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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Alumni Spotlights: Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi shares his journey to success


During freshman orientation at Loyola University, Maryland I saw something that caught my eye.  It was a program for my junior year to live and study in Leuven, Belgium. It was a defining time in my life.

I was a psychology major at Loyola. While in Leuven, I start taking Industrial & Organizational psych classes. Instead of talking about Freud, we’re discussing why Casino’s don’t have windows. We’re conducting studies that show how fast paced music influences how we move through retail spaces. Fascinating!

But there’s a twist. I’m taking the courses with MBA students. The University of Chicago had a program there too. Students were getting MBA credit for the same courses that I was getting undergrad Psych credit. I was doing great. Getting A’s. Leading groups, finding my stride and enjoying it. I was shocked.  Business courses intimidated me before that.I thought they all had to be finance courses, and I’m horrible at Math. I should mention that I scored “0” on a stats exam while in Belgium …and now I’m on TV. So that’s for the all  of the students who hate math.  There’s some hope.

So I come home from Belgium, and of course I wanted to change my major to business.

Mom and Dad did not have enough money for me to stick around in Baltimore for another year. So Dad says – finish your degree in Psych, see how you like it and we’ll take it from there. I was so confused about what I wanted to do that I took the GRE’s and the GMATS.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to get an MSW, a Phsy.D., an MBA, or what else.

I finally graduate, and for three months I was a Psychology counselor at Four Winds in Katonah,New York.

Great facility, but they made a huge mistake with me. They put me on a unit counseling teenage kids. I was only 22 years old myself.  I was telling kids who were only 3 or 4 years younger than me that they shouldn’t smoke weed. Meanwhile, I was doing the same myself.  It was not the place for me. The last straw was when one of the kids I was working with asked to borrow I book I was reading. I had a Polaroid of an inappropriate pictue as a bookmark. The kid flips through the book, sees the Polaroid, and is like ” Chris is the COOLEST therapist here.” 

I wasn’t mature enough to be a counselor. The kid never said anything. But that’s one of those moments when you say to yourself “time to move on.” True story.

I approached my Dad. At this point, I’m desperate for direction. I tell him that I’m not happy as a therapist, and psychology isn’t for me. He sits me in the living room for a few hours. Grills me. What did you like about Belgium? What did you love about the psych courses? He’s taking notes and flipping through pages and he’s having a blast doing this, and I’m getting excited too. I’m realizing that for the first time in my life I’m getting my arms around finding something that I’m into and I’m good at.

So I mention to my Dad that I’m into this Internet thing. It was fascinating to me and still is. This is 1997 so the Internet is still a baby. But Dad had been a direct marketer his whole career. That year he was at Avon pioneering the Avon e-commerce site.  Later he would win all sorts of awards for the work he was doing. He’s the one who explained to me what email was back in 1993. He drew me a diagram.

He knew a friend who sat on an advisory board at NYU, and they were launching a new program.  A master’s degree in direct and interactive marketing through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Dad asks if I’m interested, and recommends I do it. “Christopher, the internet is direct marketing on steroids.”

I still needed the business training, and he thought it would help me mature a bit.  I studied like a madman. I did very well. The content was fascinating. Marketing riveted me and I’d found my niche.

I owe all of my success today to the delicate balance between my undergraduate studies in psychology coupled with my graduate studies in business.  I matured at NYU. I was a baby when I began. I left an adult with a clear vision for my future.

That experience with my Dad, transitioning from Psychology into Business has defined my entire career.  My new book coming out in November titled Remarkable You: Re-Boot, Re-Align and Re-Imagine Your Career in 7 Weeks was born from that experience. I have a unique perspective on career trajectory because I’ve studied Psych and Business.

Understanding business and psychology has helped me launch and grow Silverback Social, my multi-million dollar agency through non-traditional methods.  It gave me the understanding to launch when I wanted to get into social media.  My unique approach led me to launch the Westchester Digital Summit, which is a globally recognized conference that was named by Forbes in 2015 as one of the “Conferences That Will Keep You Ahead of Marketing Trends This Year.“  

Taking the unusual path has helped me to emerge as a leader in social media, by never selling, and only communicating my fervent passion for the field. My unique marketing techniques that are grounded in Psychology have helped to ensure the success of my self published book – and helped it shoot to #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases.  I consistently get booked on national television by understanding psychology coupled with business.

My advice for Loyola students is to build an air-tight online personal brand.  It should be anchored in their interests, and touch on what they’re studying. I would go so far as to blog about the dream role they would like when they graduate.  They just need to take the first step and put themselves out there. My first blog post earned me $260,000. Building my personal brand has helped me get on national television, build my multi-million dollar digital agency, catapult my best selling self published books, and launch my globally recognized events.

Note: If you’re a Loyola Greyhound with an entrepreneurial mindset, Chris is willing to help you shape your roadmap.  Just follow this link, and enter “GREYHOUND” for $575 off – only paying $29 for full access to his “Remarkable You” product. 

What is the “Remarkable You” product?  An interactive short course based on his book: “Remarkable YOU: Re-Boot, Re-Align, and Re-Imagine Your Career in 7 Weeks or Less” that gives advice on how to build your own personal brand
Photo courtesy of Jason Howie, “Social Media Apps” on Flickr,March 2013:
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Alumni Spotlights: Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi shares his journey to success