As an undergraduate business student at a major private university in the northeastern United States, I had a bit of an epiphany during my junior year.
I was on track to receive my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. I enjoyed marketing; I had a talent for it and was getting good grades.
But during a paid internship at a well known consumer goods company, my eyes were opened. Each day, it seemed, I came into direct contact with the inherent struggle that marketing had with other parts of the organization.
In particular, there was a constant struggle with the finance area. Marketing’s goals and finance’s goals were often, in fact were usually, at odds with each other. Marketing’s job was to sell as much of the company’s product as it possibly could while finance was there to protect the company. Finance was concerned about protecting the company from credit risk and keeping integrity in the pricing structure.
I saw firsthand the frustration and standstill that such circumstances could create. While I was a marketer at heart, I realized that it could be very valuable for me to ‘join the other side’ and double my concentration in school. I decided to do a dual concentration within my major and doubled up on my coursework. I added finance to marketing and did a double major.
To this day, I am thankful that I did. I have been in sales for most of my career, so my marketing bent will always come first. But as I sell high end software solutions to major financial institutions, the fact that I understand where the finance people are coming from, on both sides of the table, has proven to be invaluable.
While I am salesperson, the type of sales that I am in is focused on large, enterprise wide types of solutions. What I do is more than simply having the gift of a silver tongue. I need to understand the inner workings of an organization and how their operations and financial processes work.
Ironically, even though I have made a career in sales, my educational background in finance is clearly more valuable than my marketing education.
As I work with a customer and stand with them through business cycles and ROI models, my ability to fall back on my baseline finance education has proven to be invaluable.
My recommendation to young people today is to follow their innate strengths when selecting a major, but also to keep their minds open to learning something outside of their comfort zone as well.