Trials and tribulations of a marketing-converted engineer
Exactly 13 years ago, I was enjoying the last summer before college. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be…or so I thought…I’d go and Study Electrical Engineering, specialize in Mobile Communications and Satellites and then do an awesome PhD, further the field. Most of my mates didn’t even know if they would make it through the first year with all exams passed so what would be the point of more planning…but I was a woman with a plan.
Fast forward to 13 years later, I’m happily elbow deep in digital marketing — i’m doing web, i’m doing app, video..i’m doing them all, all the new toys are mine! Did I ever do a PhD in engineering? Nop. Am I still nostalgic about one? Perhaps. Could I have made more money by doing something tech-heavy? Yes. But with me, it was never about the money, it was about something that suited my style. Bohemian as it sounds, I always did what I loved and work has never been “work” but passion.
I’ve always been a hard worker. Started after my first year of college at the age of 19 — I wanted to earn money to travel and see the world. I had a scholarship which I saved religiously for specific purposes and some money from my parents which weren’t enough for a month in Bucharest. But they strived to send me all they could and because I knew that, I never wanted to tell them so I did my best to compensate.
By the time I was finishing up college and was writing my final thesis, I had already been working for 4 years out of which 2 and a half in digital and I could feel I was at a crossroad — I would either go towards the original plan and do research or get hard-core into performance marketing. It was a much easier choice than I would have thought. I found that while I could be dead to the world for a few weeks working on a project, after that I wanted to do something completely different, more creative…more artsy…more something not with code. My artistic education as a child was rearing its head ever so often and nudging me in a different direction and whenever it did I didn’t push it away. I never wanted to be like most kids anyway, and I was always happy with MY way. For the topic that I felt strongly about there was very little to no know-how in the faculty about how I would go about doing things, little funds. I had to look forward to struggles to get the hardware support that I needed, and although it pains me to say this, some amount of backward thinking on the part of the professors. I was already earning more that I would have had from a PhD programme. I had become financial independent two years before and happy to be on my own and not burdening my parents. The option of me doing abroad was a no-go. My parents didn’t have the kind of money needed to supplement scholarships.
So I turned down the warm invitation of my conducting professor and went all guns blazing into the new and exciting field of performance marketing. I got into serious jobs at serious companies and even though I’d previously done SEO and webmaster stuff — so I felt quite confident about me being at least a little tech-savvy — one thing which started to become obvious was whenever I had requests for technical departments, 70% of cases I got the “oh she’s marketing, she doesn’t get much” kind of grins. Which really used to piss me off because the whole possibility of me having any acumen whatsoever of the topic was completely slayed.
And when I say marketing, I’m saying the most techy geeky side of it, the kind you need to know how to read HTML and CSS at least, be comfortable with tags and scripts, pixels and conversion elements — not exactly the most flower-power stuff. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to slap somebody across the face with proof of technical bandwidth. Just to have the satisfaction of having proved a point. I guess people in digital are sensible in the sense that we strongly believe in the philosophy “I don’t teach you how to do yours, don’t presume to teach me how to do mine!”
And the funny bit is that even now, sometimes, depending on who you talk to, you need to consider carefully which background you pull out from the hat. Should it be the engineering one or the marketing one now? Cause when you talk about creativity, copy, messaging, people think the tech part makes you almost autistic and clearly not something you’re good at. When you talk to tech people of you start playing the creativity card, you’ll most probably be dead in the water.
I’m sure some people are reading this and thinking: “Well that’s not fair. I don’t do that at all!” I’m sure you don’t but this is not about you…and these things do happen in the real life :) I wrote an article awhile back about the two departments needing to become bffs and I will always be the greatest advocate of this. And things are changing. AI, machine learning and the giant leap in all things digital lead all roads to tech in the end, so whether you feel comfortable or not with pixels…you kinda need to learn what that means! Getting informed on what your project requires.
I myself am no “wunderkind” do-it-all marketing and dev stuff. It would be ridiculous to think anyone can be both, afterall there are only 24 hours in the day and then there is also life! But I guess I try to be — I always try to take the best from both worlds because I’ve always been complete having them both.
After 13 years, if I had to do it all again, I’d do things the same way and I would still become the annoyingly resilient girl in the marketing department who had a dream of tech.
PS: If you’re reading this and you find yourself in it…this one’s for you! Like Spock says: “Live long and prosper”
And if you also have a story, please share it…I’d love to hear it.