Brittany Deterding was 8 years old, growing up in Normal, Illinois when she got an AOL account. On the grant-supplied big, blue iMacs in her school library, she played Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Oregon Trail, and the seeds of her web development career were planted. She graduated from U of I in 2011 with a degree in advertising and a minor in informatics and has put her web development chops to work as Digital Coordinator at Digital Salesperson, in Chicago. She is involved in digital planning, social media strategy, project management, website development, user interface design, information architecture, art direction, and client service. Digital Salesperson is a startup under Saatchi & Saatchi working exclusively on Toyota.
Web development started as a hobby. When she was 12, she taught herself how to make websites on her own PC, using online tutorials after school. She designed websites for blog layouts, IM icons, and “random stuff,” and then transitioned to more focused projects, including the fan site http://www.lauren-conrad.net/. That project led to her partnering with TV’s Lauren Conrad (Laguna Beach, The Hills). “I was looking for a focused project when Laguna Beach was getting popular,” she said, “and noticed there wasn’t a website specifically for Lauren yet.” She made one, and then Conrad’s people reached out to Brittany, who was then able to make money off ads that appeared on her site, and off MTV and other corporate sponsors.
Deterding found out about the informatics minor the way many do, by word of mouth. She was working as a web designer for ATLAS, the IT service unit for the College of LAS when Deanna Raineri, associate director of the Illinois Institute of Informatics and LAS associate dean, told her about it. In addition to working for ATLAS during her entire college career, she also took INFO 399 Individual Study several times via ATLAS doing web projects. “I wanted to get a better understanding of how people interact with technology and computers to better their lives,” she said, and working with ATLAS played a part of my success in the informatics minor and my career.”
Deterding also feels like she as a unique eye into how people adapt and integrate technology into their lives when something new comes out. This gives her an advantage when it comes to designing user interfaces, laying things out, and creating functionality in a website. “Technology is stellar, it effects the way everyone lives their daily life. Done right, it helps people be more efficient. Everyone wants to create the next big “it” thing. People often think that we have everything we could possibly need until the next iteration of innovation hits the market.”
ADV 450 Creative Concepts in Advertising (now titled “Content Creation”), taught by Prof. Peter Sheldon, was one of her favorite courses at U of I. “As someone who had previously worked in the industry, he brought amazing stories and experience to every topic. He saw the process of how things worked and didn’t work, which was huge.”
She also had two internships. One was as a web development intern at Euro RSCG, an ad agency in Chicago. There she worked on e-marketing for Sprint. She produced e-marketing pieces and landing pages as the first-ever intern in their digital department. Her second internship was at T3 (The Think Tank), a digital marketing agency in Austin, Texas. This was experience was a bit different. Here, as a web development intern, she was in an established department, producing e-marketing pieces and landing pages for Chase Bank and working on iPhone website development. She was placed there from having won the American Advertising Federation’s prestigious Vance Stickell Internship.
Deterding’s current job is multifaceted, ranging from account work and project management to user interface design and building a website for the public-facing site of the company. “My arms and legs are in six baskets, but I’m loving every minute of it!” she explained. As she gains more experience, her goal is to eventually start her own digital marketing agency.
Deterding’s advice to students is to network with students, faculty, and alumni. “It’s important to make connections early,” she said, “especially with your faculty advisor.” Her advisor helped her land her internships and job and was the one who nominated her Vance Stickell Internship. She was also extremely active and held executive positions in both the Illinois chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC).
Note: Interested in the advertising major? Visit http://media.illinois.edu/advertising/