My College Major Had Nothing and Everything to do with CRO

How many of us have a college degree in something that on the surface has nothing to do with our actual career? I majored in Social Psychology and at first glance that doesn’t sound like a foundation for online marketing. Social psychology is the study of the individual within the group. It seeks to understand what drives people to act. And I draw on that foundation constantly here at ion. Social Psychology was my path to conversion optimization. It was the spark that started my passion for persuasive, measurable online marketing.

I don’t think there’s a college major dedicated to conversion optimization, so I was so curious to find out about the path of some of my favorite peeps took from “college to conversion”. I asked them how their college major relates to what they are doing today.  There was a range of answers, however I did find that there was definitely trend.  The other day I wrote about conversion optimization being equal parts art and science, so it doesn’t surprise me that conversion rate optimization professionals seem to be interested in majors that are both creative and analytical.

Here’s what they all said…

I graduated from University of California, San Diego with a dual degree in Computer Engineering and Cognitive Science. My graduate work was in neural networks and artificial intelligence. Conversion rate optimization combines a strong quantitative foundation with a solid understanding of how the brain works. So I guess you could say that I have been perfectly trained by studying both “software” and “wetware” in college. – Tim Ash 

I was torn in college — whether to major in computer science or business and marketing, my two passions. Luckily for me, the two have converged into the role of a marketing technologist. The driving vision of LiveBall for me was to apply software engineering practices to the marketing mission of conversion optimization. – Scott Brinker

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On the surface, none of my academic background has anything to do with marketing, user experience design, or conversion optimization, but the connections have proven to be profound. My Master’s degree is in Music Composition, and during my undergrad years I studied music education, computer science and French.  But looking back, I think I owe most of my current success to my musical training.

It may surprise people to learn that musicians, especially composers, do a lot of analysis work – studying and breaking down the structure and patterns of music written by some of the world’s greatest minds. I also absorbed a deep understanding of form, balance, storytelling, and the pivotal effect that very small changes could have. Perhaps most importantly, though, I learned how amazingly rewarding it is to translate an idea into reality, to create an intended experience for an audience. When I eventually took up visual design, many of those skills translated, and later still I was able to draw on my programming training to work in this crazy medium we call online. And here I am, simple as that. – Sandra Niehaus 

I studied Managerial Economics in college, which inadvertently turned out to be great training for a career in conversion optimization. The econ classes grounded me in quant theory – statistics, sensitivity analysis, price elasticity and modeling outcomes turned out to be really useful in doing CRO work. Likewise, the Managerial classes taught me an appreciation for the qualitative elements of business and how they impact business success. Classes on psychology, organizational behavior, marketing and behavioral economics gave me an appreciation for the human element that planted the seed that ultimately grew into a passion for user-centered design. I couldn’t have predicted this career at the time, but the education I got really did prepare me for what I’m doing now. All the more reason to be happy I dropped out of law school. – Lance Loveday

I studied Computer Science in college and it has been indispensable in my conversion optimization practice. You can’t optimize without measuring, and you can measure without adding code to a web site. In fact, in the last century, before we had Google Analytics and Webtrends, I had to write my own visitor tracking programs. I still use my computer science skills almost every day for my clients. – Brian Massey

I certainly didn’t have a Conversion Optimization career in mind when I first began my studies in Biochemistry. Fortunately, Conversion Optimization doesn’t have only one path. It does, however, require a unique mix of left and right brain, analytical and creative, science and art.

My background and education in Marketing, Web Design, Science and Entrepreneurship have turned out to be exactly what I needed for the full service optimization company I’ve built. I’ve also seen that hiring people with wide-ranging interests in diverse topics provides fodder for lateral thinking and innovation within our team. –Chris Goward

I read Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, during which I spent a year reading Experimental Psychology. It gave me a useful grounding in the science of perception, attention, cognition and emotion.  My PhD was concerned with developing materials for rocket linings. Web marketing is part science and part art.

The PhD was great experience in using the scientific method to solve really difficult real-life problems.  I subsequently became a Chartered Engineer, carrying out multivariate tests on large-scale processing plants. Conversion Rate Experts’ system is effectively a process engineering approach to web marketing. It has been surprising how many process engineering methodologies are effective for conversion; in the case of conversion, visitors are the input to the system and customers are the output. – Karl Blanks

Continually I am amazed and excited by how perfectly my career in conversion rate optimization aligns with my chosen degree program — “Strategic Communication”. At ion, I lead strategic optimization, overseeing a team of talented designers, developers and producers. Every day we work on a multitude of projects, evaluating results to improve communication/messaging and design experiences that motivate, instruct and persuade target audiences. My experience at Ithaca College helps drives my passion for innovative, quantifiable marketing and dedication to helping drive results for clients. – Jessica Collier

I was studying for my Masters in social work when I realized that my passion for why people do the things they can do could also apply to digital marketing. – Bryan Eisenberg

I’d love to hear what degree you got in college and how it helped shape your career in online marketing.

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