Danielle DePaolo is full of ambition and passion. After earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing and professional sales, she began working in corporate sales departments in central Florida, hoping to find an inroad to marketing. “I knew in my heart that was my real strength and calling,” she says.
But when she shared her aspirations with managers, they dismissed her goals and told her to focus on her role. Some even categorized her as overambitious—although she witnessed men in the same position be encouraged in their pursuits. She tried to stay positive, reframing their brush-offs as chances to gain further sales operations experience, which she hoped would be “a stepping stone toward a more ideal career path.”
Resilience in the face of adversity became a theme of Danielle’s professional journey. In 2020, when she endured a COVID-era layoff, Danielle again turned her misfortune into an opportunity to reset her career compass. “Instead of crumbling,” she says, “I decided to treat it as a moment to zero in on my marketing skills.”
She realized her bachelor’s degree wasn’t going to cut it: Actual experience was the price of admission for getting hired as a marketer. After hearing from friends who had graduated from boot camps with practical, real-world skills that landed them jobs, Danielle decided to take charge of her future. She enrolled in the University of Central Florida (UCF) Digital Marketing Boot Camp, eager to transform her passion into action—and secure a leadership role in her dream career.
A Tight-Knit Online Learning Community
When Danielle contacted UCF about its boot camp, an admissions counselor sent her the syllabus. “Once I read it,” she says, “I knew I had to enroll. The curriculum covered everything that would set me up for success as a marketer now and into the future.”
Previewing the curriculum made Danielle excited to level up her skills with UCF, and she was pleasantly surprised to find the online learning environment so interactive. “I had an incredible instructor and TAs—and a great group of classmates,” she says. “We spent a lot of time together and formed lasting bonds through our learning.”
In breakout rooms, she had the opportunity to work on activities with different classmates and dive deep into the topics. But it was her instructor Anna, an accomplished B2B marketing strategist and SEO expert, who made the greatest impact on Danielle’s boot camp experience.
“Anna is a superwoman,” she says. “Her marketing expertise runs the gamut. She knew the answers to our questions immediately and was so personable, upbeat, and positive. My cohort loved her—she made us into full-fledged marketing ninjas!”
Diving into the Curriculum
The boot camp was as comprehensive as Danielle had hoped it would be. “We covered everything from website development and content planning to CRM, SEO, and analytics,” she says.
The program created a mock business through which learners could practice real-world applications of various marketing strategies. “When we covered digital ads,” Danielle explains, “Anna asked us to design a Facebook ad geared toward lead generation. And then we went step-by-step through creating one that satisfied the specific objective.” She appreciated how the mock business helped the entire cohort learn to direct their marketing toward niche industries and target audiences—skills she uses in her job today.
Danielle also embraced the program’s fast pace: “They don’t call it a boot camp for nothing!” But she adds that UCF’s organized approach made the format manageable. “The lessons and work were spaced out so that our learning wouldn’t feel overwhelming,” she says. “And the tutors were phenomenal. When I struggled with WordPress, I attended weekly tutoring sessions—which the boot camp offers for free. My tutor even responded to questions outside of our live sessions.”
Ultimately, Danielle credits the boot camp’s scaffolded learning structure with helping her retain the vast amounts of information taught. “Everything flowed together,” she explains, “and made intuitive sense. Before learning about digital ads, for example, we studied SEO because that’s an essential part of ad creation. Each new pillar built on the last.”
Investing in Herself
Armed with the most up-to-date and in-demand marketing skills from the boot camp, Danielle felt confident enough to bypass entry-level marketing jobs and head straight to applying for management positions.
“I put the boot camp at the top of my resume, and during interviews I shared a lot about the program and included a project portfolio of my work,” she says. “One employer was very interested in my boot camp experience and couldn’t believe all I learned in just six months. I ended up getting that job. For a year, I led the development of the company’s new marketing department.”
Today, Danielle works at an engineering company as the manager of its entire marketing department (see middle photo above). Her current job is “a dream-come-true position,” she says. “I oversee all functional and strategic marketing initiatives. Science isn’t necessarily my strong suit, so I never thought I’d be leading the marketing for an engineering firm. But thanks to everything I learned from UCF about niche marketing, I know how to reach my company’s target audiences and understand their needs.”
Danielle attributes her career success and transformation to the boot camp. “It’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” she says. Danielle hopes her story will inspire others who feel passionate about a particular career but might not know how to overcome hurdles like layoffs, a lack of real-world experience, or other people’s doubts.
“If you’re thinking about doing a boot camp,” she says, “absolutely go for it. If you believe in your heart that you’re meant to pursue a specific career, mute the voices of anyone telling you differently. It can be scary to set out on a path alone, but you’ll meet so many supporters along the way—starting with your boot camp instructor and classmates,” she adds. “In the end, investing in yourself and realizing your capabilities is the greatest reward.”