Q&A with UM School of Business Professor Katie Allred

Kathy Dean Business, Learning

When University of Mobile graduate and IT employee Katie Allred moved to Nashville to work on websites and social media for a megachurch there, she wanted to connect with others in ministry who had similar jobs. So, she created a Facebook Group called Church Communications.

“I expected to find 50 people who wanted to complain about designing a church bulletin every week, so I was surprised when I had nearly a thousand members just a couple of months later,” she said. Soon, Allred had attracted the attention of Facebook leaders impressed with the rapid growth and engagement of her group. She turned her attention to co-founding a business (ChurchCommunications.com), launching a podcast, earning another degree – and returning to her alma mater as assistant professor of software development and digital media.

We caught up with this energetic professor to learn about programs she teaches in the UM School of Business, and the student-led Good Work Agency she sponsors.

Q: What does the future look like for your students?

A: I oversee three programs: software development, computer information systems, and digital media and advertising. They’re all very different. Software development is a growing field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects software engineering job growth to reach 22 percent over the next decade — faster than the average four percent. Software developers can expect to make $107,510 a year. Our program focuses primarily on programming such as Java and Python and web programming like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and PHP as a foundation. Programming skills are super critical to becoming a successful software developer. The programming language doesn’t matter as much as the skill to learn the language, which we focus on. Software development requires a great deal of patience to learn, but once you get it, the rewards are there.

Computer information systems, while more technically focused, is also growing. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 10 percent growth rate in this field and a median income of $146,260 a year. Computer information system degree majors might become network administrators, computer support specialists, information security analysts or computer network architects.

Finally, digital media and advertising is my real sweet spot. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a digital marketer is $135,900 a year. That same report indicates that the number of jobs will increase by six percent over the next 10 years; the median job growth for any sector is four percent, so digital marketing jobs are set up for long-term growth and success. According to the report, a bachelor’s degree is required in most marketing and advertising jobs. I love digital marketing because I love reaching people with the right product at the right time. Teaching students about the future of big data and innovation is vital right now and will affect the business world significantly.

Q: What courses do you typically teach?

A: It feels like I teach a little bit of everything. I teach programming. I teach marketing. I teach digital literacy. I enjoy every class I teach because I feel like I learn something, too. I like all the degree programs all for different reasons. I love programming because I’m so analytical, and I like structure. When a program runs with no problems, it’s such a relief. I enjoy marketing, though for very different reasons. Marketing is all about psychology, sales, and creating value. How do we convince someone to buy something? Marketing is about realizing people’s needs before they do and coming up with solutions.

Digital marketing is unique because it includes a little bit of the analytics and structure that I love about programming and meshes it with marketing psychology. How do we create a lead generation funnel? What steps will our user take? What does the data say about the decisions our users are making? Why are they “bouncing” and leaving our website early? Can we make a pathway for our users to do what we want — purchase or subscribe? What is our call to action, and can we make it more straightforward and more prominent? Digital marketing is a relatively new field. SEO, social media, apps aren’t going anywhere, and it’s essential to the growing technology and business sector.

Q: What is the student-led Good Work Agency?

A: At Good Work Agency, we provide students with real-world experience in marketing, graphic design, web development, sales and customer service, and much more. We’re a full-service marketing agency run by students – doesn’t matter your major. We work with real people and real companies to provide high-quality services.

Q: What do your hobbies say about you?

A: Most of my hobbies are business-related, so I think that says I’m teaching in the correct department. I love business and figuring out new ways to make money, but more importantly, I love being generous with what God has given me and trying to resource my students with that knowledge. The love of money is the root of all evil, but making money isn’t a bad thing, as we can read in the parable of the talents; it’s what you do with that money that matters. I want to teach my students how to go far with what they’ve been given and how to go further with education.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is assistant vice president for university communications and has helped tell the University of Mobile story since 1993. She is an award-winning public relations professional and former journalist. Her husband and daughter are UM graduates. She loves playing in the yard – planting flowers, picking blueberries, pulling weeds and petting her two mini-schnauzers.