First do engineering, then we can think about other options.” “Engineering is important! You have security and a back-up plan.”
So many of us have grown up hearing this from our parents. Many, like me, started out professionally as engineers and gradually made the transition to a different field. When it comes to fields like Communication and Marketing, where direct human interaction is a key part of the skillset, industry insiders often find it hard to believe that an ‘engineer’ can offer meaningful insights.
But, what I’ve found in my journey from an engineering degree holder to the founder of a digital agency is quite different: every skillset is unique. Tackling a problem with a different set of experiences and different skills can often result in better outcomes. In today’s digital environment, all job roles are cross-functional to a greater or lesser degree. This means that the skills you learn in one field have practical uses in another.
When I started my professional journey with my partner Dooj, we were both engineering graduates operating from Dooj’s mother’s house. As we transitioned from providing digital communication solutions to a full-service digital agency, our engineering background was something that clients, our peers, and even we ourselves at times suspected was a liability. Over the past decade, however, I learnt that being an engineer doesn’t preclude your success in a field like communication. A lot of the insights I gained from my engineering background offered a unique perspective to clients. I like to take an analytical ‘engineering’ approach to the creative process. Studying engineering forces you to be adaptive: you have to be if you want to complete an entire semester’s syllabus in 1-2 days! This proved immensely useful because, when confronted with a business challenge, my default approach was to break it down into manageable chunks. When trying to find the right voice to communicate something, I’m able to look past extraneous details and identify what really matters. Engineering taught me to be solution-oriented and to treat technology as a means to an end, not a means in and of itself.
For instance, there’s no point in jumping on the AR bandwagon just because it’s ‘cool’ at present. Rather, I’d look at the client’s problem and think about all the different ways that it could be tackled. We look at how a tech solution like AR offers a better, more effective way of solving the problem.
Over the course of my professional journey, I’d say this is the biggest takeaway: look at your skillsets as tools that give you different options to solve a client problem. If you’re an engineer and you’re interested in creative, see your background as an asset, not a liability: that analytic sense brings with it a unique perspective. Use the tools at your disposal, solve those problems, and succeed.