March 8, 2019 at 11:23 am

Alumni News | Cottrill Starts His Own Company, Wields English ‘Superpower’

Mike Cottrill poses for a portrait in Ellis Hall on Feb. 1, 2019.

Mike Cottrill in Ellis Hall. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff

“I planned out my life during summers in Athens. It’s a perfect time, when upperclassmen are talking about where their lives might take them,” says Mike Cottrill (’04).

Cottrill holds a B.A. from Ohio University’s English Department, where he discovered and fostered his talent for writing. It wasn’t until later that he discovered that English majors share a “superpower.”

What he couldn’t have imagined as an upperclassman was how far his English degree would take him—to the role of co-founder and CEO of NgageContent, a marketing technology agency headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.

Before starting NgageContent, Cottrill worked in journalism, taking on editor roles at The Athens Messenger and Smart Business Magazine before moving into digital publishing at Smart Business. Leading the digital team pushed Cottrill in the direction of software, and he went on to become the head of sales and marketing at ExchangeBase, a software-as-a-service company in the asset recover industry. He also holds a master’s degree in Mass Communications from Kent State University (’08).

Mike Cottrill, portrait

Mike Cottrill

Discovering English Majors’ Shared ‘Superpower’

Cottrill describes his career path as a bit “winding, with some trial and error,” but that winding road led him to discover what he says is a “superpower” that all English majors share.

“The number one thing I learned at OHIO is that we have a superpower that is marketable in today’s world: we can communicate and write efficiently. That is so rare in business, where very few people know how to convey their company’s message clearly,” he explains.

Cottrill found success in custom-content digital publishing, which he describes as “a good opportunity and a career that was protected against the recession.” His work in this field led to a significant change in his career trajectory.

Three years after he began specializing in custom content, his supervisors took him by surprise with an exciting offer: they wanted him to enter sales.

“Ultimately, working in sales for three years is how I started my business, NgageContent with my business partner, JD Eaton,” Cottrill remarks.

He notes that his ability to write clearly is an invaluable skill in his role as CEO.

“I spend 50 to 60 percent of my time writing!” he remarks. “It’s my job to articulate our company’s vision and mission out to other people.”

Advice for OHIO’s English Majors: ‘You’ll Rise!’

Cottrill wants English majors to understand that their “spark is the ability to read, write, and communicate well.” These are, he explains, uncommon and highly marketable skills in today’s job market.

He also emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of all opportunities and showing one’s skills in the workplace.

“Make the most of the first job you have. You should know your value and show it. This will help you advance quickly. Even in an entry-level job, you have the potential to gain the attention of your bosses. Demonstrate your English skills, and you’ll rise!”

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