An Unexpected Journey: Joy Chen (COM’16) uses her PR skills for digital healthcare

Joy Chen, a 27-year-old COM alumna from Changchun, China, now works as a digital marketing specialist at Boston-based Steward Healthcare. Chen shares her real-world journey since graduating from BU in May 2016.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

Up to no good! (Laughs). I am a digital marketing specialist at Steward Healthcare, and what takes up most of my day is social media advertising, specifically Facebook advertising. We look into the KPIs (key performance indicators) and how we can A/B test (comparing the performance of two versions of a webpage or an app) to optimize our ads and understand our consumers’ behaviors. Steward is a for-profit healthcare system. We recently acquired eight hospitals, almost doubling our size. The acquisition calls for rebranding and communicating with those hospitals’ marketing teams.

Wow! It sounds like you’ve been busy.

Last week was like a mad dash to get all the materials in place to support C-level execs as they prepare for the media.

So you’ve shifted a bit from your field of study?

My major in graduate school was PR, and I still do a little bit of PR, but that is no longer my focus right now. At Steward, you really have to practice integrated communication. That is, to develop a message and then tell the story through different channels. I also do content marketing here and there, including managing Steward’s blog, website, social media and newsletters. My responsibilities always shift. I have to say, for a lot of people who are not in this field, they think marketing and PR are all the same thing. They are not. I had to make the switch from PR, which was more traditional communication style, to now having more of a mindset in marketing and business. That was something that I acquired throughout the course of my time working at Steward.

How did this job opportunity come about for you?

To be honest, my position never existed before. Steward originally was looking for a marketing specialist. They did hire a marketing specialist, but after they talked to me and because the company was moving towards digital healthcare, they decided to create the position of digital marketing specialist. As for how I got this job, I am a big proponent of networking and following up with people, and building your LinkedIn, building your online portfolio, and what not. However, I found this job through So it’s really ironic. This job kind of came out of the blue.

As an international student, you must relate to the challenges in finding a job in the States and landing a sponsorship to work long-term.

It was definitely very challenging. As I was on my job search, I could definitely see the parallel. Like, my peers were getting job offers, those who are U.S. citizens or green card holders. So there is that anxiety that you just have to fight in the beginning. You just have to really level yourself and identify your goal. For example, is your goal to become a PR professional regardless of borders or is your goal to launch a career in the U.S.? For me, I had my mind set on applying what I learned in school in the Boston health sector, so I was thinking of ways to make myself more marketable. I did a lot of networking and I applied to about 50 positions.

What is some advice you have for graduating international students?

Be diligent. You just have to get more done and start as early as possible. If you graduate in May, start in February. You need to lay out a timeline that fits to your plan. Analyze and identify any pattern for every successful and rejected interview, and adjust your application strategy accordingly. This is my advice after working in data analysis for a year and realizing how powerful that is as a tool for making decisions. So don’t just go with your basic instinct.

Are you exactly where you want to be in your career?

When I graduated, there were two routes that I saw myself going. One was higher education and one was health care. It really just came down to which area I would get a job in first. There are a lot of crossovers and similarities between the two industries. But I’m passionate about working with the end users (consumers). Maybe someday I’ll be in a position with more opportunities to interact with end users. Right now, I’m really satisfied and happy with what I do. It’s been a great learning opportunity. And I’m enjoying every second of this fast-paced, but gratifying career.


Anh Vo, Staff Writer

Anh Vo was born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She is passionate about using the tools of communication to bring about social change in developing countries. Aside from being a full-time student, Anh also works with a foundation called Build-a-Bridge, based in Vietnam. Anh is a communication studies major at BU, seeking the knowledge and skills to continue pursuing her passion.

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