- Marketing has given me the ability to flex my creativity while helping me create a career path for myself.
Marketing — it’s everywhere. From the ads you see on your social media channels to the billboards you drive by on the freeway. Marketing drives a lot of the decisions we make in our day to day lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. Despite its significant influence on us, marketing as a profession is still widely understated. Many people in the Indian community lack the knowledge on what it entails or what career opportunities it can bring.
Growing up in a house with immigrant parents, there are some preconceived notions on what being successful looks like. Owning a house, having a family, being a doctor or engineer are just some of the expectations that are set. It is made clear to you that education is the priority and attaining a highly respectable career from your parents’ societal standards is the end game. While this doesn’t sound unreasonable, after all, your parents should want you to have a great education and a sound profession. It is an expectation that every Indian American child feels they must follow. However, the idea that every person’s strengths and passions will lead them to these specific professions is exacting.
While I have to admit I wasn’t the most studious kid, I was always good at more creative subjects. My passions were driven by art, music, and dance; subjects that weren’t considered academic and thereby weren’t given as much importance. I spent a lot of time wondering if I just wasn’t as smart as the other Indian American students in my class. This comparison and pressure that Indian American children feel is deep rooted and stems from their genuine desire to please their parents.
As most Indian Americans can relate, my parents spent their youth in India striving to earn enough money to give their children an opportunity at a better life. I always felt blessed to be from a family which provided me with all my basic needs. However, I was very aware that my strengths lay outside of science and math. I just needed to figure out what career would actualize that.
With a limited scope on what future opportunities could hold, understanding what I wanted to do with my career became that much more difficult. In college, I spent two years taking computer science courses because, at the time, I didn’t have any direction for my future. My parents would say, “If you don’t know what you want to do, do computer science.” Both my parents are software engineers and felt that if I could major in CS, I would be a shoe in to get a job at any Bay Area tech company.
So, I tried. For two years I put my heart and soul into this major, and through it all I just knew this was not something I was meant to do. Eventually going into my junior year, I decided to pivot and do economics instead. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my career, but I knew that if I picked economics it would open up several different avenues for me while I spent some more time figuring it out.
After switching majors, I was fortunate enough to get a few different internships for the summers before I graduated. With my parents full support, I spent time researching on different career paths that would not only help cultivate my passions, but also help me earn a stable living. The lack of knowledge that my parents had on career paths outside of theirs and the realization that I couldn’t fit into the molds of doctor, engineer or lawyer really pushed me to do my own research and helped me come to an understanding on what it is I actually wanted to do. Tapping into my college network, spending countless hours on Google and utilizing my first few internships and jobs to explore my passions led me there. Eventually, I landed on Marketing.
Marketing has given me the ability to flex my creativity while helping me create a career path for myself. As a Field Marketing Manager, I spend time coming up with creative ways to promote the products my company is selling, while also engaging with prospective clients and really understanding why people choose the product we sell. I get to focus on creativity, while also coming up with strategies to show real impact on the business I’m working for.
Spending years educating myself on what I wanted to do within marketing made me realize that a lot of Indian Americans didn’t have knowledge on many career options that were outside of medicine or engineering. Our parents chose careers that they were passionate about and knew they could be successful in, but they lacked the knowledge to really direct their children to a path outside of theirs or even outside of those “highly respectable careers.” This is where I know the next generation can help each other to understand the different careers paths available to them.
Anytime I get a call from a college student who wants to understand the opportunities he/she has within marketing, I take it.
Anytime a student wants to discuss what they need to do to start their career in marketing, I walk them through it.
I may not have all the answers, but as our community continues to grow and take the opportunities given to us, it’s important that we pass knowledge down to create diversity in all fields. You just have to remember, there are more careers out there aside from doctor, engineer or lawyer — just look at all the marketing around you.
Priyam Kulkarni is an Indian American marketing professional. Growing up in California, as a member of several cultural organizations, Priyam has spent most of her time focussing on her creativity in music and dance. Now based in New York, she is a Field Marketing Manager for North America for AppsFlyer, a technology company.