Anna Knutson ’13 has good advice for current college students.
“Take a lot of courses you may not think you’re interested in. Take astronomy or women and gender studies. . . even if it’s completely outside where you think you want to go,” she says. “There’s no other time in your life that you can explore and access such high quality learning like you can during college.”
Knutson has already demonstrated an impressive career in marketing and is currently the Director of Marketing at Lucy & Co., a digitally native pet products brand built on the idea that dogs deserve the world.
She is also MSUM’s Outstanding Young Alumni in 2022. This award honors graduates of the past decade with notable career or community impact.
Knutson chose MSUM because it offered a smaller campus plus access to specialized programs like graphic design and marketing.
She thought she’d become a graphic designer, but was quickly drawn to advertising, a discipline where she could lean into creativity without the fine arts element. She also minored in women and gender studies, which helped her articulate her experiences growing up as a black woman in a small North Dakota town.
“MSUM felt like home,” she says. “My education gave me the language I didn't know I needed and set me up to go after the things I wanted.”
Knutson gained valuable experiences in advertising and marketing by working at MSUM’s Flypaper Creative Services, the student advertising agency, and driving the capstone marketing campaign during her senior year.
After graduation, Knutson secured a marketing job in Minot, N.D. After a year, she and her husband moved to Eugene, Ore., where she started as an Account Executive at a marketing firm and worked her way into leading social strategy for all agency clients.
Those experiences led to her landing a job at Mad Fish Digital in Portland, where she dove in as a digital strategist. In just a year, Anna quickly moved into the Associate Director of Client Strategy role, where she led overall strategy and a team of seven.
“I hold that experience dear to my heart,” she says. “I was a different person when I left. I discovered how much I loved leading teams and helping them navigate new and varied challenges.”
While living in the Pacific Northwest, Knutson also found a passion for mentoring students. She spoke about social media strategy at the University of Oregon and that experience expanded into doing portfolio reviews for emerging marketers.
She volunteered her time with many other organizations, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Knutson recently moved to the Twin Cities area to be closer to family. In addition to working at Lucy & Co., she speaks regionally about trends in digital marketing, leadership and team-building. She is certified in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead leadership training and is currently working through IDEO strategy planning courses.
“I’m a believer in leading with values first,” she says. ”Teams deserve managers and systems that are empathy-focused. Every day you show up for work, it’s a vote for yourself and the teams you work with.”
Knutson remembers being told not to be afraid to fail. That, she says, is an unrealistic expectation. She still gets nervous when a new campaign launches and worries whether the work and strategies she develops will be successful.
“Of course, I’m afraid to fail,” she says. “That’s okay. It’s okay to be excited and nervous and feel all the things and to dive into something with a lot of passion. It’s okay to be afraid. It shows that I care.”
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