“So, you think you know what you want to do?” This is a question every high school counselor, parent, family friend and stranger asked me when I brought up the idea of attending UC Davis. I was hearing the wide misconception that before you step on campus your major will define your career.
While your major can help in choosing your future, what is most important in college is studying something you are passionate about. That is how I ended up as a sociology major. I am extremely fascinated by people and understanding different viewpoints.
1. Picking a major not necessarily a career decision
Picking your major does not have to be a career decision. The purpose of college is to help you mature, make friends and learn about yourself. I have a friend who was a biology major and runs a construction business, another was an economics major who became an engineer and so on.
Sociology is a very interpretive major. This means you really have to dig into human perception and analyze it. And you have to understand different viewpoints. Sociology will force you to do a great deal of writing and research, critical for many roles you may have in your career.
2. Defending your position
In the working world, you need to be able to advocate for your position clearly and convincingly. Sociology often reveals the ambiguity in human relationships and institutions — that means there’s no right answer. Ambiguity makes it critical to define your argument. This is important in the world of technology, where everyone’s job is to figure out what is next and how you can be ahead of the curve.
3. You understand people and relationships
The business world is centered around relationships. The core of sociology is understanding relationships and how to work with others. Rather than diving into economic theory, historical market trends and other subjects, sociology classes are all about people and culture. We all know how to get along with our friends. However, sociology forces you to have meaningful discussions in conversations outside of your comfort zone. After four years in the sociology major, I learned to get along with people who were way outside my typical friend group.
Started as a mortgage advisor with no experience
So what happened to me?
After college, I worked as a mortgage advisor. This was my first job out of college, and I started with virtually no office experience, so I learned how to transition from school to work. I figured out how to handle multiple personalities and my boss, and how to organize my day. After a year, I started applying to startups in the Silicon Valley, a place where I could learn a lot with not a ton of experience.
I joined a startup in San Francisco in a sales role. In this job, I traveled throughout the Bay Area talking to local business owners about how to use our product. I quickly succeeded by relating to the business owners and helping them apply our product based on their situation.
Hung out with the engineers
Within the company, I was one few in sales to hang out with the engineering team. I learned to work with the head of product, designers, engineers and the account management. This allowed me to expand my role deeper into product strategy while still doing sales.
One day I stumbled onto a random company (Stanza) on AngelList (a startup jobs site). I learned Stanza provided a digital marketing product for a large number of sports teams and needed someone to acquire new clients, manage relationships and grow with the company.
Perfect job for a sports nut
As a sports nut, this was a perfect job for me. I could work in an industry I was passionate about, deal with people and come up with new ideas — all of which are things I learned as a sociology major.
I quickly developed relationships with teams across the NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA and European soccer. Despite not knowing a ton about the sports business, I researched the industry, worked with the teams and developed an overall strategy that enabled our company to grow the number of people using our product.
As time progressed I was able learn more about our products and more about increasing my ability to help our clients sell tickets and show content.
Sociology was important foundation for career
At the core of everything I do at my job is relationship building within my company and with my clients. While I cannot point to a specific assignment that helped me to where I am now, I can surely say my major, sociology, built an important foundation.
While circumstance counts for much of how I ended up in the sports industry, sociology provided the groundwork for how I will succeed in the rest of my career. If you have the ability to make an argument, empathize and get along with different types of people, there will always be an opportunity for you in the workplace.
Advice for UC Davis students
To my 17-year-old self getting bugged by my mom about my major, I would now simply say, “Relax.” And I say to you, don't pick a major based off job earning projections or what your parents do. However, if you want a background and skill set that can apply to any job, go with sociology.
Aggie alumnus Danny Seidel is now vice president of digital strategy and partnerships at ReplyBuy, working primarily with sports teams across the NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLS and NFL. He graduated in 2012 from UC Davis. Danny grew up in the Bay Area and frequently visited his family in Davis before choosing to attend this university. He currently lives in San Francisco and works with two other Aggie graduates.