Personal Essay

The Creative Pragmatist

My brain is a tale of two cities. I am a lover of the creative, a dreamer with musical and literary aspirations. I am ambitious and impulsive. I have started more projects than I can remember, and I have left more jobs than I care to forget. But there is conflict in the cortex. The other side of my brain is fascinated with business. Buying, selling, scheduling and budgeting. Building spreadsheets. Leading and training. Just like a musician stretches for a scale, I enjoy practicing pragmatism in the workforce. Admittedly, pragmatism is not the most thrilling personality trait, but it has been my career’s secret sauce. I strive to be practical, dependable, and useful to others in life and business. That recipe has paid dividends. 

Merging these two interests — creative and business — has led me, naturally, to a career in marketing and advertising. I am currently a director and consultant at a marketing agency in Spokane, Washington. The agency specializes in business-to-business (B2B) marketing. My clients range from small non-profit organizations to enterprise healthcare companies. Before the marketing agency, other notable jobs included Gonzaga Law School as a marketing manager, Structured as a digital marketing strategist, and freelance writing and social media management. 

Ever the pragmatic, my career goals are simple: find the right ladder and climb it. I aim to become a vice president that oversees a team of marketers. I do not have a specific company in mind, but my only requirement is that the culture is positive and flexible. Becoming a senior person at a reputable, successful company is no an easy task. Experience is key, but it is not the only piece of the puzzle. A senior leader needs to know how to communicate effectively, efficiently, and equitably. I aim to not just be a leader, but a good leader. I aim to be someone who can build or reshape a department or a division with honest intentions. I aim to be someone who people trust and want to do their best work for. 

This is what brought me to the School of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University. The communication masters program (COML) appealed to me because of its emphasis on leadership and its commitment to Jesuit principles. As I mentioned, for a short time, I worked at Gonzaga University and saw first hand how those principles directed the institution and informed their policies. 

The Gonzaga institution and its broader Catholic ideals do not come without scandal. In recent years, Gonzaga was tainted by some of its decisions and associations concerning the placement of disgraced priests and their likely exposure to their constituents and the community. The community was angered, as was I. What impressed me, however, was how Gonzaga navigated through the crisis and came out the other side stronger. This took leadership from all levels of the institution. Handling crises with grace, humility, and clarity, especially when the institution itself is in the wrong, sets an example. It is the purest call of leadership: to lead others through the darkness and back into the light. It is a call that I believe Gonzaga is uniquely equipped to teach. 

Focusing on the Digital Media Strategies concentration in the COML program has emboldened my own work experience and exposed me to new approaches. The concentration also revealed to me the rising baseline expectation of skills and knowledge for digital marketers. Knowing the basics is no longer enough. A true leader in the digital marketing realm must be able to master the principles and navigate through the disorienting and demanding seas of change. This is what makes communication in this field so critical. Strategizing, planning, iterating, reporting, team building — communication is the bedrock for the digital marketer. This applies internally at a local and corporate level, and it also applies at an external level, as the digital marketer must communicate to all stakeholders. 

As a creative pragmatist, I can see clearly the need for no-nonsense leadership that allows for flexibility and empowerment. My career has been defined by this outlook. The COML program has equipped me with confidence, and it has emboldened me with a clearer purpose. It has shown me that the two sides of my brain — creative and business — will always compete with each other and that the tension is healthy. It makes me who I am. It validates my path. Being a ‘contemplative in action’ is not just a foundational principle for Jesuits. It is crucial for all digital marketers and creative professionals. After all, a shorter word for “contemplative in action” is strategy.