By Leslie Jernegan
With the company’s first calendar year in the books, ETO Consulting’s founder and president, and UW–Madison alumnus, Tom Kuplic, finds himself the happiest and most successful he’s ever been. However, he doesn’t underestimate the uncomfortable reality checks that boosted him to career contentment.
Acknowledging that his love for learning didn’t translate into a love for an academic career, Kuplic questioned his plans for the future: He had a PhD, but how could he use that outside of academia? What could he do with his research on how communities form around the linguistic environment of romanticism? What tangible skills did he have to prove himself valuable?
In his journey away from academia, Kuplic credits two factors for successful transition: communication and work experience.
First, Kuplic spoke to a career coach. “She was really instrumental for me,” he says. “When you’re in school… you’re not doing enough – you’re just thinking about doing stuff. She was really helpful in getting me off of that wheel-spinning place, and got me to do stuff.”
Although Kuplic wanted to find a career outside of academia, this desire didn’t mean he wanted to forfeit the lessons he’d acquired from his research. He just needed to find a way to translate his knowledge about and passion for storytelling into a career fitting of the digital world outside of a university environment.
Kuplic decided to continue learning – but this time he did so hands-on. From conducting informational interviews and completing various internships and jobs in retail, fine-dining food service, education, marketing and communication for nonprofits, ad agencies and companies such as UW–Milwaukee, United Way of Dane County, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs and Brandgarten, Kuplic formed a fulfilling future for himself by acquiring tangible skills, as well as by learning from others about how they use those skills in their day-to-day work lives.
Now a brand strategist with his own business in Madison, Kuplic has found utility for his research outside of academia, blending his studies with his work experience to help companies connect their brand stories to people through social media, email and digital marketing.
“I used the core deep knowledge that I had in school and realized it had exact corollaries in this corporate environment called branding.”
For anyone still wary of taking a leap away from their anticipated career, Tom suggests to “think of five years from now…Go beyond the degree and the job title and think about: Where are you? How are you? What gets you enthusiastic?…Make sure you’re doing little steps to start getting momentum.”
Neither the lawyer, nor doctor, nor professor he’d planned to become, Kuplic finds himself in a position and with career satisfaction even better than he’d envisioned.