Q&A with Trina Burton

Current Employer: Project Manager for Amplify Solutions, Inc. at Microsoft

Major: Public Relations with an English minor

Graduated: 1983

By Avery Gregurich

burtonTrina Burton’s 31-year career as a project manager has included jobs with diverse companies including Humana, T-Mobile, and the Kaufman Foundation. She currently lives and works in Redmond, Washington, as a contracted Project Manager for Microsoft.

Where did you grow up, and how did you end up picking Drake University?

I’m from Kansas City originally. I knew I was interested in Public Relations because I did that as a Girl Scout on numerous activities, including TV, radio, and speaking to groups about special programs I had been in. However, in the ’70s there wasn’t much of a public relations curriculum in America. But in the late ’70s, a handful of schools developed accredited PR programs, and I was very set on being in an accredited program. My sophomore year in high school, on College Night, we went around to all of the tables. When we got to the Drake table, I noticed it was in Des Moines. I didn’t want to be at home, but I didn’t want to be on the other side of the country. I liked the fact that Drake was a private school; I wasn’t going to be a number. In talking to the guy at the table, he said, “Yes, we do have accredited PR program.” He had the catalogue right there to show me. I could see the classes that were offered and I was like, “Oh wow, this is the best program I’ve seen so far.”

What extracurricular activities were you involved in during your time at Drake, and how did they prepare you for your career?

I majored in Public Relations, and I had a minor in English. I was the first student to ever start a communications agency out of the school of journalism. We provided our writing services, proofing, and things like that to non-profit companies in Des Moines who couldn’t afford those kinds of services. That was good experience for me because it helped me land my first job at Kansas City’s third-largest ad agency. They had a rule not to hire students straight out of school just because the work was so complicated.

Why did you decide to minor in English, and how have those studies affected your working life?

I’ve always been a good writer. I learned how to write by writing my oldest aunt letters as a child. She was a schoolteacher, so you just couldn’t write for her any kind of way. When I got to Drake, I liked what they were teaching in English. It, of course, had a parallel to doing correct journalistic writing. Today, on any project I’m working where something has to be edited or proofed, I’m still the best person to do that on the team.

What does your current job entail, and what do you like most about your position?

For the past two years, I have been organizing learning events for developers to create apps and other programs on the Windows 8 platforms. I put together the logistics of those events all over the world, which includes the venue, food, and schedule. I have to communicate with a great amount of people throughout the world, and I manage all of this from my home office. My favorite part is being at the events and enjoying the results of what I’ve put together, watching everything go well, seeing people enjoy what I have planned, and having a comfortable experience in whatever their learning process is.

Your work has taken you all across the country, from Redmond, Washington, to Atlanta, Georgia. Where has been your favorite place to live and why?

I probably have not found my favorite place to live yet. Most of my friends would tell you it’s probably Seattle, because this is my second time living here. Seattle creates a huge opening for my skill set, which is project management. There is the kind of industry here that creates a great deal of opportunity for a project manager. And it doesn’t smell.

What would your advice be your college self and to students pursuing degrees in mass communication?

If there was just one thing to do to really have a successful career and balance that with being a good person and having a good life, I would tell myself and any other student coming out to really just be open to possibility. Because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Keep up with Trina on LinkedIn.