool there is that we need to communicate most effectively whether that's in person or on video, like face-to-face over video chat tools or just having to pick up a phone call.

What things do you like about your job? Were there any pleasant surprises?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Wed Sep 19 2018
(Great question! I like talking about pleasant surprises!) There's a lot of things I like about my job. I really like being in a position where I can be independent and trusted. I like being able to get a budget, being given a goal and they giving the freedom to figure what's between point A and point B; like here's what you're given, here's your goal, you go figure out the rest! I think that's what I like the most, is being able to... at this point I have the experience and trust that I need to be able to do my job independently. I think its not tied in our education; I think making sure that you prepared yourself, you being in a position of trust is a very critical thing to do and I think that ultimately gives you a lot more freedom to actually hit a professional career and get into that role. About any pleasant surprises: I think there's a lot of little teeny surprises I guess every single day. You do your best, prepare for any given situation... you can read blogs, you can talk to peers, you can go to school, you can lots of different things which are very important, the definitely important things to do! But at the end of the day when reality hits and you actually got to accomplish yourself a problem, you've got to learn how to make decisions with the best aid that you have. Sometimes with your gut and take some risks in there. So I think the pleasant surprises is that 'nothing is predictable and nothing is cookie-cutter'! There's surprises every single day and you actually find that those surprises are pretty positive in themselves!

What strategies or approaches have you found to be effective in working with coworkers, customers, suppliers, investors, or other stakeholders?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
(I think I may give a very typical answer to that!) But my response to that would actually be, I really invest a lot of time, previously and even on-going as far as communication skills! I'm a BIG advocate of communication and investing time and practice into communication. So actually I've even worked and continue to work with business coaches and people like that. Or just talking with peers about the best ways to communicate effectively. One of my favourite things to do as far as communication is concerned (it's gonna sound simple probably but it's actually technical, the kinda key into this!) is: It can be very easy to slip into the pattern when you're talking with somebody or trying to get a work done and get something accomplished, to think about only your needs, the needs that you have as a person to accomplish... one of the best things that I've been able to apply and learn from my business coach actually, is to start by thinking about what the other person is going to need or how they're going to respond to my request. And I've found that if you start thinking about how the other person is going to respond before you worry about your own needs, the conversation usually goes much smoother because you're not so focused on yourself. You can make it kind of a cliche, win-win type experience. If you can actually think about how can I win on this, how can this person win with this then things get done in a much more effective way! And thats with all relationships... your coworkers, suppliers, investors, partners, thats something I would say transcends all types of relationships. 

What major challenges do you face in your job? Can you discuss a few accomplishments, and challenges that you overcame and felt proud of?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
The major challenges that we face right now is: I'm fortunate to work with a company that's very progressive from an analytics perspective. If you were to come to me 2 years ago, we weren't doing things very effectively, we worked pretty traditionally I would say, meaning we were using cool tools to bid for example with Google, to buy media. However we weren't employing analytics very effectively or very deeply. In the last 18 months we made a conscious focus to be able to hire Data Science team to be able to bring that skillset into the organization. I would say that's a huge bonus, a huge competitive advantage for the company. But I would also say its a major challenge as well! Trying to change the existing workforce like my team, to be able to utilize deep analytics and modelling, some of the deeper stuff is definitely a change that we've had to undergo. Everyday we're hard challenged with how to use that traditional approach of buying media when it meets data and deep modelling and deep insights. That continues to be certainly a challenge but we believe in it! We believe that if we could accomplish it, we will accomplish it, then it would be a huge competitive advantage for us. Accomplishments: We have a particular approach that we take as a team where we use what's called the 'Influencer Marketing' to grow awareness for our brand. For us what that means is we go and setup partnerships with people that have huge audiences of engaged people. So for example we might go to a person that has a huge audience where they're telling them about financial tricks/ tips, we pay that person a couple of thousand dollars to work with us. We'll work with them to educate and help them understand what we do, why people should know about our services and that person will share in their own words, their message after they've known from us about Progrexion and about what we do. And in turn that gets us infront of thousands and thousands of people who would've not heard or otherwise known about us. One of the challenges that we have there is we don't know how to measure it very well. Because it's not one of those situations where we giving them a phone number to put in place, we want it to be very authentic and educational. We don't want it to be a billboard or a sales-e. And so the difficulty is measuring how that money on the advisor, whether it's an effective approach or not. So one thing we did is we actually started working with our data science team to come up with a correlation model that would help us figure out kind of a graph on spend and the investment in those channels, the inputs on a channel with results that we get as a company as far as revenue and sales are concerned. And we looked at many, dozens and dozens of different data points and ultimately we came to a data point that actually did correlate. We were able to say 'hey! There's something here! If we focus on this specific metric, it actually seems correlated to revenue and if we go focus on that even more so the ROI of our company should increase!' That was a huge win for us as a team! Definitely took a lot of trial and error, definitely applied v_ perks that I mentioned but now we have data scientists within the organization. It's allowing us to do the things we would not have been able to do had we not had that data science team at the place and had we not worked with the modelling and different approaches we were not used to using in the past. 

What was the hiring process like for your job? What were the roles of people who interviewed you? What questions were asked and how did you answer them?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Wed Sep 19 2018
I'm a huge advocate of networking and peers! So I got every job that I've ever had, I think I've gotten because I'd actually know somebody that either gives me some insights or even stronger connections to people that're actually hiring for the positions. That's certainly not typical for everyone. You can go get a job without having a connection but for me personally, that's how I've been able to progress in my career. So for me, the hiring process for me was really finding people that I knew and getting insights that gave me an upper edge in getting that position. When I mentioned I had contacts, I actually knew the person that was working in Marketing and I went tohim and said, 'hey I really want this job. I actually have no experience whatsoever. What do I need to know if I wanna try to land this job?' And they said, 'hey if you know Excel in-and-out then you got a really good chance of getting the job! No promises, but go figure out Excel.' This is back in 2004 so it's a little bit earlier on this stuff. So then I went home that night and went through entire Excel Bible book, its called the 'Excel Bible' actually! Honestly I think that insight is what got me the job. It gave me the insights that I needed to go prepare and to nail the interview. It was a lot of hard work but it actually pulled off! The other question was what were the roles of people who interviewed you: I've always interviewed with the people that were the direct hiring manager of the role. For example like for me in my VP position, that was the CMO. When you get to the higher level positions, my experience is that you'll also be interviewed usually by CMO levels. Initially you might interviews with maybe just your Exec Manager, maybe a couple peers of that Manager. Usually in the higher level roles I think that become C- levels and maybe some peers of the C- levels. What questions were asked and how did I answer them: A lot of the questions that I get, a lot of the questions that I equally ask people when I'm trying to hire good employees are 'difficult to answer' type questions! I really want people to equip some depth into their answers, I don't want it to be a yes-no type questions. I don't want it to be questions you've probably practised before you came for the interview. I want it to be questions that are gonna surprise the person and probably require them to give me an authentic unrehearsed answer. So I think, really thinking through the approach on the theory of how you think about things is almost more important then rehearsing specific questions because I found that a lot of companies are trying to get off the beat questions, that are typical questions. I try to ask questions that're spark off that take answers that are not rehearsed. 

What qualities does your team look for while hiring? How does your team interview candidates?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
The biggest thing for us is culture! So we certainly try to hire intelligent people. Sometimes we're not really worried about whether they have the exact skill set that we know that we need. If they're an intelligent person that we believe can learn quickly, that actually exceeds the skills set sometimes. But more important than that or equal to that I should say is are they gonna be a good fit in the culture of the team! We've made some big mistakes previously where we've hired some that were not a good culture fit. It can do far more damage to the entire team than how do we really make sure that the person's going to be a good fit for the team. They can be the smartest person in the world, they can have the exact skills that you need but if they don't know how to drive with the team, how to work with the team well it can be actually be a net detractor for the organization. 

What are some future career path(s) for you? What skills, certificates, or experiences do you plan on acquiring?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
I think in this new world of data and deeper data analytics and machine learning, AI the types of skills specific to the experience that I want to acquire... when I was in school 14- 15 years ago, those things were not hot. Not to the degree they're today, definitely not the way they're applied today. So those are the types of things I wanna go back and get certificates and experience in. What is the cutting edge approach of data science? How should I think about data science! How is data science impacting the world today and in the future! I might say the same thing about machine learning and AI. I know those are pretty... those are terms that frequently come up today. But I'm actually seeing them really impact the way we do things in my job, in the finance industry and so for me they are very important for me to stay on top of. 

What are various starting positions and salaries in your domain? What are typical career paths after these starting positions?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Wed Sep 19 2018
I would say as far as starting positions and salaries, a lot of people come in to the digital marketing or marketing at Coordinator level positions. So usually you're typically going do a lot of monotonous work, just being transparent! But that allows you to really get a lot of experience very quickly on kind of the nuts and bolts of how digital campaigns work and how to fix together and get you that real life experience. I think everyone varies a little bit. Its really upto you how quickly you progress from there I think. I mean if you're really invested and really dig in and apply yourself in a pretty good way to try to understand how everything works, then you can progress into Specialist type roles, Manager roles, Associate Director roles, Director roles and so on. And I think there's an element of how you put in your time to figure those things out. But I think you can actually expedite that depending on how much you are ready to invest yourself in learning how things work. The other key to that I would say is (specially in our organization I would say is) you give yourself the opportunity to learn all the areas of the business is a pretty solid way to build the expedite or quicken your ability to progress within the organization. What I mean by that is... sometimes we have people that come into the marketing team and they just stay within the marketing team and they really don't go outside of their _, that's okay I mean that's the job they were hired to do. But I've seen much more success when people come into the marketing team but then also spend time with the servicing team, with the finance team, with the data science team and so on, with the development team. They can really understand how all facets of the organization work together, that seems to be extremely powerful information no matter what role you're taking over in the organization and I think that expedites your ability to build progress and quicken speed within the organization.  As far as salaries: Most people start with $30-$40k a year range with digital marketing. You can increase your speed on that path to get a nicer salary than that if you really invest yourself in the career, put in a lot of hard work and greater hours. But that's where I see mostly people start at.  Typical career paths after the starting positions: (That's a great one!) I think those Coordinator level positions really give you a chance to sample a lot of things in the digital world or the marketing world. I see some people go into a lot of partnerships, agree to do a lot more negotiations and actually working with strategic partnerships with companies that makes them to work in kind of a deeper level. I see other people go into more of a digital media buying type approach where you're gonna go buy digital media, social media ads, Google ads. There's a whole kind of a unique _ that people really now need to explore, we call that mark-tech/ market technology. So if you have a fundamental understanding of how marketing works and kind of how that area runs, you can go into a more technical angle of that where actually figuring out what technical systems we need to build better employ... things that are scalable like machine learning, AI, personalization. Its really a combination of marketing meets technology! And making sure you work more on the technology side that integrate the technology and the organization needs in being successful in machine learning and things like that. The other angle I'd say is more of the creative side right! We have designers, we have people who're planning pages, we have people who're designing banners that we need. You can go to very design centric part of marketing as well. 

What prompted you to pick this program? What other programs or Universities did you consider? What did you like about the program?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
What prompted me to pick the program in Finance: As I was going through high school, I really liked Math and I liked Finance, understanding the money side of things. If I'm honest, I think the biggest influencer was actually that I believed I wanna... I believed I wanted to get into managment one day. And I knew the understanding of the financial side of things would be very valuable and helpful for me to be able to get into that position and to be able to grow within an organization to a more meaningful management position.  What other programs and Universities I considered: So actually I guess went to a couple of different universities. I went to the UVU, I went to BYU, I went to Salt Lake Community College, did a little bit of work at the University of Utah as well. I switched around a lot. That was mainly enforced by the fact that I got into a good career fairly early on and so my career kind of dictated which school I could go to from a geography perspective. Back then it wasn't quite as flexible to do things online. So I had to kind of renew geographies where I could keep my job and continue to go to school. I don't know if I considered any other schools that I didn't already go to because I went to a lot of multiple schools! What other programs I considered: I definitely considered digital marketing type degrees but they weren't very developed back then, that was early on. So I did look a bit at some of the degrees that were up there at that time but it was pretty thin and ultimately I didn't really think it was worthwhile going into those specific degrees. They were quite _. What did I like about the program (Business Management- Finance): Like I said, it was a very good preparation for me to figure out finance and to understand how finance works in a business setting. And I certainly use the concepts that I Iearnt in that program, certainly help me today! I definitely realized that I didn't wanna go on into full-time accounting job, that wasn't for me to do that full time but even just understanding from a higher level on how it all works and how to read those important business documents has been very important for my career. 

How did the program prepare you for your career? (eg things learned, career resources, career fairs, networking events, alumni support).

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
for : Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
I put a lot of weight to the networking events and the alumni. Again I really like the idea, as early on as you possibly can to build peer support and attend to fully yourself with the people in your career that are successful or people in the industry that are successful. So my program certainly helped me find those connections early on. I actually took a couple of classes that allowed me listen to a lot of speakers like entrepreneurial speakers which was very inspirational. But also allowed me to build connections with people that were already in the field doing very amazing things! I'd put that on top of my list.  I think for my career resource perspective (that's one other part I would respond to): I think it did help me understand... At first it was hard for me to even know what the career resources even were! Or what to even I start there, I was pretty lost! And so it atleast got me on the path what the starting year career resources were concerned; what things to go watch online, who were the experts in the industry, who to go read books from, things like that! And from there I think I took the path on my own journey after that. But it got me started in a place I didn't even know where to start. 

Do you have any parting advice for young professionals? Is there anything you would have done differently in your life?

Asked by Jeff Musk

Josh Aston

Vice President, Digital, Progrexion
Business Management - Finance, Brigham Young University
Farmington, Utah
Summarized By: Kanika Meadh on Wed Sep 19 2018
I think education is extremely valuable. The thing that I'm noticing as we hire individuals today and the thing that I wish the advice I would have given myself 14 years ago was to really consider the application of what I'm learning. I think the education, the theory, the concepts are very important, that's the place to start but you almost can't start fast enough if you don't know how to apply those things in the real world setting. So whether that's an internship, whether that's a part-time job in the industry that you wanna go into, whether that's just thinking about why you're studying like how would I apply this in the real world setting or whether it's actually building peer relationships with people that are in the industry, one of those things I think is very vital because they help you learn and begin to visualize how you're actually gonna apply what you're learning in school to a real world setting! And I've noticed that kind of _ going from education through application is a difficult one for most people but the quicker you can master that has a multiplier effect I would say in your ability to advance in your career! So if you can figure that out quicker than the next peer, next guy, next person, you're gonna be well advantaged to be able to advance that much quicker in your career. So connecting with industry peers, internships, part-time work, those types of things are very important!

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