Spotlight on Dexter Patterson

Dexter Patterson ’14 (pictured on the left) is WFAA’s senior social media and digital specialist. A Madison native, he earned his bachelor’s degree at UW–Madison in life-sciences communication and recently received his master’s in communication from Purdue University. He and his family live in Sun Prairie. On his WFAA website staff profile, Dexter includes his favorite quote: “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar

How did you get into what you’re doing now?
I had been doing a lot of digital and social-media marketing in the music industry, so that’s where I got my first taste of working in the digital space. So I just started thinking about building those skills. In 2008, I was working in a factory, and I lost my job. So when I lost that job, I decided to go back to school to build a career instead of working another job. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I started thinking about what I am good at, what kind of advice do people come to me for, what doesn’t feel like work? And it was communications; it was talking to people; it was digital technology. So I made the decision that I was going to go back to school and rebrand myself as a professional communicator and digital specialist. I did a podcast with UW–Madison professor Don Stanley ’93, MS’00 called Two Dudes Talking Digital. That was my first major project as a digital specialist. We became friends, Don and I. He’s a mentor to this day, and I even guest-lecture for his social-media marketing classes at the UW. I used to be that student, so it’s cool to see things come full circle.
What is your proudest moment at WFAA?
When we broke into the top five in the Big Ten in total social-media likes. When I first started at WFAA, we were number 12 out of 14.
How has WFAA helped you in your career development?
Being able to sit in on so many cross-functional teams has been amazing. Learning from the marketing, communications, and development folks and the graphic designers, and just seeing how everybody is a small piece of the bigger puzzle gives you more context for your role and how you play into everything else that we’re doing.
What three words would you use to describe WFAA?
Fair, flexible, and fun.
What is your favorite thing about working for WFAA?
I love being on my team. Dan [Treuter, associate vice president & managing director, digital marketing] and Jim [Kennedy, chief marketing officer] — everybody’s just been very open, and they want you to succeed. I like the professional-development side of it and the emphasis they put on getting better. They want you to strengthen your skills, so I appreciate that.
How do you balance your career at WFAA and family?
The good thing is that it is a career, so when I go home, I’m still pretty happy because I’m not just working some random job. But also, WFAA is very cognizant of families. So if I have a sick kid, they’re not going to freak out if I have to work offsite or something like that. My family has been welcome here — I’ve been able to bring them in. I have four daughters, and I’ve given them all tours. And they’re huge Bucky Badger fans, and when they walked in, the first thing they saw was the big Bucky on the pillar, and they’re like, “You get to look at Bucky Badger every day!” They just think it’s the coolest thing.
What would you say about your coworkers?
I love working here. I’m blessed that I get to work with so many talented people. The diversity and the mixture of people, personalities, and skill sets — it’s all great.
What is your favorite thing to do in Madison?
Oh, man, there’s so much to do, but more or less, I just love being outdoors, especially in the spring and summer — whether it’s the Terrace or a lot of the parks — it’s a good place. I love the food — our food scene is excellent. I tend to call myself a foodie, and I love going out to eat in Madison.
What would you say to someone who is considering working at WFAA?
I would just let them know that you’re coming to a place that will welcome you with open arms and treat you with respect. If you have questions, they will help you. Pro tip: We’re going to eat bagels on your behalf. Whenever we hire somebody new, we always greet them with bagels. … And we’re going to make sure that you’re enjoying your time here. People respect everybody for what they do because we’re all held accountable to each other. I think that’s a good vibe to have in the workplace.