Howdy! My name is Tyler Laird-Magee and I’m a Visiting Assistant Professor teaching marketing at the Pamplin School of Business. If you’re interested, let me tell you how that happened!
Since I was small, everything about the ocean captivated me: walking the beach, sea gulls chatting, waves crashing, discovering sea shells, fascinating tide pool communities, and watching dolphin, otters, whales and seals roam their world. Life in and around the ocean called to me. That’s why I chose Oceanography as my major when entering college.
However, I quickly learned I couldn’t fathom my Marine Biology class; my brain just didn’t work that way. So, I turned to my experience as the yearbook editor in high school where I did a lot of writing and photography. Telling stories using words and photos also spoke to me, so I changed to a Communication/Photography major in junior college.
While attending college I worked my way up at Knott’s Berry Farm from fast food into the Information Department, where I answered visitors’ questions about the park and gave tours. While in Information, my supervisor encouraged me to join the new Knott’s Toastmaster’s club, so I did. Volunteering to write the club’s weekly newsletter, my writing abilities caught the attention of the Knott’s employee newsletter editor. She asked to me to write a few articles and shoot the photos. As a result, the park’s Human Resources Manager thought of me when the Public Relations Department needed an entry-level person with my skills. I was hired!
This opportunity was my ‘official’ career entrance into marketing. It gave me tremendous exposure to see first-hand how Public Relations, Advertising, Community Affairs, Promotions, and Group Sales, were vital functions within the Knott’s Marketing Division. This learning was key as I transferred to Cal State Fullerton to earn a B.A. in Communication/Public Relations. However, while a senior I became disillusioned with my professors’ lack of real-world experience that I lived and learned at Knott’s Berry Farm. As a result, I dropped out of college. But, I vowed in the future I would: complete my B.A., earn an M.A. and see if a university would let me bring the real world into the classroom. Eventually I accomplished all three goals.
My experience at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Public Relations Department laid the foundation to my 28-year corporate marketing career. During this time, I worked in three industries: tourism, financial services, and technology. My employers spanned Fortune 500 to venture capital start-ups. I served initially as an individual contributor and later built and led marketing teams.
Originally a college drop-out, laid off eight times by corporate employers through company acquisitions, reorganizations and a start-up that died, I’ve faced a lot of personal and professional challenges. These could have been walls. In reality, they were stepping stones that helped build my faith. Something our pastor said remained in my mind: “This isn’t a beatitude, but could have been: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”
In 1994 I accomplished my second goal, earning an M.A., Communication, Marketing minor, at the University of Portland. My third goal followed when I was given the opportunity to teach my first class, Public Relations, in 1996 at the University of Portland. Over the next ten years I taught adjunct at UP and several other universities while working full-time in marketing.
In 2005 I left corporate and took the opportunity to teach in China. I had traveled Europe for two employers and vacationed on a tent camping safari in Tanzania, East Africa, so I pulled from these prior international experiences. However, traveling to and teaching in China where I knew no one—the culture is totally opposite of America—was life changing. I learned so much from my Chinese students, living in China and new friends I met; those experiences helped prepare me for my new role as full-time college professor.
Upon returning to America I accepted a one year visiting appointment at the University of Portland in 2006-07; I began my doctorate at George Fox University then too, completing it in 2011. For eight years I taught at Linfield College and was then asked to ‘return home’ to The Bluff in 2015.
There’s no way I could have planned my career path, which turned out to be my passion and purpose. So that’s my admonishment to Pilots as they begin their life’s journey: Develop core goals, but be open and flexible as they will change. Sometimes what you think you want and don’t get may really be a blessing in disguise, but you may not know it…yet. Or as Proverbs 20:24 tells us, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”
Each day it is my goal—the same one I set as a college drop-out years ago—to bring real-world learning and application into my students’ classrooms to help our Pilots navigate their marketing learning, living and lives. Or, as a quote from Winston Churchill explains: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”