With 35 years of sales and marketing leadership at IBM, Tom Byrnes is passionate about bringing his real-world knowledge and insights to students in his NC State Poole College of Management classroom. Byrnes also uses that experience in his role as faculty advisor to the NC State student chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA).
“I worked in channel marketing, brand management, integrated marketing communications, and overall sales and marketing support,” says Byrnes, a marketing lecturer in Poole College’s Business Management department. “Having worn so many different hats at IBM, I am able to guide the students in a variety of areas.”
I love the energy and creative ideas of these young people and feel passionate about working with them
Guiding students is a job Byrnes relishes. “I love the energy and creative ideas of these young people and feel passionate about working with them,” he says.
Future Marketing Pros Get a Head Start
The NC State AMA chapter—which focuses on the professional development and personal branding of its members—has experienced unprecedented growth and success thanks to Byrne’s leadership and guidance. The chapter’s membership has grown to 160 students, a significant increase from the 35+ undergraduates who were involved when Byrnes joined the Poole College faculty in 2013. While the chapter is comprised of a number of marketing students, it also draws from other concentrations and majors like finance and accounting –– as well as from other colleges across the university.
Kaley Moffitt ’18, president of the NC State AMA chapter during the 2017-18 school year, says that Byrnes is involved in every aspect of the chapter. “Professor Byrnes is the most involved, supportive, passionate professor I know,” she says. “He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
“There is nothing that we do that doesn’t go through him,” adds Moffitt. “The best part is that he doesn’t take control of AMA; he lets me have the vision.” She says that she and members of the executive board regularly turn to Byrnes for advice. “I could go on for hours about everything we do and how vital Dr. Byrnes is to it all,” she says.
The AMA chapter’s activities for the 2017-18 academic year fill a 16-page annual report. To advance members’ professional development, the chapter hosted four networking events and 13 speakers, toured two companies, and organized a marketing week that featured sessions on topics such as “Acing your Interview” and “Three Keys to Networking.”
As a group, students participated in three service events, giving more than 200 volunteer hours to the community. The students re-designed the chapter’s sponsorship package, co-hosted a brand awareness event with an online fashion company, and hosted social events. A new newsletter and website strengthened the chapter’s communications efforts, and regular monthly meetings created a more cohesive group.
Launching a Student Marketing Agency
In January, the chapter launched NC State Creative Marketing Solutions, a student-led marketing agency. “Instead of our executive board just winging starting up an agency, Professors Byrnes—who comes to the table with so much experience—guided us through the entire process,” says Moffitt, who is president of the agency.
There is tremendous value for students in developing the self-confidence to work with a real-life client.
Byrnes serves on the five-member advisory board alongside fellow Poole College marketing lecturer Patrice Nealon, two alumni of the college’s Jenkins MBA program, and a senior vice president of a New York-based communications agency. “The advisory board is there to support the students who have so much insight and commitment,” he says.
In its first semester of operation, the agency provided market research to a local jewelry company seeking to make its engagement rings and other jewelry attractive to the millennial generation. This was the agency’s “pilot” company and there are several other clients that they hope to support in the fall 2018 semester.
“There is tremendous value for students in developing the self-confidence to work with a real-life client,” says Byrnes. “Working in the agency is not only a tremendous addition to the students’ skills and résumé, it helps them in terms of their conversation skills with potential employers.”
The success of the chapter can also be seen in students’ success in academic competitions. “Our students participate in just about every competition that they can, and they are excelling,” exults Byrnes. Whether it’s in a sales competition or an elevator pitch contest, NC State AMA students are taking what they learn in their chapter and putting it to use.
At the April 2018 AMA International Collegiate Conference, NC State’s chapter placed 21st out of 370 competing chapters, winning awards in all chapter categories: membership; chapter planning; internal/external communications; professional development; and fundraising.
“We also had all three students who participated in the ‘perfect pitch’ competition make it to the final round, and one received an honorable mention,” says Moffitt. “We also received an honorable mention for our website. Since we won an award in fundraising last year, I had the honor of presenting tips and tricks related to chapter fundraising to about 100 people from chapters across the country. Dr. Byrnes made it a priority to attend my presentation and sit in the front row to support me.”
AMA member Tyler Couse ’21, who is majoring in business administration with an intended marketing concentration, says that Byrnes is “universally loved by the students.”
Couse was the youngest member of the multi-university team that won this year’s Marketing Jam competition, organized by the professional American Marketing Association’s Triangle Chapter. The competition provided local college students an opportunity to participate in an interactive, real-world simulation by addressing a business problem with a marketing solution. Couse credits much of his success to Byrnes.
I am so passionate about what I’m doing with these students and the changes that we can make with them.
“Dr. Byrnes is always very light-hearted but he also makes sure that he provides the support that we need to be successful,” says Couse. “He is so engaged with what’s going on in each student’s life personally and academically, as well as the different activities we’re engaged in.”
Couse is grateful for the referrals and introductions that Byrnes shares with the hope that they will lead to internships and connections. “It shows that there is someone who really believes in me,” says Couse. “I couldn’t ask for anything more than that from an advisor to our club.”
Byrnes, who is connected to more than 1,600 people on LinkedIn, is eager to share his network with students. “I make sure that everyone who is interested in exploring my connections can get access to my network of professionals all over the world,” he says. Byrnes enjoys staying connected with former students. “Seeing them grow in their careers gives me great satisfaction,” he says.
Byrnes sees himself as a student advocate and a supportive listener. “I am so passionate about what I’m doing with these students and the changes that we can make with them,” he says. “You don’t want to get a job just for the money; you want to make sure you’re enjoying doing what you’re doing, and I do.”