You don’t Look like an Engineer! ‘
The interviewer said mockingly as he looked at my RaeDan designer suit. Cut to precision, bold across the shoulders, gentle lines around the waist, the perfect inverted triangle: black, satin lapels, perfect length. I was sleek. Well dressed. Super confident. Eloquent, courteous, knew a hell of a lot about my role and most importantly, I listened, not to answer, but to understand. I ran my fingers along the surface of my silk tie and sat down.
‘What is this?’ He asked mockingly as he raised a Neon screwdriver test light. [The device is a form of a screwdriver. The tip of the tester is touched to the conductor being tested (for instance, it can be used on a wire in a switch, or inserted into a hole of an electric socket].
‘I don’t know Sir!’ I lied to massage his ego and confirm his doubts.
‘What is with the Photography, Leadership and Motivation Speaking? This does not help you in engineering. That’s why you don’t know what this is. How come you scored highly in the aptitude test you did yesterday? Young man, you need to identify one thing and concentrate on it. You need to have things figured out now. You are in 5th year. You have no time…”
Dear Mr. Interviewer, I thank you for giving me the job despite your spending 30 minutes to scold me. I am grateful for ‘an opportunity to help me figure out one thing in life!’ But with all due respect, I humbly reject it. I thank you for showing me a perfect example, of what I never want to be.
First, my being in my 5th year doesn’t mean I am going to die. It’s a lie that I don’t have time. I do have my whole life ahead of me.
Second, I don’t want to have it all figured out for me to explore my abilities. When I am in leadership or photography or designing bespoke suits, I don’t do it because I need help in Engineering. If I were that weak, the 4 solid years wouldn’t be such a walk in the park.
I have done 123 Experiments in the Electrical Engineering Laboratories of the University of Nairobi. Every other time I submitted my report after each experiment, I discovered everyone in class got different results. Guess what? We all passed! My lecturers kept insisting that, the life of an Engineer is purely based on the experiments. Since the experiments are built up on theories we learn in class and assumptions of uncertainty, we can only infer from the results, we can NEVER HAVE ONE CONCLUSIVE FACT FOR ALL! This is the most spiritual statement I have ever come across in the School of Engineering.
Why is it right to experiment on the theories I have been taught in class for the past few years but you want to patronize me for experimenting on my inborn talents that now click 23 years old? Is it right to only live a life experimenting on Newton’s relativity theory but it is absolutely wrong to experiment on my ability to make bespoke suits for men? Or my ability to speak to such a lady as Herfrica who was sexually abused by her biological dad; who held a PhD in Human Psychology? Is it wrong to give her hope for tomorrow because this isn’t related to engineering? I shouldn’t offer a shoulder to cry on to my brother Mwangi Kip Otieno, whose house was torched and his family lynched as he watched during post-election violence?
And why should you always judge me simply because I am honest enough to show you that I am a human being with diversified interest. I can NEVER be a perfect fit for your organization’s mission and vision! Organizations and Companies have one mission and vision but a human being cannot have one line for their personality. A human being is not a machine; say a vehicle to be described by one conclusive title e.g wagons, bicycles, motor vehicles, aircraft or spacecraft. People can do much more beyond a title or company’s statement of vision or mission.
Conventional Wisdom says that a person should focus, they should find one thing they’re good at, put the blinders on, stay focused on it, and never get distracted. Apparently, I don’t buy conventional wisdom.
I think what gets us into trouble is that we get trapped by titles, and somebody puts labels on us and says, “You’re an Engineer, or you’re a Doctor, or you’re an architect, or you’re a politician,” and we buy into how they describe us and stop seeking more. We allow people to put a period and define us by how they met us where I believe life put a comma. It’s been my life pursuit to see how much is in me.
There is a seed in all of us, and we have time to produce what is in the seed. The notion that there is only one tree in the seed is really a myth. There may be a forest if you give it enough time. So if you nurture what’s in you and don’t limit yourself by job descriptions, titles or people’s expectations, you can evolve out of one seed into a tree and out of that tree comes a forest.
I think the key to being able to do multiple, functional occupations or interest, is to find the common thing. Whether I designed a suit, did photography, gave motivational talks or wrote an article or anything that I aspired to do, a common denominator is my intention to communicate my love for humanity. I want everyone who comes across any of my work to feel important. And once you find your common denominator, its manifestation can be in design, in print, in films, in spoken word et cetra. But one thing that connects it all, is that my work communicates my immeasurable Love for humanity.
Yes I Don’t Look like an Engineer. I will NEVER look like an Engineer. I don’t just dress up to repair machines, I dress up to meet human beings and make them know that I value them. I can’t lay low and have mechanical feelings. Being human is my Style. Not using Force is my Attitude. Helping others is my Happiness. Doing maths is just my Interest. Listening to my heart is a Hobby. And Yes, I am an Engineer but chasing my other dreams too.
Dear Mr. Interviewer, the next time you watch 9 o’clock News and admire Larry Madowo’s suits, made to measure, epitomizing craftsmanship in all aspects, impeccably tailored from a variety of high quality fabrics. Cut to elegant slim fit and the light weight construction. Or you see Johnson Mwakazi’s dazzling shirts. Or HopeKid’s creatively mixed-color match. Or when you pass by Villa Rosa Kempinski and see camera flashes striking from that SPA in the balcony where POTUS Obama used to spend his nights in Kenya, always know that these are done by this person here, who doesn’t have it all figured out. Click link to access Danstan Wasobokha’s Blog Photo credit: Danstan Wasobokha