Our series of interviews with Bethel History alumni continues with Tim Goddard (’04), who has put his unusual combination of studies in history, biology, and journalism to good use — as a novelist, science teacher in Brazil, and now vice president of marketing for a corporation with offices in eight countries.
We’ve interviewed students and alumni who added a History minor to a sciences major, but you’re the rare Bethel student to have majored in both Biology and History. How did you decide on that combination? (Was it difficult to complete?)
Science has always been a love of mine, back into childhood. I didn’t really catch the history bug until high school. When deciding on a major, I wanted something that kept my post-college options wide open—graduate level science, law school, seminary, whatever. Or, as it turns out, marketing. But the real reason may just be that I always prefer to have more than one thing going at the same time—I’ve always said that the combination let me engage both sides of the brain.I didn’t personally find the combination difficult, partly because I got a BA in Biology rather than a BS, which let me avoid most of the more quantitative math, physics, and chemistry and focus on the fun stuff. The scheduling was occasionally tricky, though in part because of all the other things I was trying to wedge into my time at Bethel.
Did you see any overlap among your various areas of study?
Outside of Kevin Cragg’s fantastic History and the Human Environment course, I had to build most of my own History-Biology overlap. That wasn’t too difficult, as I was often able to choose research topics that made use of my science background. Most notable was my senior thesis, which combined not only history and biology, but my journalistic experience as editor of The Clarion, examining the journalistic coverage of the Watson-Crick discovery of the structure of DNA.
You also studied writing while at Bethel. Did you have a favorite genre of writing? How did that course of study help you as a History major (or vice-versa)?
I don’t get to write as much for pleasure as I once did, so that’s harder to answer. Though not too long after graduation I wrote a mystery novel about a student at a Christian liberal arts college solving a crime. (After the Service – still available on Amazon!). I do plenty of writing and editing in my professional life, though—the ability to write well is incredibly valuable across all disciplines, I’ve found. It was certainly true in my history courses, as well as the rest of my Bethel experience and beyond. I suspect this is even more true today than it was when I graduated 10 years ago, because the level of writing still I’m seeing from recent graduates I’ve interviewed for various positions has gone down noticeably. Writing skillfully, accurately, and with a touch of flair is an even more significant advantage in the job field now than I think it was a decade ago.
After graduating, you worked primarily in developing and editing website content. How did you take up that line of work? Did it flow out of or connect with studies or activities you’d undertaken at Bethel?
Despite working on the Clarion, when I attended Bethel there was still significant mistrust at certain upper levels of putting content online, so we were very limited in how we could do that. (Keep in mind this was just before the emergence of things like Facebook). I had been messing around with websites and HTML since high school, but midway through my junior year I started a personal blog that touched on history, science, politics, Christianity, and a few other items. The process of putting that together and working with it—back in the day when saying “blog” would get you funny looks—gave me good technical and design experience, and a significant headstart in the online world. They turned out to be vital to my first few marketing jobs, and I still use them in my somewhat more executive role today.
At one point you taught science in an international school in Brazil. How did that come about?
My wife is a history teacher (and that commonality was easily the best thing to come out of my History degree) and this was always something that we wanted to do—specifically to support missionaries by teaching and caring for their children. When we came to a point in our careers where nothing was keeping us from going overseas, I got myself a temporary teaching certificate from ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) and we registered with them as teachers interested in going abroad. It wasn’t long before we were talking with people in Cambodia, Mongolia, Honduras, and more. God eventually led us to Brazil, where we spent an amazing couple years—not only supporting the missionaries there, but impacting the lives of kids from a wide variety of backgrounds.
What advice would you give our students who are interested in teaching (or doing other work) overseas?
If you are interested in doing something similar, I say go for it—but get yourself grounded in real life first. College, for all its wonders, is not real life—it only lasts four years. And living overseas, unless you’re leaving permanently, is not really real life either. So I don’t really recommend putting those two (fantastic) experiences back to back. Get yourself grounded in some “typical” day-to-day living. Find the wonder and the joy in that, so you know that you’re not just off chasing an experience, but rather are setting out to actually be of help wherever you go. And on that note, you’ll be of more help if you bring some solid work history with you. But if you can start a career, put it on pause for a bit and head overseas: it’s a remarkable opportunity and there are plenty of needs out there.
You’re now Vice President of Marketing for Corum Group… Tell us a bit about what you do in that position.
Corum Group is the world’s leading global M&A advisory firm for midmarket software and related technology companies. In other words, we sell smaller companies to larger ones (Google, Intel, Microsoft and many others), and we’ve sold more such firms than anyone else. I’m responsible for our overall marketing efforts and educational outreach, and so oversee everything from the website to webcasts to live conferences to paper brochures. It’s a very satisfying feeling to see a deal close and know that I am partly responsible for helping a founder realize a dream and two companies realize their full potential. I also have an opportunity to meet and work with a huge variety of technology firms all over the world doing very exciting things.
In your experience is it fairly unusual to encounter former History majors in corporate leadership? Do you see any connections between your history coursework at Bethel and what you do now?
History majors are perhaps a bit more prevalent in the corporate world than you would think. The habits of research, writing and critical thinking that a history degree can build are vital in any field. The ability to critically evaluate sources is particularly valuable, and I find that a grounding in history has given me a healthy cynicism that helps me look past the outer layer of happy marketing-speak that the whole corporate world wraps itself in (and the rest of the world too—the corporate world is just better at it). It helps me whip my own happy marketing-speak into shape, too, for that matter.
Any closing words of advice for our students and alumni who might be considering a career in marketing or other business fields?
Make sure you have a marketable skill—some sort of hook to get you through the door. Entry level jobs in marketing are the toughest, especially for those of us who didn’t go the traditional degree route. So make sure you have something that sets your resume apart in a way that makes whoever is doing the hiring think that you would bring actual, immediate, discrete skills to the organization. Once you have work experience built up, no one is going to be concerned about your degree, but you need something to break through that initial barrier.