An entrepreneur is an accountant, a marketer, an HR scout, an operations expert, a skillful manager, a finance whiz, and so much more, all at the same time. Entrepreneurship requires a variety of aptitudes and abilities, and cultivating each individual skill, often a process of a trial-and-error, is difficult.
When Christina Bernstein, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur, founded BB Medical Surgical Supplies, she was able to bypass some of the hurdles many of her peers face by taking a course on Coursera.
An engineer by trade, Christina received her B.S. from Oregon State University and worked on data communications at IBM. After receiving her Masters degree in Medical Devices and Diagnostic Engineering from the University of Southern California, she explored her growing interest in biomedical engineering by working at a major medical device corporation.
But in 2007, Christina was ready for a change. She had struggled with the pricing schemes and corporate nature of the medical supplies industry and, seeing an opportunity to make a difference, she envisioned a supplier that put patients’ needs first and offered greater transparency and honesty. BB Medical Surgical Supplies was born from this dream, and since then, Christina has put her energies into seeing her company grow.
Christina was comfortable tackling the engineering challenges in her work, but she was not as prepared for many other aspects of the business, such as marketing. She had never run a company before, and needed to gain some understanding of the market of the devices she was selling. She was also trying to intelligently market on mobile media platforms, and she additionally needed to learn the language of marketing. She didn’t want to defer her dream by going back to school, and definitely did not want to give up on it entirely.
Flipping through The Economist magazine, Christina happened to find a business school ranking in which the Kellogg School at Northwestern University was rated highly. She searched for online courses at Kellogg and discovered they offered a course on Coursera called “Content Strategy for Professionals: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization”. She found that she could take the course for free and pursue a Verified Certificate at a nominal price. She jumped at the opportunity to learn everything she could from two of the top professors in the field.
This was Christina’s first online course, and she thrived. She squeezed in lectures and quizzes on the weekends and engaged with aspiring marketers from all over the world.
“As the owner of a small medical supplies company and also a regulatory affairs consultant, this course helped so much,” Christina said. “I’m not an expert on social media, nor on creating content.”
A question Christina struggled with early on was understanding who exactly were the best customers for one of her products, a spray-on ultrasound gel. Fortunately, this was exactly the sort of exercise she was undertaking in the course. What did potential customers say about it on Twitter or Facebook? What did medical professionals and consumers think of the traditional gel? The course gave Christina the tools to answer these questions, and to understand her target market.
The course is now featured prominently on Christina’s resume. She proudly features her Verified Certificate on her Linkedin profile to signal her marketing skills to her professional network. The Verified Certificate demonstrates proven marketing skills, as well as her motivation and commitment to constantly keep learning to help her business succeed.
Have you ever used a Coursera course to build job skills or advance your career? Share in the comments below – other learners want to hear your experience!