How professional and technical writing helped alumnus ascend into marketing management
September 21, 2022
Sitting at his desk in a first-year writing course, Michael Craddock waited patiently as a sense of optimism and anxiety competed for space in his thoughts. His instructor was about to return his first graded college paper. Now a content marketing manager at Signpost, the English alumnus describes that as a transformational moment.
Prior to this, he decided on his higher educational fate during his senior year of high school after reading “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. There was no doubt he would major in English. For his freshman self, that first paper would be pivotal.
“When the class got our grades back, mine didn’t have a grade on it but instead a referral to the Virginia Tech Writing Center," said Craddock, who graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in professional and technical writing. “This crushed my soul in the moment, but it made me reevaluate my perception and approach to researching and writing. I also saw it as a way to grow and use my studies to really benefit me as a student and not focus so much on grades.”
So, rather than giving up, Craddock used the same discipline he needed for being a student athlete. He competed eight semesters for the Virginia Tech's swim team, was team captain for a year, raced in the 2016 Olympic Trials, and was an Atlantic Coast Conference Top-5 Finisher, among many other accomplishments. To succeed in both athletics and his studies, he implemented strict time-management skills.
“I knew that the opportunity of being a student athlete was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I didn’t want to let it go to waste,” he said. “Every morning, I planned out my day and would always try to use every minute to get something done. If I had little windows of free time, I would take that time to write that outline for an upcoming paper, send that email, or read that chapter for class. When you do that, you feel a lot more productive during the day and eliminate the stress of pending deadlines because you’ve completed so many little tasks throughout the week.”
During his undergraduate years, Craddock’s plan was to go to law school. To excel in law, he knew he needed to learn how to read and write professionally. He also knew copywriting would serve him well and give him a competitive edge, no matter what position he sought in the future.
In stark contrast to his first year, he received the Virginia Tech Ut Prosim Award during his senior year, which he considers one of his proudest moments at the university. He also was a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Fraternity, became the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American, and made both the Virginia Tech Dean’s List and Atlantic Coast Conference Honor Roll.
Craddock, however, didn’t go to law school after graduating from Virginia Tech. Instead, he started working as an account manager for a marketing agency. Soon, he decided that it was not his ideal career path.
So, he changed agencies and became a search engine optimization analyst. There he did analytical work and worked on content plans and ideas for clients.
“I eventually got laid off from there because of COVID-19, so I again reevaluated what I enjoyed doing, what I was good at, and what I could see myself doing for the next phase in my career,” he said. “I decided to go more into content as a content marketing associate at another marketing agency, which was finally the type of work I really enjoyed doing.”
He had returned to his roots in writing. And after two years, he decided he was ready to become a manager, which lead him to Signpost, a technology company that helps home services businesses build online brands.
Working remotely in Charlotte, North Carolina, Craddock said his role is a combination of content strategy and content development. He creates eBooks, videos, podcasts, blog articles, social media posts, infographics, thought leadership pieces, and webinar decks. These content pieces help his sales team tell prospective clients about the company, educate customers about the industry, and co-market with company partners.
Craddock is proud of his quick ascent into management, but he credits Virginia Tech for teaching him to ask questions. This continues to serve him well in the professional writing industry and he offers it as advice to current students, no matter their majors.
“In the non-university world, life doesn’t stop for anyone,” he said. “You get assigned random projects and tasks which can be really overwhelming and confusing, so it’s important to understand what exactly you are doing, what the objective of a project/task is, and what the desired outcome is. When you ask those questions, you don’t have to play a guessing game, and your work is better in the long run. You don’t have to worry about having awkward conversations if a project is done incorrectly or you have to complete a bunch of revisions.”
By Leslie King