The Professors of the Education Partner Program

  • Randy Harrison

    Randy Harrison

    Senior Affiliated Faculty of Marketing Communication

    Emerson College

  • Courses Taught

  • Integrated Marketing
  • Interview

Interview with Randy Harrison - Emerson College

Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Teacher's Lounge, HubSpot's podcast for the Education Partner Program. HubSpot's Education Partner Program provides college and university professors with everything they need to teach leading courses in marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, and communications. That's software resources and a community of professors, all for free.

On each episode of The Teacher's Lounge, we'll sit down with someone who's transforming marketing and sales higher education. I'm Isaac Moche, your host for the podcasts. Today, we'll be talking to Randy Harrison, a senior member of the affiliated faculty at Emerson College. He teaches several courses in the communications department within the integrated marketing framework.

We're really excited to have Randy on the podcast today. And since Emerson is so close to HubSpot's HQ, he's joining us in the office to record. So this should be a really fun one. We're going to be discussing creativity and marketing, building A players, and creating a challenging yet rewarding classroom experience. Welcome, Randy.

Happy to be here.

This is great. You've got a very passionate and thoughtful perspective on teaching marketing. So looking forward to having this conversation today.

Me, too.

You started your career in the music business, though. You haven't always been teaching marketing. So you've got an interesting story on how you broke into the industry, right?

Yes. Music was really the beginning of the whole thing for me. It's where I cut my teeth and basically starting off with the challenge of having a minuscule ad budget and having to basically sell 1,100 seats, say, at Sanders Theatre for a guy named Philip Glass, who's now a major classical composer but who hadn't yet, as we would say in marketing, crossed the chasm. So what do you do when you have $5,000, and you have to get the reach and frequency to create an event or an experience for an audience? And how do you do it with basically enough budget to buy a couple of Friday-Sunday combos in The Boston Globe? So that's where I learned by doing-- deep end of the pool-- learning the craft of what we'd today would call integrated marketing.

What did you do? So they gave you $5,000. What was that like, trying to figure out how to do that? Did you have a framework? Did you just try a bunch of stuff?

I hit the phone and started calling people and finding out, well, for example the big rock-and-roll radio station of the day was WBCN. For those in Boston, if you're old enough, you will remember it with fondness.

And actually, the morning AM drive guy was a guy named Charles Laquidara. And his show was "The Big Mattress." You could buy a spot on "The Big Mattress" for $1,200, $1,400, or $1,500 in those days, which would have basically sold me minus 10 tickets.

It turns out, though, that Charles loved Philip Glass. He loved minimalist music, minimalist compositions. And in just reaching out to people that I knew at all these different media outlets, I would try to find who might have an interest in these kinds of things.

And next thing you know, Philip Glass is spending 10 minutes on "The Big Mattress," which for love nor money I could never have afforded, talking with Philip Glass. And he was gushing about how much he loved Mr. Glass's stuff, and how great it was to be here. And of course, Phil could talk about his stuff. So it was things like that we were able to do that gave us that buzz, as it were, in a very concentrated period of time that allowed us to sell the show out. But who knew at the beginning?

Do you feel that there is an inherent connection between music and marketing?

Ironically, yes. And the reason why I say that is because at least my journey in marketing-- and I'm speaking for myself, but I have a feeling that my colleagues out there that are teaching this probably might feel the same way-- is that it's a very creative endeavor. People try to split it up and say, it's all art, or it's all science.

The truth, I find, is that it's both. And for me, the journey in marketing has opened up doors around creativity that I would never have thought of myself in that kind of way, which is very similar to the artists and many artists that I would meet and work with in different ways over the years. So all of a sudden, I'm creative, too. That wasn't something I thought about at the beginning. But yet, it's true.

It's unfair that marketing gets this rap of being all fluff because it is inherently creative. I don't know what your thoughts are on that.

Well, the reason I think that happens is, well, in the go-go internet days of the '90s, the big joke was if you were breathing, you are qualified to get a job in marketing. I mean, that was good, and it's bad because when the going got tough, and people were looking to find out what was marketing doing for me-- when the CEOs of major companies were asking that key question-- there was no clear answer. But part of the problem is, I think, that marketing itself-- that's like saying, I'm in medicine. It's too big.

We, marketers, are terrible marketers for ourselves. I know I am. I can't market myself out of a paper bag. But I could market anybody else really well.

And I think the terms are too big. And that's been part of our problem. And it's something that I struggle with all the time, actually.

You mentioned tech. You spent a bit of time in tech after music, right?

Absolutely. I love tech. And part of that whole aspect of my career really came into focus.

When I first started in the music industry, I met a friend I hadn't seen in a while. I had come back from going out to school in the Pacific Northwest. And this friend of mine had transformed himself from who knows what into he had just won his first job in financial services with Goldman Sachs. So and he had gotten his MBA from, I think, Wharton or something like this.

And I met him on the street. And we went out and had a drink, just impromptu on the fly. And we started talking about our different career paths at the time. This was right after graduating from college.

I had wanted to work in the music-- work with music, work with more eclectic types of music-- jazz, dance, things like that-- and build audiences with an older, more sophisticated audience. And I was telling him about that. And he was talking about investment banking and how cool that was going to be to make a lot of money. And I know he has. Good for him.

And along the way, when we really parsed this whole thing out, he says, you know, Randy, you've really made an excellent decision for yourself. And I'm going, well, that's impressive. Thank you. I was feeling proud of myself.

He says, well-- I said, why? And he said, well, there's this guy named Peter Drucker, who I had never heard of at that point. And of course, now I'm very well aware of him, the dean of modern business, for all intents and purposes. And what he said was, Peter Drucker says that the two drivers to create real business value are innovation and marketing together. Everything else is meaningless if you don't have these two ingredients.

He said, congratulations. You'll always have work. There will always be businesses and new things that need marketing. So go forward and have a good time.

And I didn't know what he was talking about at the time. But now I do. And today, innovation is central to everything that we do.

That was one of your big takeaways from working in tech, but any other ones?

One of the things that I really got into in tech were methodologies. That's where I got introduced and had a chance to work with, in fact, Geoffrey Moore, who wrote, Crossing the Chasm. And Crossing the Chasm I use in my Intro to Marketing classes. I still use it all the time.

And the epiphany that I had and the reason why I do is that I was actually working with Geoff. And I think we were in Dallas, Texas, doing a seminar or something-- a thought leadership seminar to attract CEOs and direct reports of Fortune 100 companies. We had a whole bunch of oil guys in the room-- and men and women, I should say-- sorry.

And he had a new book at the time. It's called Living on the Fault Line, and the internet economy, and all this. And he, along the way to set up his new work, he went through the Chasm stuff-- early adopters, early majority, innovators-- that whole business. And he framed it-- that bell curve that he uses called the technology adoption lifecycle.

And all of a sudden, as he was walking through it, I'm going, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, this isn't just about tech anymore. This is about everything-- making products easy to buy.

And the whole thing-- this is about all of it. It's not just-- it's just, I don't know why I didn't see it before. But all of a sudden, it's like my eyes just opened up. And I went, whoa.

And when I had the opportunity to start teaching, I had the chance to test this idea. And lo and behold, I would make the argument they have created their own product adoption lifecycle. But I use that as a central piece.

It's my marketing GPS. It's the core of my marketing philosophy. It's the core of my marketing teaching and what I do with all students, from grad students to undergrad students. It's central to everything. And that gave me some frameworks and methodologies that have stood the test of time that I use even now.

One of the other north stars that we talked about, along with that technology adoption lifecycle, innovation, the pace of change, and the necessity to adapt to change is creating A players. I think that's also another thing that you pulled from tech that having sat in in your classes, having collaborated a lot, is something that it feels like really drives not just the content that you teach but the entire way that you structure your course.

Absolutely. And I learned that in tech as well, actually. What got me into tech, I'm from the Boston area. I went to school out West. I came back here.

And in tech in the East Coast, if you don't have tech experience, you have no experience. On the West Coast, it's different, I found. If you have some cool skills, you can talk your way into a chance. And if you can deliver on that chance, you've done it. If you don't, that's a different story.

But what I realized, I had to take a fellowship program to break into tech. And they talked a lot about the culture of the companies-- tech companies that are agile, moving fast, nimble. And the idea is things like being self-directed, the idea of lifelong learning, that the day you stop learning is the day you become irrelevant. They would say die. That's the day you die.

For me, I have to say, that would be the day I do die because that would be the time I stop learning. Or I'll be learning something else that I can't share with you. Those kinds of values, which were endemic in tech then and in tech today-- and in fact, in most working places today-- are the type of skills that-- they're soft skills. But they're integral to creating value.

If marketing is not going to be just sitting on a seat breathing, and therefore you have a job in marketing but delivering the type of value and taking on the business challenges that CEOs of companies, large or small or startups-- any company, your own company-- want to solve and to grow your business, it's about moving forward. It's about delivering value. It's about making it happen. It's about being self-directed, being resilient, hunting for answers, learning how to find answers, information literacy-- all of that.

And those are all ingredients of being an A player. And that's really the ultimate rubric that I use when I do my grading. If I fully expect that they're going to do a good job, hand in all their work on time, and do it well.

And guess what? I don't throw parades for my students when they do that. That's good for a B. That's what I expect.

Now what? Show me something more. Show me that you have something more, that you're not just a student expecting things to be handed to you, which is something a more immature person would have as a student or a teenager.

I'm a father of one. I know. But show me that you're ready to be a young professional and that you are young professional and you can deliver value now, which they can and often do. So that's important.

And the other thing that we learned in the course that we just did, of course, is that one of the things that we all know-- and I think it's embodied here in HubSpot pretty well-- is that A players like working with other A players. They don't really have much patience for anything less. Nobody wants to look backwards and look over their back or want to go up to somebody said, did you do you work, or did you do it well, or any of that stuff. We were all trying to achieve bigger things than that.

And I try to engender that in everything that I do in my classes, which is part of what's endemic with the work that we did before, with flipping the classroom around. Those types of things are all about trying to help students find that in themselves because this is a learned thing. That's what I learned, as well.

Can you give-- I think that everyone who's listening to this probably feels the same way. They want to build A players. They want to set students up for success.

Can you give us some concrete examples of things that you've done? I know you just mentioned flipping the classroom. Maybe talk about that, some other things that you actually built into your course that other people might be able to emulate?

Well, let's talk about flipping the class first because that's a big one. And it's, I have to say-- I'll say up front-- it's scary because in fact you're giving the--

Can you define flipping the classroom, just in case other folks don't know what that is?

Well, flipping the classroom is on the-- let's use HubSpot for an example. At the beginning of the class, we give them the keys to the portal. We give them the keys to the HubSpot Academy tools. We tell them, in the case of the course that we did, here's the practicum components that need to be met in order to win-- earn-- HubSpot certification.

You also have to take the course and pass the test on your own. And here's a client that has a real need that you need to use these tools and ideas and methodologies for to solve their business problem. Go. Do.

And for the first few weeks, they don't know what to do. They're lost. It's big.

I had one student who actually probably blossomed the most last semester. She said, well, what are the deadlines for the practicum components? And I had to look at her and say, that's for you to figure out.

And the other part of it is struggle. When I give them the course, I give them the keys and say, you have to pass the test, and go do it. And here are the tools. Here's the client. Learn HubSpot.

And some students are totally intimidated by this, as most people are. I'd be intimidated by it, too, if I wasn't used to it. And some students will dibble and dabble a little bit. But it's about struggle. I have to play with it on their own first and have an experience with the learning, with what you're trying to get across with them first.

And it is a struggle. I get emails like you wouldn't believe. Students will come up to me and say, I'm freaking out. I'm super intimidated. I don't know what to do.

Or else you could see that they're not doing it, and they're just dodging the whole process. But there is a struggle to this. And in the case of a software or a marketing automation platform, the only way to do it is to play with the platform.

And it's terrifying. And they don't know what to do. They don't know where to begin. Where do you begin? It's trying to figure all of this out is no small feat.

And by creating, in the case of this class, a couple of weeks of that process and then bringing in Jon Gettle, in this case-- the HubSpot consultant, the inbound expert-- into the classroom after the struggle, you would just be amazed. It's like popping a balloon. There's all this stress and anxiety. And within literally 5 or 10 minutes, you could just see the body language of the students.

They start to relax. And they go, oh, I really can do this. Oh, this is how it works. Oh And it's just a matter of having questions that are real questions and then starting to answer the questions. So you can just see the relief on the students.

And of course, that's the scary part for me because is that magic going to happen? And I wouldn't have known it except that when we first started down this road in 2014, I had the same experience with the Senior Capstone class. And the students were literally ready to hang me out the window to dry. And when, in this case, Lindsay came in and did her thing, it was magic. It's magic, and it's magic because they have experience behind it to ask real questions.

You mentioned 2014. But you've been teaching for years-- almost two decades now.


So you didn't always do flipped classroom teaching.


Tell us more about the evolution of your teaching. And what was the spark that made you realize that you needed to try a new approach?

Let's talk about it this way. The world was different in 2002 when I started this. The internet bubble had burst.

Ironically, in 2004, my students knew this kid named Mark at Harvard who was doing this Web 2.0 thing. And I spoke with Mark a couple of times to bring him into my class. They signed up for his little idea. They were probably number 10 or number 12. And it was Mark Zuckerberg, and ironically, they kind of knew what was going on well before I did, certainly.

I've always been into applied experiences with this. I never approached teaching as, here's a textbook and reading from the textbook using their slides and talking about the principles as abstractions or in that context. The reason why I don't like textbooks, I was in the textbook industry for a while and come to find when things are moving at the speed that they're moving today, the material is outdated before it's even printed. And just having online resources to fill in the gaps-- that's not good enough.

But I've always been into trying to create an under-the-hood experience, at least reveal how the engine works to students. It's one thing to say, make a product easy to buy. It's another to start getting into, well, how do you convey that?

And it's always been, well, how can I get that across so that students can actually not only know it-- know that that's what it's all about-- but actually have some sense of how to do it and how to think about when they go out into the world making that happen. That's been there from the very beginning. So the evolution-- the tools-- have changed. Mark Zuckerberg, as we know, multitrillionaire. And we know what's happened with social media use to be the hot buzz du jour.

In 2004 and 2005, I had students go off to different ad agencies and make significant careers for themselves in social media. Today, it's an intern function. So things keep changing and moving fast.

So the students have helped me to become more agile. And as somebody once told me when I first started doing this, in order to learn it, you need to teach it. And I wanted to hurt them because I'm going, I don't need this kind of zen kind of philosophy.

I'm trying to do something here. I'm scared What do I do? But the truth is that's true. And I've always tried to create projects and things like that, where students would have to take some of the stuff that we would share together and actually try to apply it and see what they could do with it.

Any mistakes that you think other people could learn from in flipping the classroom?

I wouldn't call it a mistake. But you have to be strong. You have to believe.

I thought we weren't doing zen stuff.

Ah, there you go. Touche. You got me. But you have to believe.

Students have shown me again and again-- even the young ones-- 17, 18, sometimes, young-- I was a kid when I was 18. I had a chance to do some cool things and be around some cool stuff. But I was a kid. Some of these young people, I mean, they have skills and abilities that I can't even fathom as parseltongues, now as mobile natives, almost.

But you have to believe. You have to relate to them. And I relate to them as professionals because of my tech experience, I think.

One of the cornerstones of Silicon Valley thinking and that they created there, that the folks at Intel in particular created, was the non-hierarchical flat management style, which is it's the knowledge that's important, not your role, not your title, and what your salary is. And that used to be how it was. And I view students as peers, and I have learned to believe. I know that they have the capabilities. I know that they can grow.

Some of them are very young. Some of them may feel entitled or have never had anything like this before. But I believe in them. I believe what they can be. I believe in who they are now.

And maybe that's because I'm a dad, too. But when you have that, then when you know that, then the flipped classroom becomes less scary. But I had to test that proposition a few times to be comfortable with it.

Belief is so interesting because it shows up in a lot of different ways. It sounds like you believe that digital disruption is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge. But that's a framework. That's a belief system that that is an opportunity. A lot of folks might feel that it's intimidating or it's something that needs to be pushed against.

I'll put it this way. Things are moving in ways that defy category. But I know about this motion. And some of my peers, yeah, they've checked out.

I've personally been dreaming about these capabilities this way for a long time. I mean, just think about it. 20 years ago in the go-go internet days, you could buy an Intel Pentium chip, which had millions of transistors on it-- I'll make it up for $700 or $800, the top-of-the-line Intel Pentium chip-- look at it today. You can get a-- now it's 8 cores with billions, moving up to trillions, of transistors on a chip and $700 or $800. Every time these things double and move, the price gets cut in half.

And it's something that you have to get used to. It's less-- well, maybe it's more counterintuitive for older folks. But that's really been the way it's been for a while. And you either love it and embrace it or you don't, I guess.

It's kind of, I guess, if you see a tidal wave coming at you, do you stomp up and down? Or do you run like hell and get the hell out of there fast? This is the reality.

And I personally-- and I'll thank my students for this. But they've gotten me weaned on the idea of loving it. I love it.

And I love the fact that we can-- seven or eight years ago, the marketing automation platform of choice 10 years ago would be Eloqua, let's say, which is now a part of Oracle. And that was an enterprise-level marketing automation platform. It was very expensive, very complicated, and very powerful.

But look at what you folks here at HubSpot have done by you-- it's like taking Prometheus up on the mountaintop, bringing the fire down to the small-- to mid-size businesses and mere mortals like anybody else in a way that we can afford it, and not only that, in a way that we can use it and that even people that don't know anything about marketing or anything about technology can figure out a way to get wrapped around it and create value in the world. That's extraordinary. And that, I love. That's opportunity.

And that's what Peter Drucker said way back when. Innovation is-- it creates opportunity. It creates value.

And there's more value to create than there are human beings on the planet, which is for the sake of jobs of the future, that's where-- and that's why education is so important and what we're doing is so important to me and why I'm so passionate about it because this is where it is. This is where we're going to create jobs for people and create value in the world. And that's that.

What other resources do you look for to make sure that your students stay informed? You've mentioned making sure that they're software literate. You mentioned that textbooks can't necessarily keep things up to date. What do you do in your course to make sure that students come out ready and that they have a way of understanding consuming information that keeps them up to date or maybe even ahead?

What I do-- so, yes, I don't use a textbook, per se. To me, the textbook that I do use, that addresses what you've just asked, is The Wall Street Journal. I require that every student subscribe to and read The Wall Street Journal.

More than that, we use a course management platform called Canvas at Emerson. And what you can do is you can create what I call a news feed. It's a discussion where everybody for every class has to come up with an article. Sometimes it could be a general article on marketing or marketing and business that they have to post and share with the rest of the class. And sometimes I'll have them share it in class as well.

But each and every class, they are responsible for bringing in an article. And hopefully, it will be The Wall Street Journal and much more. But they have that as an anchor.

And then I will define certain topics that align with the curriculum and align with the textbook consumer behavior or social media stuff or whatever. And I'll have them bring in articles on brands and brand management or whatever. But that's how I do it to try to get them into the habit of staying up to speed with what's going on now, not what happened yesterday necessarily but what's happening now, what could happen, where the trends are and get up to speed with all of that stuff so they can start to see this in real time.

And that's where the textbook, to me, is-- the case studies. That's where the learning is. That's where the sharing is.

You can see the good, the bad, the ugly. And that's a lifelong learning habit that I try to engender in each and every student in each and every class. So that's how I kind of address the textbook issue and that to get up to speed.

I've gotten more abstract over time, where I'll also have an innovation of the day or an innovation of the week, where I just find something new, something that's different, something that hasn't been done before. And I do that so that kids-- students-- "kids," I put that in quotes-- students can see where the opportunities are and where the puck is going, so they can start to learn how to skate to it and skate to the fact that that's where the opportunities of the future will be. That's where the needs are. That's where the innovation in marketing will connect and that if innovation's the match, they're the striker.

And that's where that will all be. And they can start to see the trends and see the momentums and how that goes. And of course, that also impacts the tools that we have at our disposal and the ways to create deeper relationships with customers and create more relevance-- more relevant communications-- and harness these tools in ways to not only understand and interpret analytically what's going on but also to keep-- which is where Emerson's strength really is-- keep the eye on the human aspects and the relationship aspects at the same time and bring that all together. So that happens in real time, and I try to open up their eyes to be able to see it.

You've mentioned now a couple things about the way that you teach, including the specifics. You're flipping the classroom. You're using certifications, The Wall Street Journal.

But last semester, you ran a course that encompassed all of that and more. You called it Inbound in the Integrated Marketing Framework. Can you give our listeners a very brief overview of that course and why you decided to create it?

Well, first off, I have to say-- and this is in partnership with HubSpot and with you directly. And for that opportunity, I'll be eternally grateful. So I'll start off with that.

The idea is that we've been building up a momentum with this for a while. I've tested different certifications, the Inbound Certification in particular, in senior classes and freshman classes and found that students-- it fills in some gaps in the curriculum. And students can do it, and they enjoy it.

This particular class, I wanted to bump it up a notch and figure out a way-- is there a way to create a real opportunity, a real hands-on opportunity so that HubSpots cannot just earn Inbound Certification but the HubSpot Software certification? And what's more, these are undergraduates. Undergraduate students have this opportunity.

And this does. You're right, it ties all of these little ends that we've just been discussing together. But the idea originally was the-- I'm been doing my best as one teacher to bring in new stuff, to go from a textbook to The Wall Street Journal, to bring in Crossing the Chasm, to create different types of projects that have some type of meaning that can give them-- students, young men and women-- a chance to apply some of this and internalize the learning. And I've been doing that for a while.

But it's become clear over the last four or five years in particular that even with the Inbound Certification and some of the learning that comes through the HubSpot Academy, that that was a small piece of the puzzle. The other thing, of course, of this was that in trying to do more, to create a sandbox kind of thing where students could have access to more tools like this and play with it and create some learning experiences for students where they could get wrapped around it-- and if they were so directed, earn certification-- was something that's been on my mind for at least the last three or four years. And finally, I think there's been a recognition at Emerson and many other colleges, too, that not only having a digital class or maybe even a few digital classes is enough or even things like analytics classes of different types and stripes-- that's really not enough. It's cool, but it needs an applied kind of something or other, one could argue. At least to me, that's what it looked like.

The other piece, of course, is that curriculum by definition traditionally moved pretty slow. There's a reason for it. But it moves slow. There's processes involved and committees and certain things like that. And also building tracks to jobs, which is one piece of all of this-- I mean, it's baked into that kind of process.

Emerson, for example, has been great at training students to go out to the ad agency space or the digital agency space. And we've been doing it for a long time. And it's like a eight-lane highway. It's been great.

But it's changing a lot in that space. And also, there are plenty of other opportunities by the fact that we're located in Boston for anything from startups to tech to biotech to pharma. You name it, it's all here. So what do you do?

And the other piece, of course, is with this digital transformation moving and moving at blistering speed. How can you maintain relevance and teach, say, consumer behavior or some of the other ingredients that we teach based on loyalty and brand preference the way it was when that's all under transformation right now? So what do you do?

And what we, together, figured out a way to do in our partnership I think was really brilliant on your part. And that is that taking the best of the Emerson curriculum, which is integrated marketing and communications and the human aspects of it, along with bringing in in more of a hybrid type of a program the latest and greatest marketing automation technology and creating in this case a real application of this to create a platform, as it were, for doing the practicum, for not only using the tools but using the tools in real time-- live-- and having an end game to work for, which in this case would be HubSpot Software certification as the prize if, indeed, we could accomplish all of this together. So this was the challenge of everything that I've learned to try to pull it all together to see if we could create value for SafeRide the client, create value for the students in terms of not only learning HubSpot but getting the HubSpot certification, and being able to create a framework for students that they could bring out the best of the curriculum as well, and Emerson to bring out the communication aspects, and of course benefit Emerson, too, by creating relevant learning opportunities for students altogether. So it's all of that coming together, which it did in this context, I'm happy to say, through this that was very special.

It was a very different type of work for these students than they were probably used to. How did they react to being thrown into the deep end?

They hated it.


Can I be more blunt? They were all freaking out. This is that flipped thing again. They're not used to it.

And I realize, I mean, I hate labels like snake people and now the Zolom's children and stuff like that. The truth is some of the attributes that I'll explain right now are endemic to young people. Some students are more mature than others.

But traditionally in education, from the way it appears to me-- and I've seen students from all over the world and private school, public school, everything in between-- I think students expect that things are going to be handed to them. I mean, the curriculum, and here's a test. Read the chapter. Take the test-- stuff like that.

I mean, that's what I mean about being handed to them. It's pretty orchestrated. And here's the deadline. Here, you have to have read chapter two by tomorrow at 3:00, and we will have a test the next day.

It's very proscribed. It's very well organized. You know what's going to happen tomorrow.

And here, they're being thrown into a situation where all of those frameworks or all of those safety zones are gone. They've been removed. And in fact, I found that's how I learned marketing. I think most of us learn what we learn by being thrown into the deep end of the pool.

But that's what I mean about the deep end of the pool. You have to create organization out of chaos for yourself, which is what we all have to do. Here's a business problem. In many cases, it might be a challenging business problem or a problem nobody's ever solved before. Solve it. So you have to make order out of chaos.

And that's something that comes from this A player aspect that we were talking about earlier. And the students, I would say, even-- and there were a couple that are working-- there was a couple in the class that have professional skill, that have been working professionally for a while. And they had a sense of this. But even they had never been thrown, thrust into a situation quite like this.

And they hated it. They were freaking out. They were upset.

They were nervous. They were afraid. They were afraid-- terrified.

The beauty of what we've created here is a safety place where, yes, we've thrown them in the deep end of the pool. But we have lifeguards around, and we believe that they will swim. It's like the only other metaphorical example I could think of is probably being a bird in the nest. You know that they can fly, but you have to kick them out.

And they may thump on the ground once or twice. But in the end, they'll hopefully unfurl their wings and fly. But until you do it, it's like terrifying. And they hated that. But they loved it in the end.

I was going to say, in the end, many of them were grateful. There was actually one, I think, particularly profound transformation. And obviously, you can't use any names. But I don't know if you wanted to talk a little bit about students finding themselves through this process and really figuring out both what they were passionate about but even maybe what they wanted to do when they graduated.

Well, that's absolutely right. So to continue our little story, we left on the hate and fear and terror. Yes, I admit it, that's true. But and this is what I've learned through our work in the past, that had I not known it-- and I know it now.

Now I'm sharing it with all of you out there. So jump in. The water's fine. It really is.

But bringing in the Inbound expertise after the struggle portion, I mean, that is magic. And in the context of the one student in particular that I'm thinking about, she asked me at the very beginning in this struggle phase, what are the deadlines for the different practicum aspects? When do they need to be done?

And I looked at her. And I said, listen, here's the deal. This is not my project. This is your project.

And you know when the last day of the semester is when everything has to be complete. The rest of it, that's for you to figure out. That's for you to figure out.

And this brings up something really important in I think the learning that I think that hopefully maybe other people will find interesting. And that is that one thing that isn't really taught very much in college-- how can you teach it?-- is program management, really. And that's what the student was basically saying. How do we program manage this?

Program management is-- and the reason why it's not brought up, I know for me, is it's something that every marketer does. It might not be a core skill, or it might not be our best skill. But we all have to take the idea or the project from some type of inception to completion. And we've learned, some of us, hard ways and maybe some of us more easily how to be able to accomplish that.

But then I realized when she asked the question that they had never had to think about this before. And I could see when I said this to this young woman that the wheels started to spin. She'd go, oh, that's something I have to do. Oh.

And literally within the next two weeks this young woman blossomed from a student not knowing what to do and expecting that things would be proscribed for her, she took the bull by the horns. She invented the tracker for the whole class to use to track each and every element of the practicum-- who was doing it, when it was due. And she took charge, in fact, of leading the whole situation and organizing the whole class and not letting anything-- anything-- get in the way of getting the job done.

You know, there's the 80/20 rule. You have 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. So you could say she was one of those, which is why I don't even call her an A player. I will brand her a rock star because, yeah, there were certain problems that arose. And, yes, some people didn't do everything that they said. Or there were some problems, and some people were late because they're doing other things. They're students, and they had other finals to accomplish and other tasks to do.

But the idea of getting the job done and success just blossomed in her. And she took charge. And it was her and a couple of other students really that made the whole thing really come together in this amazing way and bring in these added elements that we didn't even think about at the beginning, which became essential and part of what made the success of the whole class.

What were those?

Well program management is the big one. The other part-- Emerson, the one thing that people were most comfortable with was the content. But the content that the content teams created was superlative-- the "Know Your Rights" guide for SafeRide.

And for SafeRide, it's an app where you create little micro communities. You can alert-- imagine if you're taking an Uber at 2 o'clock in the morning after whatever you've been doing or wherever you're going. You can alert people that you assign-- that are your friends, that are your peers, that might would be up. You probably wouldn't alert your parents about this at 2:00 in the morning. But you'll create a micro community that you can alert to say, I'm going in an Uber, and I'm in transit.

And you can take a picture of the license plate and do all of that. And if you have a problem, you can hit an emergency button. And your network will be alerted that, hey, there's a problem.

And when you get to the location safe at, say, 2:30 in the morning, you can his Safe. Everything's good. And it's a way of really, I think, for friends and family to look out for each other. And that's what SafeRide does.

And a couple of the students came up with the "Know Your Rights" guide about ride-sharing services, which is a phenomenal piece of content. Real evergreen or pillar content for content offers are not talking HubSpot doc. Very impactful and just awesome and something that SafeRide wouldn't have even thought about at the beginning. And the type of content that really has some value, even in an Inbound, you're trying to drive app adoption kind of environment, just great, great stuff.

You might say that the goal of minting these A players is to set them up to prepare and enter the working world. And in fact, I think a testament to how well you did was that four of those students actually got hired by SafeRide after doing this work. How did that feel for you as a teacher?

Did that feel like the ultimate accomplishment? Do you feel like it is the first step in the evolution of this course? Walk us through what that felt like.

Well, obviously, that's what it's all about. Looking to-- we talked about students-- I view them as professionals now. And here is a way that some of these students weren't professional until this course. And now they are professionals.

So they have, like emerging out of a cocoon, they have emerged as young professionals. And of course, that's what it's all about. There were some other students that are doing professional work now that amped up their skills in ways that I don't even know what the full outcome of this is all going to be yet that way.

I do know that the students that have been certified-- and students that have been certified all along because we were one of the first in the country to go with the Inbound Certification, too. I know Bentley and some other institutions got into it very early on. But we were some of the first.

And I've seen amazing things happen by having this type of certification, and especially with the soft skills and things that we've talked about being rolled up into all of this that have happened. And when we first did this, I think it was a Capstone course in 2014. One student was looking to-- well, she was doing a Skype call, an interview for an internship in Belfast, of all places.

And it was highly competitive. There were like thousands of applicants for this. And she wound up was one of 100 they were going to talk to, she told me, and wheedle it down and maybe fly some people out and whatever and win this glorious prize of an internship in Belfast for-- I don't even remember what the company was and what they did.

So she gets on the Skype call. And they said, OK, you're in Capstone. What are you doing?

And it turned out that the client was Capital One Bank. And actually, that was the catalyst for wanting to do Inbound because they're a digital product, really. It's a tech company, not just a bank.

And she said, well, I'm doing Capital One Bank, and we're doing Inbound and HubSpot with it. And the interviewee on the other side of the call said, that's enough. Stop. That's all I need to know. You're hired. When can you get out here?

And it was explosive. And that was obviously food for me-- the catalyst for me to want to really think about seeing ways that I could put the pedal to the metal with this concept. But things like that have been happening all along, where students, when they reveal the certification-- and when they reveal what's underneath it, not just the fact that they're certified but these other types of skills and soft skills, hard skills are emerging for them, they're revealing that they're really young professionals ready to go that have something to offer that a lot of these companies and businesses don't have yet.

So it's like the beginning of social media on steroids, as far as I'm concerned, in terms of the opportunities students can have access to sooner than later. They don't have to wait for me to give them an A. They don't have to wait for the school to give them a degree either. They can start working and producing value now. And I've had students again and again do things like that.

I have one student who's taking his master's in computer science at Stanford, who because of getting inbound certified got so into the analytics side of the whole thing, he self-studied himself. He wound up doing jobs all about SEO optimization and things like that at a very sophisticated level. And he self-taught himself and got super-duper high level with this.

I saw him in the Capstone. I just reignited his strategy, thinking on top of the skills that he had learned technically. And bang-- I mean, just a true rock star.

So this is like clay for folks like professors like me. We're kind of kicking them out of the nest. And where they fly, I mean, we'll see some immediate results. SafeRide did hire four, which is phenomenal. And it's mutually wondrous for me that that happened.

But some of the other students, I know that some have gone off to agencies. The woman that I told you about, who is a program manager, I mean, her goal is actually to take Inbound into the digital agency space and be an advocate and a utilizer and maybe even build a practice of Inbound in some of these agency kinds of places that can really impact many more companies. So that's her vision and purpose. So who knows? But it's all good, Isaac.

It is an inspiring series of transformations and developments. Any parting advice as we wrap up here to professors who want to empower students to have similar transformations, to add more applied learning, or to bring more of that flipped approach to start building professionals while they're still in school?

Well, there are a couple of things I can say. I spoke to some professors earlier on a couple in the grad-school level who were talking about doing this HubSpot Software Certification thing in their classes. And the conversation ended or concluded by the people that I were talking with-- the professors that I was talking with and me-- that it was probably too risky to take something like this on in the context of what they were trying to achieve. That was then.

I think now we have proven that this can work on an undergrad level. It could certainly work on a grad level. And part of what I'm happy to say is, I mean, so what can a professor do? Well, I think that they need to stay tuned to you and HubSpot because we are building up some tools that we'll make available that can--

You are building up some tools.

Oh, thank--

You're going to tell the world how you did it. And you're going to give people a playbook to give their students this experience.

Yes. That's--

We'll give you the platform to share it.

That's true. And what's more, well, I'll give you one small example. And that's a part of this. My syllabus has changed quite a bit.

The first time through, it was more like blank slate, wide open. Let's see what happens. But there was a lot of learnings involved. And if anybody has any interest, they can go to LinkedIn, check me out-- LinkedIn, Randy Harrison. And you could see the lessons learned from the classroom, directly from this experience.

And I have obviously taken a lot of this to retool a syllabus in ways to address some of these things that we didn't know up front. For example, I had it set up so that they would take the HubSpot Marketing Software Certification course. And they had to pass the test by the end of the semester.

What we now know, and what we saw was, I had to adjust that along the way. They need to take that test-- and be prepared to take that test-- by the midterm because they need to understand what all the ingredients are because it's mapped to the practicum. They need to be exposed to the whole thing up front, not wait.

And what's more, if you're trying to do the practicum under that type of pressure, and then you're in school and doing all these other projects and other finals that you have for other courses, and then you have to not only get the practicum buffed up and ready to go, but then take a test and pass it all at the same time-- which most people, I hate to say, we like to procrastinate and wait. And a lot of them did. And a couple of them didn't pass that test as a result of it. There is too much.

And I realize that it doesn't have to be that way. So I've made certain adjustments like that-- practical adjustments that we didn't know before. Now all of that's-- I'm sharing it now. And that will be baked into the cake with the tools and resources that we construct.

Well, Randy, thank you so much for coming along. People, definitely keep your eyes out for what Randy's working on. It's really innovative stuff.

And we are excited and honored to have you as a member of the Education Partner Program. Looking forward to working with you more in the future. And thanks again for stopping by.

It's been my pleasure. And thank you.

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