Why my background in psychology and biology makes me a great strategist

In this new blog series, we’ve decided to banish any lingering symptoms of imposter syndrome and instead embrace our non-traditional backgrounds.

I don’t want to place stereotypical assumptions on any of my colleagues, but according to the research, 70% of people suffer from imposter syndrome at least once in their lives. That means, if we had a reality TV-style confessional set up in the office, aside from office gossip and personal rants that fly a little too close to the TMI sun, we’d likely hear a lot of uncertainty spilling out about our perceived accomplishments and capabilities. As millennials (though I’m sure this tendency is common across many demographics), we’re often selling our knowledge and skills short and instead grasping desperately to the “fake it ‘til you make it” school of thought.

This is certainly true of how my thinking has been for the past three years. Currently, I’m a marketing strategist, so when people ask what I studied in school I can only sheepishly laugh as I share the news that my undergrad degree was not in the field of communications, but instead a split between psychology and biology. I had no intention of going into marketing, with lofty aspirations of becoming a clinical psychologist one day. And while I certainly don’t consider the path I’m on now a declaration of defeat, I can’t help but feel a pang of FOMO when I’m watching The Sopranos and the therapist has dropped some self-actualizing knowledge on Tony in regards to his relationship with his mother. It’s only over the past year that I have realized my background not only perfectly led me to what I do now, but amplifies how I do it.

I used to lament the time ‘wasted’ in cellular biology, chemistry, and genetics classes. However, upon further consideration, I realize this background in the sciences was no waste at all – it has taught me to approach problems, questions, and research with an analytical mind. If I’m preparing a competitive analysis, you better believe I’m going to do a deep dive into the competitive landscape and beyond, finding stats or trends that will reveal interesting opportunities for our clients or that help to better inform our campaigns. We approach the process with a holistic perspective, considering the sum of the big picture’s parts, as well as each part as its own avenue of exploration and possibility.

The benefits of a background in psychology were realized much sooner. Since starting in the industry, it was obvious to me that marketing is essentially the psychology of business. Psychology can be thought of as an exploration of how people’s identities, feelings, and backgrounds impact or explain their subsequent patterns in thinking and behaviour. Marketing runs with this, identifying these factors and finding forms of communication that will allow your messaging to resonate with your customers’ beliefs and behaviours in an attempt to capture their attention. The better the fit, the more likely you are to have effective messaging and ultimately a happy customer. While you by no means need a background in psychology to do this, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have spent years studying how people think and why they do the things they do when identifying a client’s audience or brainstorming the strategy behind a campaign or piece of content.

While I did go on to do a post-graduate certificate related to marketing, it’s the skills and ways of thinking I adopted during my days as an Arts & Science undergrad that I whip out of my strategist toolbelt when I’m chipping away at strategies or positioning projects. It’s these unconventional backgrounds, hobbies or entrepreneurial endeavors that our team has on the side that help us to bring truly unique perspectives to not just the work that we do, but any game of trivia we pursue.

Stay tuned for our next Why my background in X makes me a great Y for a little more proof of why we’re damn good at our jobs.