The Industrial Engineer Who’s Not An Industrial Engineer

 

I had recently reunited with fellow Industrial Engineering batchmates from UP. Talking to them got me thinking.

Apparently, 9 months after graduation, I didn’t take up the expected path of an industrial engineer. Neither am I working in a field that will qualify me to be any kind of engineer.

So what am I doing?

I spent a lot of time after my graduation in June last year working on KRIS Library as part of a group of volunteers to help in promoting a culture of peace through education. The free time allowed me to really expand our network, grow the team, and plant seeds so that we can work in other provinces in Mindanao.

This work dove-tailed with our initiatives in Extremely Together to build a community of young people worldwide who are united in their stance to counter the hatred, divisiveness, and fear spread by groups such as ISIS.

So far, none of these things seem to directly correlate with my engineering degree.

To ensure that I wouldn’t rely on my parents forever, I also wanted to earn money – like any other graduate. But when I asked myself what job I wanted to start with, it was difficult. The painful truth was that I didn’t seem to want the jobs that were offered to industrial engineers. The even more painful truth – one I struggled with for a long time – was that I didn’t seem to want a job.

What I knew I really wanted to do was to try my hand at business. I wanted to be my own boss.

For a few months, I experimented on trading full-time on the stock market. It didn’t really work for me.

At the same time, I was on the drawing board to come up with business ideas – reading books, studying opportunities, talking to people with experience, and drafting business models.

But, after a while, I settled on an industry where I knew I had experience in – communications. I’ve been my dad’s unpaid assistant ever since I was old enough to read. As a journalist for 15 years in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now a public relations consultant, he taught me so much through every step of his journey. And I knew I could leverage that experience.

I used to be shy in admitting to people that I’m not working as a typical engineer, but that doesn’t make any sense.

Today, I’m quite happy to say that I am at the beginning stages of starting my own company in online and digital communications. In recent months, I’ve already been working with clients, and I can recognize that the services I’ve been offering have potential. It’s a long, difficult road ahead, but I’m excited to take on the gargantuan task.

Again, I’ll pause here and say that nothing so far seems to be related to engineering.

But if you ask me, “Are you able to use your Industrial Engineering degree?”. I would answer, “Every single day.”

My engineering degree equipped me with the discipline to be as efficient and creative as possible in responding to the every day problems that beset a business. My engineering degree forces me to be resilient and analytical, even when failures and challenges almost make me cry.

And I know my engineering degree – in the future – can help me in improving this business, OR in developing future businesses where I can create new products or services. My ultimate dream is to mix business with nation-building – to use business as a tool to create real development especially in places like Sulu, my mom’s hometown.

Since a lot of students will again be graduating soon this year, I guess my point in writing this was to say that I believe our college degrees need not define us. Today’s modern job descriptions require much more than a college degree for a person to thrive; one needs creativity, patience, social skills, communication skills, and grit as much as expertise in a particular subject matter.

They call our degrees a “course”, and “course” typically means “direction”. But I would argue that our degrees don’t have to set the direction. They equip us with knowledge and tools, but what really drives the most successful people is not their college degree. It’s their purpose.

That’s the real “course” here.

(Originally written: March 2017)

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