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Revisiting Communication Theory

By Sarah Oleng’

Carolyn Montrose, previously a course associate, is now a lecturer in the Strategic Communication program. With more than 22 years of marketing experience, Montrose will be teaching the course, The Compelling Communicator.  

Her CV: Montrose, an alumna of the Columbia M.S. in Strategic Communication class of 2006, is also a career success coach at Fullstack Academy, where she helps alums find data analytics and cybersecurity positions.

Prior to Fullstack, Montrose was the founder of Industrious Agency, a leadership communication consultancy. At Industrious, Montrose was a Today show guest and a speaker at the Girlboss Rally UCLA, Women in Retail, and She Leads Media conferences. She was also featured in an Advertising Week campaign headlined by Katie Couric. Before Industrious, Carolyn was an executive at Condé Nast.

Montrose’s tips on how to be an effective communicator:

How did you get to where you are today?

From a young age, I have loved all aspects of communication. Part of it, I think, is because I’m a Gemini! For many years, I worked as a marketer for some of the world’s largest publishers. I collaborated with brands to tell their stories through media and moved their products as a result. When I had my daughter eight years ago, I started a new chapter, leaving marketing to start my own communications business and teach. I recently retired from my own business and joined a company called Fullstack Academy, where I help U.S. veterans communicate their skills and value to potential employers. I also started teaching at Columbia University. Being an effective communicator has allowed me to have a nonlinear career path.

How hard is it to work as an individual consultant?

I will tell you that for 15 years, I worked in a corporate environment where there was a tremendous amount of structure. My day for 12 hours had meetings and timelines. When I transitioned to consulting, I did two things to create the same structure I knew before.

First is time management, to become as efficient as possible. Because when you’re on your own, your time is your most valuable asset, especially when selling a service.

I also learned the value of a network. Knowing people who can mentor you is important—almost like an advisory board. Because when things get hard, those are the people who help you troubleshoot.

What makes someone a good communicator?

Somebody who can understand their audience almost immediately and adjust their communication to meet them where they are. And then, to take it a step further, once you can do that, it’s figuring out how to form a connection with them. For me, I use listening skills, empathy, and energy to connect with others.

What are your tips for breaking into communication?

Communication is about people. The more you can connect with people in the field, the easier it will be to break in.

I call the process the four C’s. Sticky and easy!


The first is credibility, thinking about how you can fill a bucket full of communications, whether that’s taking classes, attending conferences, completing project work, or doing an internship—those actions build your communication credibility.


The next “C” is community. You can build a community of communications professionals by using LinkedIn, joining organizations, attending events, and just talking about your love for the field with people you know. You are more connected than you think. People want to help you, and in turn, you can help them, even if it’s not immediately.


The third one is communication. As you are building your credibility and connecting with people, having the ability to communicate your accomplishments and progress with a network keeps you top of mind with people who matter.


And finally, do these things consistently, and you’ll see results quickly.

Tell us about your course The Compelling Communicator.

My mission with this class is to revisit communication theory; it’s the foundation of the course. Bringing real-life experts into the classroom, filming video vignettes with influencers, and inviting students to showcase their work will complement theory and make it applicable at work. Students will also have the opportunity to connect with featured experts and influencers on LinkedIn following their participation in classes.

Giving my students access to what goes on in the real world and helping them build a network is important to me. I want them to walk out of the class and feel like they understand communication, have seen it come to life through real-life examples, and have access to experts in the field who they can leverage for mentorship and job opportunities post-graduation.

What’s your favorite TED Talk? 

My favorite is called How to Make Stress Your Friend, by Dr. Kelly McGonigal. This TED Talk changed my life! The key takeaway is that stress can enhance your performance, not hinder it. This mindset switch has made me a better presenter and overall communicator. I’ve shared this TED Talk with many colleagues and students, and it has resonated with them too, because the message motivates you to “unlearn” a universal concept and apply it differently.

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication is designed to respond to the urgent need for strategic perspectives, critical thinking, and exceptional communication skills at all levels of the workplace and across all types of organizations. Taught by distinguished academic faculty and leading practitioners in the field, our offerings provide students with an educational experience that is immediately applicable in the workplace. 
Applications are open for fall 2023 enrollment in the Executive M.S. and Part-Time and Full-Time M.S. program options. Learn more about the program.