UM Marketing Degree, Love of Music Lead to Career at Pandora

Willa Fogarty

Feb. 4, 2019

Willa Fogarty worked as an intern at Pandora while she was a marketing major at the University of Montana. Now the 2016 graduate works at the music streaming company and made time to answer these questions for the College of Business.

COB: Is there anything about your upbringing that you think specifically influenced your career trajectory?

WF: I grew up all over the state of Montana. I was born in Whitefish, started school in the small town of West Yellowstone, and finally landed in Bozeman, where I did the majority of my growing up. Whenever the boredom would set in or high school politics became too much, I would always turn to creative outlets. I loved singing, acting, writing — anything that allowed me to disconnect and imagine. We never had a huge amount of money growing up, so when I got to college, I decided a degree in marketing would be a great way to monetize my love of creativity.

What motivated your path of study as a college student?

I was fascinated with marketing’s ability to key in on the emotional pulse of society. I thought if marketing can influence the senses, attitudes, and motivations of people, let’s use its power for good. Let’s use marketing to empower women, or promote equality; affect positive societal change. I saw a major in marketing and minor in psychology as the perfect way to blend creativity with my care of people.

Why did you choose the University of Montana?

Choosing UM was an easy decision. I wanted a school that offered a strong business and marketing program, a beautiful backdrop that allowed me to keep my outdoor activities, and one that was economical. UM gave me all of that and more. To me, it was a no-brainer.

How did your experience at UM help prepare you for your success?

At the risk of sounding cliché, UM gave me the curriculum, relationships, and confidence to develop into my whole person. The skills I learned and teachers I met have stayed with me as I’ve launched my career. I remember back when I was a summer intern at Pandora, a team adjacent to mine asked if anyone had insight into developing a blog and using WordPress and Google Analytics — something I had learned in my previous spring course work. It was an eye-opening experience to stand beside other interns who attended top schools such as Stanford, USC, and Berkeley… and be the only one raising my hand.

What did you love most about being a student at the University of Montana?

I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of really great teachers, managers, and mentors in my life so far, but the ones I had at UM – Jakki Mohr and Mario Schulzke to name two, are still at the top of the list. The knowledge, skills, and vision these mentors instilled in me are what stick with me most when I think about my experience at UM.

How did you end up at Pandora?

I alluded to this before, but music was a huge part of my life growing up. I was always singing in the kitchen with my mom, watching rock and roll documentaries with my dad, and doing any choir, musical, or singing lesson I could get my hands on. So, when I was looking for internships my junior year of college, I was automatically drawn to Pandora, especially after a classmate of mine interned for them the previous summer and told me about her experience. I applied online (with help from a UM internship advisor), and hoped for the best. Now three and a half years later, it’s incredible how the course of my life was completely changed as a result of a childhood passion and a few conversations.

What do you love most about your job and line of work?

I get to design our learning programs at Pandora, which is the perfect balance of using that creativity and care of people I mentioned earlier. How you feel at work is a huge part of your life, and I love designing learning programs that help people feel more comfortable in their role or learn a new skill that will not only help them in their current job, but throughout their career.

What advice do you have for current business students just beginning to launch their careers?

Be humble, but confident. Find the people in your network or at your new company with the jobs that you want, and take them to coffee to learn all that you can about how they got there. And maybe the biggest piece of advice… if you find yourself in a situation where you feel out of your league or uncomfortable — keep going, you’re doing something right.