I’m often asked the question “How did you switch from being and engineer to an entrepreneur?” The short answer is that I never stopped being an engineer. I simply embraced an entrepreneurial mindset so I can do more than I could ever do as an engineer.
Engineers are respected because their profession exemplifies dedication, intelligence, integrity and passion. These are values that we can all appreciate. I have been fascinated by the innovations engineers come up with to solve the world’s most complex problems and making our lives better. For that reason I studied engineering to become one. I too wanted to solve problems and make a difference in the world.
After I graduated as an engineer and started a full-time job, I was faced with a serious dilemma. I was ready to work on meaningful problems and solve interesting problems, but instead I was asked to do routine work and repetitive tasks. Whenever I expressed creative ideas, wanted to see the full picture, or challenge some of the tasks I felt a push back and was told to follow instructions. I tried hard to comply and I even became good at doing what I was told. However, I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and felt depressed. I despised the bureaucracy, the pointless meetings, and the lack of purpose and visibility in my company. I felt trapped and helpless. Is that how my life was going to be as an engineer? How long would I have to do this? What if I wasn’t meant to be an engineer?
That last question was a tough one but I had to confront in order to be honest with my self. That’s when I decided to look for a way out to save my self before it’s too late. I was not thrilled about the path of becoming a professional engineer after 5 years of experience. At the same time, going back in academia for a masters degree wasn’t attractive either. However, I was desperate so I spent my spare time searching for options. It wasn’t long until I cam across a masters program targeted at engineers with innovative ideas. I was intrigued by it but didn’t know what the word “entrepreneurship” meant so I googled it. By the time I read more about entrepreneurship I was captivated! I started my application to the program. I didn’t tell anyone I applied and kept it a secret.
The weeks passed until one day I received an envelope in the mail. My heart was pounding hard as I opened it. “Congratulations, we are pleased to offer you admission …”. I received the offer of admission I prayed for and I was ecstatic! I felt that I was going to finally regain control of my life and do something I’m truly passionate about. I opened a new word document to write my resignation letter but instead I found my self writing a poem. Words were just flowing right through me and I was surprised my self. I mean I don’t write poetry but here I was writing something extraordinary. By the time I was done, here is what my poem said …
I remember when I got my university admission
I was excited about this new transition
A transition into a career with advanced education
Requiring hard work, focus and dedication
I was excited to learn and start my career exploration
But I had questions that needed further investigation
Is engineering really my choice of occupation?
Or was I just falling for my dad’s career persuasion?
He says my love for art and psychology is only recreation
I must be a doctor or an engineer to reach my self-actualization
You see a degree to him is a weapon against termination
It’s a tool to secure your future and thus needs completion
So I went ahead with engineering searching for inspiration
Battling through tough courses beyond your imagination
Flipping through thick books of weird Greek annotations
Staying up many nights writing scrolls of computations
My promise to graduate was my ultimate declaration
I fought and I won even through academic probation
I am now an engineer with a career and professional affiliations
I have a full time job and I am part of many associations
Yet I still feel like a child trying to satisfy his gratification
Something is terribly wrong, where is my motivation?
I now realize engineering is not my true love, but merely infatuation
I thought I loved you but your love gives me frustration
I gave you my time, my money and my full dedication
To earn an iron ring and a piece of paper as your validation
It may seem too late to reflect on these new realizations
Because it feels so far away and old like ancient civilizations
But I must speak now with no secrecy or hesitation
Engineering I‘ve cheated on you by leaving my occupation
I fell in love with entrepreneurship and innovation
She had me in a heartbeat and I was lost in fascination
She helps me make a difference to help the mass population
While with you it is limited by your overly structured organization
Now I can solve problems fitting with my beliefs and conviction
I can leap over your organizational bureaucracy with no restriction
Don’t get me wrong engineering, don’t feel the intimidation
You know I still like you, that is my true proclamation
Our differences are large, we must accept our separation
But I will still wear my iron ring to honor our graduation
I know that this poem written by an engineer may come across as silly and childish. However, it was simply an honest expression of a career transformation where I realized I have the power to steer my career and that my power is in my own hands. Your career development is your responsibility, not your employer’s. Entrepreneurship may be a path for you to consider so I’m telling you just in case … because nobody told me.
EMAD SAIF | Entrepreneur Making A Difference
@esaif | www.emadsaif.com