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Paying It Forward

Alumnus turned Google executive uses volunteerism and philanthropy to inspire the next generation of leaders.
Chris Marino standing and shaking a person's hand.

Chris Marino ’13 (left) with Professor Emeritus of Advertising James Tsao. As Google’s newest head of agency, Marino often returns to campus for alumni engagement and student support.

Chris Marino ’13 learned a lot from his time at Syracuse University, including the value of community. Such inclusion wasn’t limited to the classroom; it spilled over into his personal and professional life. “Thanks to Syracuse, I have a group of friends that I couldn’t imagine going through life without,” says Google’s newest head of agency.

In addition to helping Google customers grow their businesses, Marino returns to campus for alumni engagement and student support. He’s especially proud of his involvement with the Young Whitman Advisory Council (YWAC) and Newhouse Emerging Leaders (NEL) Alumni Volunteer Board. These kinds of organizations, Marino explains, let him pay it forward through philanthropic contributions, time and resources.

“YWAC and NEL are committed to alumni volunteerism and philanthropy,” says the former double major in management and marketing management. “They focus on creating a better experience for students.”

We recently caught up with Marino to discuss his Syracuse experience and how it shapes his philosophy of giving.

What led you to Syracuse University?

When I was looking for an undergraduate program, I wanted a community where I felt like I could learn, grow and thrive, both personally and academically. I was attracted to Syracuse’s academic rigor, school spirit and proximity to where I grew up [in Astoria, Queens]. After my first campus visit, there was no doubt that I wanted to be Orange.

How did Syracuse prepare you for a career in digital marketing?

Syracuse gave me a strong foundation inside and outside of the classroom. I learned from some of the best professors in the world, made a diverse group of friends and discovered my passion for marketing.

I initially majored in political science but after taking some business courses, switched to finance in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. It was after my first internship at American Express [AmEx] that I knew I was meant to be a marketer. Double majoring in management and marketing management prepared me for success after graduation at AmEx. [He worked there from 2013-20.]

Outside of hard skills, what I truly appreciated about Syracuse was learning the importance of networking, time management and communication.

Was there a particular person or experience at Syracuse that helped you see the world differently?

I’m getting married in May in Napa Valley, and many of the people who are sharing the moment with us are fellow Syracuse alumni. We still reminisce about our time as students, including the men’s basketball team making the Final Four our senior year.

Aside from academics, the sense of community is what makes Syracuse special. I tell students that in addition to working hard, it's important to have fun and find yourself. You get to be in college only once, so make the most of it.

Chris Marino standing with students.

“No one gets to where they are in life without guidance from others,” says Marino (center), with Newhouse School undergraduates.

Why are volunteerism and philanthropy important to you?

As I have progressed in my career, I continue to be more committed to paying it forward. Mentors have made a transformative impact on me, so I’m eager to provide guidance to students seeking career advice.

In terms of impact, you can accomplish more with a group of like-minded individuals who share your passion than by yourself. YWAC and NEL offer a large platform for giving back to the Syracuse community. They bring together alumni who want to make a difference while providing access to University leadership and an overview of the strategic directions of the Whitman and Newhouse schools.

How else do you pay it forward?

Guest lecturing and mentoring. Last semester, I helped students with their capstone projects in a graduate course in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. At Bloomberg Media [where he worked from 2020-23], I created a project in which I could partner with students for an entire semester. It's important to give them hands-on, real-world experience—something that the University does well.

Volunteering is a personal motivator for me. No one gets to where they are in life without guidance from others. We must lift others up while we climb. Watching students and mentees that I’ve worked with succeed in their careers is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My only ask of students is that when someone asks them for guidance that they pay it forward.

What has philanthropy taught you about yourself?

When I spend time with students, they’re not the only ones who get value out of the exchange. I learn as much from them as they hopefully learn from me. Growth happens everywhere, in all places, so it’s important to look at mentoring with an open mind. We can always learn and grow from other people’s experiences.

Chris Marino with a class.

Marino (center) with members of Tsao’s last class of graduate students. Marino has maintained a close relationship with Tsao, who chaired the advertising department for 17 years before retiring in 2023.

How can marketing be used as a force for good?

I’ve always been attracted to mission-driven companies where I can make a difference through my work. At AmEx, we helped small businesses do more business. At Bloomberg Media, we democratized access to unbiased, data-driven journalism. At Google, we are organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.

Marketing’s ability to build deep connections with consumers through shared values and storytelling has always energized me. Finding purpose in your work, in my opinion, leads to a much greater sense of fulfillment.

What do you do at Google?

I oversee a team that manages strategic partnerships with independent agencies across the East Coast to drive digital transformation at scale. In my role, I’m focused on evangelizing Google’s products and services to enable C-suite agency executives to deliver sustainable revenue growth.

What advice do you have for students?

It's important to think two jobs ahead and focus on the skills you’re building. The skills you’re currently building should set you up for success not only in your next role, but also the one afterward.

At the same time, it’s OK not to know what to major in or what career to pursue. Be open-minded and put yourself in situations that help you understand what you like and don’t like. The more you experience, academically and professionally, the more likely you’ll find your passion.

It took me years to figure that out, and I’m still learning more about myself. I’m enjoying every step of the journey.

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