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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Riding a Wave to a Digital Marketing Career

Spring 2020

DCE alumna Minami Hatakeyama was a pro bodyboarding champion in Japan before coming to UCI for a fresh start.

You might say Minami Hatakeyama has saltwater running through her veins. The daughter of avid surfers, she spent every weekend at the beach when she was growing up, hitting the waves herself and taking up bodyboarding when she was 11. She turned out to be a prodigy, tackling massive swells with grace and aggression, cartwheeling through whitewater tubes.

Just a few years later she became certified as a professional by the Japan Professional Bodyboard Association, competing at the highest level of the sport, winning prestigious events and placing consistent top-three finishes on the JPBA Tour.

A quick look at her performance in the 2012 IBA Pipe Challenge on YouTube shows Minami at her peak, clutching her bodyboard, soaring and skipping over towering walls of water.

“The JPBA operates the highest professional and amateur tour,” said the 24-year-old DCE student. “It's the only organization that has jurisdiction over certified professional bodyboarders in the country. After I graduated high school, I worked as a bodyboarding instructor for three years while also participating in competitions. Then I switched my job to save money for my future study abroad, and I retired as an athlete.”

Minami left the sport at the top of her game to study marketing, aspiring to a more sustainable, long-term career. To raise money, she took a job as a dental assistant, serving an international clientele that included many English-speaking clients.

The experience was a revelation. It convinced her that learning English would be a big advantage in her future endeavors. Minami wanted a career in international marketing, and she decided that enrolling in UCI Division of Continuing Education's Accelerated Certificate Program in Digital Marketing & Communications (ACP DMC) was her best path to success.

“When I was a dental assistant, I met a lot of patients from around the world,” Minami said. “My experience as a professional bodyboarder and the international travel it involved also gave me opportunities to meet and communicate with a lot of different people. It allowed me to value the importance of speaking English. That's the main reason why I wanted to go to UCI, to study digital marketing and improve my English.”

Bright and engaging — and eager to practice her developing English skills — Minami found time to field questions about her journey, a ride that swept her all the way from Japan to Irvine.

“Our instructors were very knowledgeable and motivated. They've taught me so much about marketing and communications!” Minami Hatakeyama

Let's start at the beginning. Where did you live before coming to America? And what led you to move here?

I lived in Japan's Chiba Prefecture for two years before I moved to Irvine. The main reason I chose California is the nice climate and beaches. There are so many famous beaches in Southern California, and I love being at the beach. It was also a good opportunity to learn English.

Tell me about your career as a bodyboarder.

As you know, I started bodyboarding when I was just 11 years old. Shortly after that I started competitive bodyboarding, and I won an amateur title when I was 13. Not long after that, when I was 15, I got certified as a professional bodyboarder from JPBA, the highest-level professional and amateur tour in Japan, and I placed first in the All-Japan Championship of Bodyboarding. After I became a professional, I traveled all around the world for international competitions, going against the world's best bodyboarders.

After all that success, why did you leave the sport and decide to get into marketing?

Nowadays, professional bodyboarding is in a state of decline, so it was difficult to earn money. I was really in love with being a bodyboarder, but I decided I needed to change my career to something more promising. When a friend of mine told me about an internship he was taking practicing digital marketing, it sounded really interesting, so I decided to take a course and explore a career in digital marketing.

Why did you choose UCI Division of Continuing Education?

Before I enrolled at UCI, I was taking an English class at a local school, and I met someone who was in the ACP Digital Marketing & Communications program at UCI. He told me all about it, and it sounded like it was what I was looking for. At that time, I was looking for a school that provided a marketing program related to business, so I decided it was just right for me.

Tell me about your experience taking the certificate program. What was your favorite part?

I loved it all. My favorite part was that everyone was so motivated and helpful with each other. Also, there was a hands-on project where I had to promote a skincare product, create a marketing program and design a poster to go with it. Our instructors were very knowledgeable and motivated. They've taught me so much about marketing and communications!

I understand you're currently serving an internship.

I'm working as a Campaign Marketer at a local company, Immerse, that provides Virtual Reality platforms for language curriculum. Right now, I'm developing an outbound marketing strategy and business development strategy translating thought-leading content, researching various marketing channels to expand brand awareness, and related tasks. I really enjoy the job and I'm excited to learn about real-world digital marketing. It's great preparation because I'm planning to go back to Japan and find a job in marketing.

There are so many great beaches in Orange County. Do you still go bodyboarding for fun?

I still go bodyboarding for fun! I also love to go swimming in my spare time.

Learn more at ACP Digital Marketing & Communications.