Rising Star Q&A: Chelsey Susin Kantor

Chelsey Susin Kantor graduated from MSU ComArtSci with a degree in Advertising in 2007. In 2013, Susin Kantor was honored with the ComArtSci Alumni Board’s Rising Star Award. Having enjoyed positions at Deeplocal, Google, and Campbell Ewald, Susin Kantor is currently the Head of Brand and Integrated Marketing for Metaquest (formerly known as Oculus). Born and raised in Sterling Heights, Susin Kantor has lived in San Francisco for the last 12 years.

What was your favorite class at ComArtSci?

Vandenberg's creativity class. I know that Bruce Vandenberg has since retired, but to me, creativity is the defining characteristic of those who get into and stay in the field. My other one was Advertising Law, which sounds boring, but led to the most interesting class discussions, especially about the philosophies around marketing and the obligations of marketing from a moral perspective.

What was your favorite study spot on campus?

I could often be found in the AAF office in the basement of ComArtSci. That’s where I spent most of my time hanging out. I was president for two years and have very fond memories of growing that organization.

What was your favorite thing to do around East Lansing?

I'm a runner, so I would say going for runs. The campus is just so gorgeous. My secret place is a running path you could find off of Kalamazoo road called the Lansing River Trail. If you run far enough down that trail, you would eventually get to Potter Park Zoo. I would often peel off and sneak away down there to hang out on the swings. That was my favorite thing.

What’s your favorite MSU Memory?

Not much beats football tailgates or basketball games. One of the shining characteristics of MSU is when the community comes together for those events. Or also Halloween. I love a costume, so any Halloween on campus was a great memory.

So, you earned your degree in advertising at ComArtSci, can you speak about how things have evolved in your industry since you graduated and where you foresee things going from here?

I could say I have it figured out, but that would be a lie. You need to get into this industry because you want to grow with it. One thing that has changed is that we no longer have one-way conversations with the consumer anymore; we are pushing beyond those linear narratives. I work in VR, and that's anything but linear. So, nobody really knows where the industry is going next, but I think that's what also makes it fun because you get to create it. For example, with VR, I couldn't have imagined the role I have now when I graduated from MSU because it didn't exist. I directionally knew where I wanted to be and stayed true to that, followed the things that excited me, and kept learning more and took advantage of opportunities as they came. I pinch myself every morning that I get to do what I do because I am building a brand for one of the coolest products out there and working with incredibly smart people, and I don't take for granted that I am here.

What was your biggest lesson learned during your time at ComArtSci? And what was your biggest lesson after ComArtSci?

First and foremost, that marketing is a team sport. We spoke a little bit about AAF, but I stumbled into a meeting during welcome week freshman year, and my life looks completely different now than how it would have. I was switching from pre-med at the time and was trying to find a more creative path that also leveraged my problem-solving brain. I would’ve never understood the strategy and potential impact it could have in just the classroom alone. So that hands-on experience [through AAF] was critical for me. The growing and leading of that group gave me that experience building campaigns together. That was what got me that first job, and that experience is something I still draw on today.

The second one is that people don’t realize how small the industry is. So, some perspective for current students, you probably won’t marry the guy you spent a ton of time obsessing about in college. But you will lean on the friends you made, both personally and professionally. Build your network wisely.

Finally, one last piece of advice about the industry is to "fail fast and iterate." Nothing ends up the way you think it will; it often gets better. Don't get too focused on the first insight or idea that comes or get too focused on your insight or idea. Be able to recognize the better one.

Fast forward to the end of your career. It's your retirement party, and everyone is there celebrating your achievements. What do you hope people say about you?

Beyond the work, I think attitude and energy go a really long way. I would love it if I were known for infectious enthusiasm that inspired others to be big thinkers.

To those students who are confused, overwhelmed, not sure what they want to do, unsure about what a degree from ComArtSci can do for them, what would your message be to them?

Be hungry and humble. Nothing will be given to you in this industry, but if you're smart and creative, and easy to work with, success will come. Check your ego, listen, and do the work because it is fun work. I think if you do it right, it's the most fun you can have working. But it's really on you to see it that way. At the end of the day, this is an ideas business, and that's a muscle that needs to be exercised constantly. Keep coming up with ideas and finding ways to make them real. That's what this whole industry is about.

By Joe Strother