Why is a physics major working in sales and marketing? That’s a good question, and one I’ve gotten several times over the past year. I like that I’m different and that I’m taking an unorthodox route, but I certainly didn’t plan for it to happen this way.

A physics career wheel, courtesy of the Armstrong Atlantic State University. Note the unsurprising absence of sales and marketing.

Physics career wheel courtesy of Armstrong Atlantic State University. Note the unsurprising absence of sales and marketing.

When I applied to college, I wasn’t very sure of what I wanted to do after graduating. But I figured I would go to grad school, get my PhD, and become a professor, which was what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. But the summer after sophomore year, I started thinking about how I’d never done anything but work in labs every summer, and I figured if I was going to take some time in my life and explore, it had better be now. So I decided that that summer, I would only do things I had never done before.

It was a great decision in retrospect. I spent half the summer working in the science education division at the Smithsonian, where I figured out that I loved what I was doing but I was really frustrated with the system I was working in, which was just slow and bureaucratic and made me feel like no matter how much talent you had you weren’t going to get much done. Then I spent the second half of the summer working at a gaming startup and it was the complete opposite. It was fast-paced, responsive, and you felt that you could see the effects of your work immediately. And to top it off, somehow despite the fact that I was a physics major who’d never done any marketing before, and I was doing marketing, I actually did a good job. So I started thinking this was something I should explore and learn more about and figure out if it was right for me. It turned out my boss, who was the VP of marketing, had been a chemistry major in undergrad—so I figured, if he could make the switch, so can I!

I spent the next two semesters trying to take some classes that sort of bridged science and business. And I tried to find another internship in a startup for this summer, preferably in sales and marketing. One of my professors had really emphasized the importance of sales in a startup, and I figured it’d be a good skill to pick up, or at least something to learn more about. Needless to say, I really lucked out with TEC.