Alumni Spotlight: Riding a Wave to a Digital Marketing Career
DCE alumna Minami
Hatakeyama was a pro
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“Our instructors were very knowledgeable
and motivated. They've taught me so much
about marketing and communications!”
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
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
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 ip.ce.uci.edu/dmc