Mike Miller was working on a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University when the 2008 economic crisis gut-punched the United States.
"Things didn't look great to do my own thing," he said. "I had taken a consumer behavior class. It was interesting to learn about why people do what they do, how to influence people to buy certain products, and what drives them to a brand."
Miller completed the entrepreneurship degree, but he also added a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Marketing. He graduated with both in 2012.
"I had always enjoyed statistics classes at NKU," he said. "Digging through the data to tell a story was fascinating, so I shifted gears and wanted to do research."
Good call. Miller is now the vice president of data science at ENGINE, a global media and marketing services company based in Princeton, New Jersey. He started as an intern at MRSI, a Cincinnati-based research company that was a local partner in NKU's Marketing Research Partnership Program (MRPP). Miller has been with MRSI (now ENGINE through various acquisitions) for the past nine years.
"I wanted to get my foot in the door," he said. "[NKU professors] Dr. David Raska and Dr. Aron Levin made a difference with their teaching style and project-based curriculum. I was able to leverage these real-world skills and showcase concrete examples during my interview with MRSI that was made possible through Dr. Levin and the connections the MRPP has fostered with Cincinnati-area research firms."
"I steadily climbed the ranks within ENGINE and took over running the department in August of 2020, sooner than anticipated," he said. "2020 was a difficult year on numerous accounts, both within ENGINE and the shifts from normalcy due to COVID-19. However, my team has taken these challenges in stride and looking forward to new successes in 2021."
Miller grew up in the Cincinnati area. He had not settled on a particular career path when he enrolled at NKU straight out of high school.
"The entrepreneurship was up in the air," he said. "I didn't have an idea of what I wanted to do. That's kind of why I shifted to marketing. I would have not changed my path as I still see a lot of value in my entrepreneurship degree, it gave me exposure to a lot of things and helped round me out in the business world. These skills still provide value on a day-to-day basis."
Miller enrolled at NKU because it was close to home. That his older brother, Steve, is also an alumnus with a marketing degree served to validate his choice.
"When I started, I was interested in learning the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and how to go about starting a business," Miller said.
MKT 320: Applied Consumer Behavior was Miller's favorite course. It also piqued his interest in adding a bachelor's degree in marketing to broaden his horizons.
"I never knew what marketing research was, so I could dive into what marketers and ad agencies do in that course," he said. "Driving content around a brand and why people buy the brands they buy really started it. The foundation was set in Dr. Raska's class, MKT 392: Consumer Insights. I built a foundation."
Miller has built a solid career on the strength of his two degrees. His knowledge base gives him a broad view of his company and the business landscape as a whole.
"I still have that entrepreneurial spirit in me, too," he said. "Everything has gone quickly. I have done well. ENGINE is a great company to work for and both sides see a lot of potential and future growth."
Another bonus for Miller is the benefit of having a pipeline of NKU business graduates to hire for his company.
"I talked to Dr. Raska recently about trying to get an intern for our department," he said. "The people who come through NKU that have the project-based work stand a cut above the others. Real projects are what we are doing. That's what Dr. Raska started, and NKU has adopted."
Miller and his wife, Danielle, have two children — Kai (2) and Rhys (nine months). He enjoys golfing, playing softball and traveling with his family.
He looks forward to building on his successful career and helping fellow NKU graduates embark on theirs. It's a win-win situation.
"The experience we are looking for is to come and know what a deliverable looks like and have the experience of dealing with real clients, and NKU builds that foundation," he said. "Three of the four in our Hives department (online focus groups) are NKU graduates. It speaks volumes."
"They are coming straight out of NKU, which is driving development and real-world experience so they can hit the ground running."
Learn more about NKU's online BSBA – Marketing program.
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