Young Grady alumnus attributes early professional success to Performics scholarship program

Just last summer, Ankit Desai received his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Now, as he pursues a master's degree in Sweden, Desai is working for Universal Music, leading the company's digital strategy in northern Europe. He recently shared about his experiences and reflected on his time at Grady College.

After earning your bachelor's degree from Grady College in summer 2013, you jumped straight into graduate school — overseas. Where have you been studying?

My UGA degree in advertising and new media certificate qualified me for a very generous scholarship from the Swedish Institute to do my master's in marketing at The Stockholm School of Economics, so I'm currently living an adventure in northern Europe!

Along with pursuing your master's degree, you recently landed a position at Universal Music. How did that come about?

How I started working at Universal is a funny story. The CEO of Universal Music was visiting my school for a lecture, and I was helping arrange it. As part of the usual meet and greet, the conversation went from stock prices to Tesla cars to remarketing. Having done the (Grady College) Performics scholarship program, I was the only other person who knew what it was. We shared some ideas on what the music industry would face in the future, and then he asked me to come by his office the next week.

They offered me a job reporting directly to the general manager working as the online marketing “personal trainer” for all of Universal's departments to spread best practices, craft their campaign strategies, and drive their profits with more data-driven decisions. I accepted without a second thought.

What do you enjoy most about your new job?

It's a lot of work, but also incredibly fulfilling and fun, because I have had the chance to work with clients from The Rolling Stones to Lana del Rey, Sam Smith and Avicii. It's still early, but my aim is to leave a mark on this industry that touches billions of people each day.

How did your time at Grady College help lead you to where you are today?

Of course, none of this would be possible if I didn't know anything about online marketing in the first place, which came thanks to the Performics scholarship at Grady. I first met Ms. Dana Todd (ABJ '91), senior vice president of global marketing at Performics, at one of the Grady Alumni Board mixers at Fuzzy's Taco Shop. I had just been accepted as a Grady Ambassador and I showed up there not knowing anyone. I remember Meredith Dean (ABJ `14) and I looked at each other, and we just said, “let's talk to the first person we see.” And naturally that was Ms. Todd, since she had purple hair!

This eventually led to the Performics scholarship, which was an incredible learning experience where our tutors worked with us on everything from the most basic “what is search engine marketing” all the way to advanced Google Display concepts, all of which I use in my work today. I'm so grateful that they not only made the three-hour round trip from Atlanta, but also that we got some money to test our learning in real life.

I think the AdPR Department, New Media Institute, and Performics program each gave me very different sets of skills, all of which, I think, have been absolutely essential to being able to do well in today's market. I'd encourage everyone else to do the same!

Date: July 2, 2014