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May 25, 2017

Visiting marketing professor brings real-world experience to the classroom


Joel Mier runs into his 1:30 p.m. class occasionally a minute or two late after he finishes a business call.

Mier, a visiting instructor of marketing at the University of Richmond, had no interest in marketing when he went to college. His heart was set on urban planning. Upon starting graduate school, he realized he had a passion for data and how it could unlock and inform better decision making, specifically in the business world.

In 1991, he started at Robertson Research Inc. as a market research analyst. There, he used regression models that would predict sales forecasts based on traffic and location to help companies decide where they could put new stores. Mier moved on to the Gartner Group in 1993 and then Adobe Systems in 1999.

That’s when Mier got the call from Netflix. The entertainment company needed someone to make better sense of all the data it had. Mier would assess the way Netflix fundamentally operated and translate that to help the company better prioritize its customers.

“I thought it was a huge risk,” Mier said. “I was excitedly terrified to go there.”

He said Adobe was well-established, well-regarded and well-performing, but he was interested in the consumer side of business.

“Netflix was the right opportunity at the right time,” Mier said.

He knew he needed to take a “big-risk, big-reward bet” and based on the culture, leadership and vision of Netflix, he believed it had been a good move.

After seven years with Netflix, Mier wanted to grow and do something different. He discovered that Richmond had wonderful options, and he was ready to test himself again and take an even bigger risk. He started working at Genworth Financial right before the economic crisis hit, which affected the company.

When he came to Richmond, Mier contacted all the local universities to see how he could be of use to them. He began to visit classrooms and eventually was asked to teach, and quickly realized that he enjoyed teaching better than guest speaking.

Mier decided to work on his doctorate to make teaching a large and permanent part of his life. In 2016, Mier found that UR had everything that he was looking for. 

UR has exceeded his expectations, because he is impressed with the students and the support of the university.

“It has been a wonderful experience engaging with such a diverse student body who is very energetic, engaged and eager to learn and contribute," he said. “It has been a real pleasure.”

Even in his time as a visiting professor, Mier has made an influence on UR students.

“I came into the course deciding between marketing and accounting, and he inspired me to pursue a marketing concentration,” Indira Cruz Lopez, WC ‘18, said. 

Students appreciate the real-world experience and knowledge that Mier brings to the classroom.

“His outlook and experience offers something more than the textbook," Emily Murphy, WC ‘18, said.

Macda Gossa, WC ‘18, said she had enjoyed the guest speakers that Mier had brought to class and says that his experience at Netflix had added significantly to discussions in the classroom.

Mier works for Contactually, a startup software and service company, teaches and raises a family all at once. He travels to Washington, D.C. two to three times per week. Mier is dedicated to all three of these ventures and has learned to maintain a healthy personal and professional balance.

Contact writer Sarah Raymond at sarah.raymond@richmond.edu.


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