- Apr 28, 2023
- Earl DeMatas
Sam Plati, CM, Professor and Program Coordinator at Durham College, discusses his passion for marketing excellence, leadership and teaching, uncovering insights, and the defining moment of his career.
Awakened a Passion
I have always been interested in consumer behaviour and what drives the emergence of trends and fads. In the late ’80s and ’90s, TV commercials and print ads like Apple’s epic “1984” TV spot pushed marketing forward. I used to imagine what it would feel like to create the next big TV spot or print ad. When I landed my first job as a marketing specialist, I realized the complexity of developing a marketing strategy and all the departments that had to be involved in creating a successful TV spot. I was fascinated by the “moving parts” that drive consumer adoption and behavioural changes. It awakened a passion for understanding a marketing department’s functions, including back-end processes and pricing decisions. This experience set me on a marketing career path that I’m still on today.
Professor, Coordinator and SME
I’m a professor and program coordinator for the Data Analytics Program. I’m responsible for pedagogy development, program/course objective mapping, and the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the Analytical, Machine and Deep Learning curriculum. I work closely with the Faculty of Professional and Part-Time Learning as well as Lambton and Algonquin College, developing, launching, and maintaining a completely virtual Data Analytics Program. The virtual program gives students the flexibility and freedom to gain their certifications remotely. Recently, I designed and launched a weekend-only format of the Data Analytics program targeting full-time professionals.
I also provide conflict resolution, mediation, and mentorship for project managers, research assistants, and internal/external stakeholders to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment as the Principal Investigator at the AI/Hub. My mandate also includes working closely with local community business leaders to help identify options for using AI to commercialize new products, services, and processes. In addition, I assist in developing and managing Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) proposals and associated grants.
The Chartered Marketer is vital to marketing because it is a rigorous and applied learning program that prepares designation holders to become marketing leaders and key stakeholders in their respective companies. Earning the CM designation showcases an ongoing commitment to marketing excellence, the holder’s passion for staying current, and upholding professionalism in the marketing space.
When I first became a director early on in my career, I took a coaching and affiliative approach. I spent a substantial amount of time helping my Senior Leadership Team develop meeting presentation skills. I also initiated team-building events designed and led by my team to showcase their respective skills. However, the team-building events didn’t drive individual team members to rise and take ownership. I have responded by tweaking my leadership philosophy, which I continue to modify as my experience grows. In hindsight, I wish I had more knowledge to motivate, drive and guide effective team development.
The Skills Gap
The main challenge in the marketing profession, in my opinion, is bridging the skills gap and using data as a key asset in decision-making (i.e., data-centric). Currently, commercial-ready applications powered by Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) support the customer experience and assist customers 24 hours a day. The underlying issue is what to automate and “leave” to the A.I. Bot. Businesses are constantly trying to adapt and leverage the latest procedures and best practices. Still, we must ask ourselves how understanding the ethical implications of using A.I. in commercializing new products, services, and processes affects the customer’s privacy.
I have acquired some exciting insights throughout my teaching tenure and consulting practice that has helped me formulate my academic leadership and teaching philosophies. I’ve found that students succeed better with competency-based learning (i.e., learning outcomes based on action). I have proactively incorporated these insights in developing and adapting courses that offer unique/specific adaptive skills and abilities that align with a student’s strengths and passions. I have also created a path of personalizing learning by giving students opportunities to make classroom community choices.
Staying relevant and current in this constantly changing space is crucial. I realized that for my students to succeed, I needed to adapt my approach to teaching and leadership. While it might be a contentious point, with unlimited access to online resources and experts, students could teach themselves without teachers being physically present. I aim to become a curator, counsellor, and motivator assisting in the minefield of learning resources. This pursuit led me to develop updated models mindful of student-centred, inquiry-based, authentic, and purposeful learning. These learnings allowed me to leverage my knowledge to help students develop the ability to handle the unknown and uncertainty instead of memorizing known solutions to problems.
The defining moment of my career may be when I created a gamification course module for the Faculty of Business for third-year marketing students. The module’s primary goal was to enable students to guide themselves in proposing new learning content by empowering them to own their learning and the consequences of their actions. We achieved this by simulating a work environment in which the student needed to set the overarching goals of the B2C company through digital marketing strategies. Students made all decisions affecting the company’s direction, from products to sell to budgeting, positioning and more. The simulation monitored their choices, and students understood how each decision affected the company’s performance.
Leadership and Teaching
I gained a better perspective on areas of ownership, and I maintained better team engagement by constantly improving my knowledge and leadership.
I have taken advanced studies and reflective practices in leadership and pedagogy (i.e., EDI for leaders, Pedagogical Operationalization). One quote that has guided me to strengthen my leadership and teaching philosophies came from Stephen Brookfield, who said, “There’s only one thing more contagious than enthusiasm, and that’s the lack of it.”
Sam Plati, CM
Professor and Program Coordinator, Durham College