Posted Aug. 21, 2023
Information science alumna Adia Caldwell ('21) recently met up with associate professor Vanessa Kitzie for lunch in Chicago, where Adia now works as a social media community manager for PepsiCo. They talked about her job managing branded social media platforms, how she’s using skills learned during her time in the iSchool, and the advice she has for others who want to pursue an information science degree.
What inspired you to choose the University of South Carolina?
A couple different things. I grew up in Georgia, and everybody was going to University of Georgia. Even though I did get accepted there, I just wanted something a little bit different, where I could still stay in the southeast, and it would still be a really good school, but I wouldn’t be going to school with the same people I knew from high school.
I toured the University of South Carolina, and I instantly fell in love with the campus. Once I saw the horseshoe, it was done. I also loved how they organized the informational sessions, where I was really able to learn a lot from the professors or from the campus tours.
Why did you end up choosing the information science program specifically?
I knew I wanted to go to the College of Information and Communication in some capacity. I went to an information session for public relations, for advertising, and maybe mass communications, too, and then my last one was for information science.
I had a meeting with Elise Lewis from the information science department, and we were talking a bit about my interests, and then she took me, my mom, and my grandmother on a tour of the campus and walked us over to Davis College. She told me about all the things I'd be seeing day-to-day and the different classes I'd be taking, and that's what really made me fall in love with it.
Information science just felt like a space that was small enough for me to make a difference, while still having all of the resources that a larger school has. That’s how I knew I wanted to do information science.
Can you tell me about your current role and where you work?
I'm at PepsiCo Quaker, and I'm a social media community manager for Quaker’s ready-to-eat brands. I'm creating content for four brands at the moment, and I’m keeping track of what people are saying online about our brands and making sure we're interacting well with influencers and other brands, as well. I’m keeping a finger on the pulse of society, through social media, and also making content that will really resonate with the key demographics that we're trying to market to.
What kind of content do you make? And how does the creation process usually go?
We usually have a brainstorm session where we talk about what we're seeing online and things that could be great for us to make. For TikTok specifically, it's so fast-paced that we’ll have those meetings a little more frequently, and I'll bring up a trend and see if we can find a way for Cap’n Crunch to get in on it.
So, we're filming, editing videos, and sourcing music licenses for them. We have to go through legal, brand, and then PR before and after we make the videos to make sure everything is aligned. Then we give it all another check before we we upload it. From there, we're interacting with people as they talk about our brands online on all of these different platforms.
What do you like most about your job?
What I love most is the subject matter. It's so interesting to be able to be online and have that be my job. Because I'm younger, I know what people are interested in and what resonates with these younger demographics. I'm able to give good insight there. It feels good to be a source of good ideas for our brands.
I also like interacting with people online as Cap’n Crunch and as Quaker Chewy. It's fun to see people who are fans of our brands, to communicate with them, and then also, to be able to give them little prizes sometimes and run sweepstakes. It's just really fun to be able to give back to the people who love our brands so much.
What skills did you learn in the BSIS program that you currently apply in your job?
In terms of key things I learned, data analysis was a big part of the role I had before this one and it’s big for me now at PepsiCo, as well. We're always trying to grab insights about what’s performing well. What do people like? What do people not like? We need to be able to quickly search and see what's trending on different platforms. That’s stuff I learned early on in my iSchool days, and I was able to take it all to heart, understand it and now replicate it pretty much weekly.
I also learned a lot about the way we transmit information and data between each other, and that’s been super useful for what I do now. Having an information science degree really helped me get in the door for the different roles that I've had, because I was able to be so versatile with this major. I've learned so much, and I feel like I take a lot from my education and use it in what I do day-to-day. But a lot of learning is also just about being on the job and being in the room where things happen. You're also learning a lot firsthand as you go.
You mentioned the versatility of the major. How did you end up using your iSchool
skills in advertising and marketing?
Learning information science really is great for versatility. When it comes to marketing and advertising, it’s not even something I really focused on in college. But the good thing about information science is that you get key skills and you can use them to market yourself to fit jobs that you end up wanting to apply for later on.
It’s been really helpful for me to be able to change around what I want to do. Having information science skills really does open doors in different places.
Do you have any study strategies or advice that you could share with current or future
Being able to attend professors’ office hours and have good dialogue with them helped me more than anything. If something happens, or if there's something going on in your life, our professors are really accommodating and want you to learn, and they want to have students that really care. So that would be my number one thing.
Then also, I’d say get close with your classmates. We always had an hour or so between classes where we would just sit, or grab lunch, and just talk about stuff or study. We’d sometimes talk about our key learnings from class and really discuss them. It was nice that we all understood what we were talking about.
I think Information Science was a small enough major where you can really know how everyone's doing. We were able to get close, and that's something unique that I love about the information science program. I treasure that.
What would you say to high school students or people who are just starting their college
career who might want to follow a path like yours?
I feel like I've had a pretty winding road into the career I have now. As far as advice, I would say always pursue learning things that you're passionate about. Definitely make sure that you're paying attention in those early information science classes about Excel and HTML, because those are really good, key skills to have. But once you're done with the core classes, really try and submerge yourself into something that you're passionate about. Find what you love, and go from there.
What's your favorite memory from your time at USC?
I have a couple. I had so many fun moments between classes where we would all hang out and talk and get to know others in the major. I had a lot of good times there. We had a lot of smaller classes, where you really could get to know everybody else in the class Those were the best in terms of getting to know new people at a new school. Small classes also made it possible to have good relationships with your professors. Those small classes just did so much, and that's what I liked most.