History alumnus shows true value of King's history degree
March 18, 2022
It was not a straight line from a King’s history degree to working at Shopify but, as Andrew Webb ‘13 says, “it’s entirely possible to work at your dream company with a history degree.”
For the last five months, Webb has been working as a content designer at Shopify. The job involves a lot of research and writing, and also comes with responsibility for the larger marketing experience. Webb explains his professional title is new to the industry but is closely related to content writing and copywriting. The key difference in a focus on user experience. Content designers craft strategic messages for different platforms while ensuring consistency. “It’s actually a solid fit for someone with an editorial mindset, which King’s history grads certainly have,” says Webb.
Webb recounted his journey in a recent blog post “From a history degree to working at Shopify” on ActiveHistory.ca. His success did not come overnight. Webb was initially disillusioned with his job prospects and had to overcome early obstacles and setbacks. However, it all changed once he realized the best way forward was to market the “soft skills” he had acquired at King’s and early jobs.
“The King’s History program trained me how to view everything like a case study. History trains you to look at the entire world like a series of case studies that can be solved. Employers like that kind of thinking,” says Webb.
Webb believes in the value of a history degree. “You’ll learn how to intake information quickly from a range of disciplines—like economics, psychology, and sociology—and use them to overcome the challenge in front of you. I’d recommend pairing it with other courses or programs, too. Learn how to use a spreadsheet, statistics, publishing tools, or other direct applications. These turn you into a more effective generalist and train you to think on different wavelengths. It’s well worth getting out of your comfort zone to learn,” he says.
Prior to arriving at Shopify, Webb spent six years in digital marketing, built on his training as a writer and researcher with critical-thinking skills which Webb says are “a product of my time at King’s. It comes down to a lot of practice with essays and exams, but it also stems from the practical feedback my professors gave me. They showed me how to build a case with a structured argument, substantial evidence, and persuasive writing. Those skills are valuable everywhere, and digital marketing is no exception.”
Webb says the proof of the success that comes with having a history degree comes from seeing history graduates “everywhere, including the CEO of YouTube and one of Facebook’s co-founders. Many history grads in my own network have become lawyers, financial communications experts, and a few MBAs.”
Success doesn’t happen overnight, Webb admits, offering the advice of “Start by doing. Start building your own work experiences. Freelance, volunteer, do something for your friend’s aunt’s business—do whatever it takes to get some projects under your belt, however small. It breaks the cycle of ‘no experience, no job,’ builds up your portfolio, and it shows you what you actually enjoy.”
Webb now runs his own blog, Employed Historian, which explores how humanities and liberal arts graduates have forged successful careers. It also shows people the value of his time at King’s, and the possibilities that come with a history degree.
Please note: Andrew Webb will be presenting a virtual talk “"How Liberal Art Grads Build Successful Careers,” via Zoom on March 23, 2022 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. when he will discuss diverse career options for Liberal Arts majors. Register today.