“I’m not insane. My mother had me tested!”
By now, millions of people around the world have seen the hit comedy, “The Big Bang Theory.” In the show, three physicists and one engineer learn how to survive in the real world when they step outside their world of physics. Although I admit to having more social skills than Sheldon Cooper, I do relate to the characters. About three years ago, I left the world of physics to enter marketing. I call them worlds, because they seem that different to me. Marketing is this beautiful combination of science, data, analysis and creativity. There is really no other field, in my opinion, that requires so much of both the right and left brain. After spending five years in a lab doing physics (which was an incredible ride) using my data and analysis skills in marketing sounded like an amazing adventure — I have not been let down yet.
What I did not expect was the huge culture change. Other physicists had become the norm to me. I married one, was friends with them and spent every waking moment in the TCU science building on the physics floors. Before Warren Douglas, I had spent the last two years of my graduate career in a lab that was underground, literally. Most of science is rather dangerous, so that is where the labs should be, frankly. Then I take a job in marketing: there was all this sunlight and noise — so much noise. People spoke to each other during the day, and it did not even always involve work. Fellow employees would be standing by my desk talking and I would just stare at them thinking, “You’re kidding right?” Come to find out that it’s not rude — that is how businesses operate. My five years of quiet time was over.
I also felt like there were way more acronyms: B2B, B2C, CAC, CLV, CPL, CTA, KPI, LTV, MOM, NPS, PPC… Need I go on? Sure I know most of them now, but when you are learning, you just want to scream, “For goodness’ sakes! Say the actual phrase, just once!” Needless to say, there was a lot of Googling my first few months. Those months also consisted of a lot of presentation edits. In physics, I had been trained that a fancy presentation meant you were hiding something in your data. The data is all that matters, anything that distracts from that is extra and should be removed immediately — all presentations were pretty much black letters on a white background. Every now and then, I was a rebel and threw in some blue. So then I get to a marketing company: black and white presentations meant you did not care about what you were saying. What you had to say and how you said it were of equal importance. Marketers are showcasing their skills with a presentation and are grabbing clients’ attention. Now data was only as valuable as the package it came in. What?! I thought, “Okay, I got this… Appearance of presentations matters, that makes sense.” Well, the more I tried to be fancy, the more I realized how undeniably bad I was at it. To me a crazy Microsoft Power Point transition was as nuts as it got. I used the wrong hue of red, or the wrong font, or wrong font size. My images were too granular or not centered. I did not highlight where I should, bold where I should, or italicize where I should! Finally, one beautiful day, I was given a template. When I typed into it, everything was automatically set up to look just how it was supposed to. That was one of the best days of my life!
Life outside of work changed, too. There is a running joke in physics that if you want the person on a plane next to you to not talk the whole flight, tell them you are a physicist. I have learned that if you want someone to talk you ear off, tell them you are a marketer. People shut down when they view me as a physicist. They are afraid to ask questions and afraid of the laser beams that are apparently going to shoot out of my eyes. However, everyone has an opinion on marketing because marketing touches lives on such a daily basis. People want to talk about what they like, what they don’t like, and how they could have done it better.
I have been told an uncountable number of times in my life that I do not look like a physicist. I have never been sure if this is good or bad because I have never really pinned down what a physicist should look like. I have met hundreds of physicists, and I can safely say, there is definitely not one look. If you do not notice the constant mumbling and twitching, we look like normal people. However, I have never been told that I do not look like a marketer. Apparently there is no stereotype for that, or there is and I fit it.
The key elements have been present in both fields: brilliant colleagues, lots of data, complicated problems with unknown amounts of variables, breathtaking imagery and a love for superheroes! If there was no one to talk about Batman with, I would be out. Hey, we all have our breaking points. Luckily for me, there are nerds in every field.