Interview with John Petsagourakis

What do you specifically remember about being a PPE major? What did you like about it?

I appreciated the breadth of the major and the diversity of the courses that were offered. Regardless of whether you were a freshman or a senior, I felt that this sentiment remained true. The breadth of the courses did not become limited as you delved further into the major. I always felt like I was learning fresh, novel concepts that were relevant to my interests and built my capacity as a PPE student.

This paid off when I wrote my Honors Thesis, which gave me the opportunity to dive deeply into a particular interest of mine. Ideally, an Honors Thesis is novel and adds to the general academia and thought around whatever subject you’re choosing. In writing this thesis paper, I truly got to see the value of studying diverse disciplines because it became necessary to create a unique concept. My Honors Thesis was a marriage between a political theory, moral philosophy, and behavioral psychology. The actual value of my paper came from the fact that I developed a background in a few different areas, and that these perspectives came together to contribute a unique insight. That was a really rewarding experience -it is what I remember and like most about the major.

When you were going about pursuing post-grad job opportunities and internships, how did you frame PPE in a professional way? How did you do so in an industry such as marketing or technology, that might not be as directly related?

Marketing takes a scientific approach to human behavior in order to achieve an intended result.  Similarly, PPE focuses on theoretical subjects, (philosophy, economics, and political theory), but consistently ties them to real-world behavior through courses like behavioral economics.

One of the major values is also the demonstration of a diverse set of interests and a willingness to work in a multi-disciplinary way. This is a skill in it of it itself in any environment where you have to be collaborative with different types of people. For example in technology, as a marketer, I often have to work with the engineers who are actually building the product. The ability to work cross-functionally, consider multiple perspectives, and have an understanding of different needs is valuable. It’s some something that you develop as a PPE major by studying different fields and demonstrating an interest in them.

It seems as though you had an interest in legal roles, based off your first role at Google as well your internship at a law firm. You then switched to a marketing-centric line of work. Was there anything specific that pushed you in that direction?

 I originally applied to the Google’s Legal division because, candidly, I didn’t have a good sense of the type of jobs that would be available to me coming out of college. Law focuses on reading, writing, influencing, and reasoning -these are the core daily activities of lawyers, so it’s natural that PPE majors consider the career path. However, I also had a personal interest in consumer technology.

I realized during my summer internship, however, that the people working in Marketing have more of a visible impact than Legal. Legal is crucial for a company to work well and run efficiently -lawyers are foundational. But, in terms of influencing product direction and changing the behavior of millions of people, the Legal department did not play a large role at Google.. When you’re shaping the business strategy of a company, especially one like Google, you’re shaping the lives of millions of people. I view Marketing as the marriage between science and human behavior,  and the ability to contribute to core business operations and push the company forward strongly appealed to me. I spoke to my recruiter and explained that my core interests were to shape the direction of the product, and the marketing team seemed to fit that best. Marketing and product design allow you to think about the people who are interacting with the things your company is producing on a daily basis.

Is there advice you would give to prospective or current PPE majors?

First, I wish I knew how transformative studying abroad through the PPE in Rome program would be. Studying abroad was an incredible experience because it put diversity of thought at the forefront of my education.

Because PPE is so allowing for you to use different courses to fulfill requirements, you have the ability to go through PPE without taking many 400-level, in-depth courses. I would differentiate between two types of rewarding, academic experiences: the first is when you take classes in many different fields, and you expose yourself to different trains of thought and ideas. The second type, which I encountered through my Honors Thesis, is when you zone in on a particular theme or subject and spend a lot of time working on it. My advice to prospective and current PPE majors would be to make sure that the balance is achieved between those two types of learning. It doesn’t need to be 50-50 -it could be more like 80-20 -but towards the end of your education, you should have a solid focus and should hone in on something that interests you. There is a type of learning that happens through this process that is extremely unique. It goes beyond just taking another class and learning something slightly different. To go delve deeply -which is required in other majors -but in PPE, it’s easier to not do -is something I would recommend