Michael J.A. Davis is a self-described brand geneticist. He delves into an organization’s DNA to realign and reassert values that contribute to how the rest of the world perceives them, and he loves what he does.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree at George Mason University, Davis came to Florida State University as a student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program – and he credits his experiences here among the many that have contributed to his career success.
We caught up with the current Brand Manager and Senior Designer at the National Institute of Health’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion:
- What sparked your interest in Branding/ Marketing Communications?
My big brother! Charles H.F. Davis III was a graduate of the IMC program at FSU after completing his B.A. at FSU in 2006. I took notice of his assignments as a grad student and his body of work as a staff member of Tallahassee’s InSpire Magazine. Then, just after completing the M.A. program, Charles immediately launched his own boutique firm that focused on establishing and developing corporate brand images. Now, on the side, I work alongside my brother as Co-CEO and the principal designer and strategist of the company.
- Why did you choose to get your Master’s?
Being of Black American heritage I come from a family that has traditionally held education in high regard. My grandmother graduated with a BA and MA from a four-year historically black institution in the South. Both of my parents earned a Master’s degrees. I also have two older siblings who graduated with multiple advanced graduate degrees. Obtaining my Master’s was important to me in order to continue the tradition of passing down the legacy of education in my family.
- What was entering the workforce like before and after getting your Master’s in IMC?
I matriculated to the Master’s program immediately after earning my Bachelor’s degree at George Mason University. Several of my mentors had stressed the value of a Master’s degree when I was ready to apply for jobs. Initially, after graduating, it was hard finding work. I thought it was bizarre to see so many “entry-level” job descriptions requiring “3-5 years of experience.” I leaned heavily on my personal network to find opportunities with small organizations where I could build my portfolio and gain field experience. Newly married and a new baby on the way, I had to look at organizations that would honor my advanced degree. That’s when I found government.
- What is your current position? What does your day to day look like?
Currently, I am the Brand Manager and Senior Designer within the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the National Institutes of Health. My work at the NIH has been to reposition the agency as the U.S. federal government’s premier employer for diverse talent. Over the past three years, I have redesigned the office’s website, rebranded its product and service portfolio, and developed messaging campaigns. Day to day, I try to rethink and improve user and customer experiences with the brand.
- What was your very first job?
My very first job out of grad school was marketing manager and graphic designer for Early Identification Program. It is an organization at George Mason University that helps middle and high school students in underserved communities in the Northern Virginia area obtain access to educational resources and higher education upon graduating high school. It was a great opportunity to put my ideas to work. I rebranded the then-25 year-old program to better position it for donor contributions and to increase student participation.
Davis advises that IMC can be applied to a lot of problems, giving students a lot of options for work post graduation. Knowing what your passion is, and where you want to apply your skills is the key, “think deeply about how you can use a master’s degree in IMC. After I completed my M.A. in the program, I spent a lot of time looking for the thought leaders in the marketing arena. I was able to narrow down my career interest by allowing the broader themes of marketing I learned about while the in IMC program to serve as a foundation. Through this, I can understand the specific work that branding and design do to steer a company towards its business goals and help my clients.”