I was almost an engineer…until communications got in the way.
I wanted to write this brief story as a reminder for myself and those who feel they have lost enthusiasm about their careers. Sometimes you just need to remember why you are doing what you are doing and that it is okay to change your mind. Fortunately, nothing is set in stone, and careers are anything but linear!
I was 14 years old when I begged my parents for a subscription to National Geographic magazine. That is how my career journey began, and I didn’t even know it.
One day, I was queuing with my mom at the supermarket, and I grabbed the first magazine I saw that had an attractive cover. I spent the next 30 minutes reading it, and although it took time to realise it, that was when a communications career first got on my radar.
I still remember that first time reading a National Geographic magazine cover to cover. Until that point, I had not read a captivating, real-life story. Every time I picked the latest issue, I got lost in a new report about wildlife conservation or the practices of different cultures around the world. It even got me into reading English newspapers like The New York Times.
Those journalists made me want to learn to be able to write in such a compelling way. I still remember using one of Nat Geo’s issues to write an oratory piece for a regional contest. I did not win, but I truly enjoyed writing it.
So, if I enjoyed putting thoughts into written words, why did I spend two years looking at engineering programmes?
The answer seemed simple back then: I was great at maths, physics, and other science subjects, and my dad was an engineer. So, I thought that careers like industrial engineering and industrial design were the best fit for me. It was the “right” choice in terms of my skills and job opportunities.
Yet, whenever I tried to picture myself after finishing one of those undergraduate degrees, I could not see myself doing anything with it. I could only imagine white walls and a desk.
Though it was expected of me to pursue a more “challenging” career, I could not get excited about engineering. I mean, I find it interesting knowing how things work, but that was the extent of my curiosity. So, I stopped looking at engineering programmes, and I was ready to take a sabbatical to decide what to study.
But life has a way of putting unexpected things in front of you. During high school, I read Ralf Isau’s Twilight Circle series. Silly as it sounds, those books reminded me of what I enjoyed: history, seeking the truth, and using the written word to inform others.
Those books, combined with my fascination with National Geographic and reading about current affairs, made me see that maybe my path was oriented towards social sciences. Journalism became my chosen path, and my new dream was to be a war correspondent.
However, a career talk with my Spanish and Literature professor changed my perspective.
“Don’t limit yourself to a Journalism degree. You should check Communications programmes. You will have journalism classes, but also get a broader view of the craft”, she said.
I am so thankful for her advice. I got my degree in Communications, and I do not regret it. While I loved the journalism and theoretical courses, the classes I truly enjoyed were crisis management, geopolitics, governmental and corporate communications. That broad perspective changed it all.
I believed that journalism was the only way to create awareness about important social and political issues. I still wanted to do that. But, with each communications course, I began wondering if it was the best path to accomplish my goal.
Now, with a master’s degree and plenty of professional experience, I know that organisations also have a role in promoting values and social causes and changing what needs to be changed. That is precisely what I have been doing: helping private and public institutions create bridges with the public by communicating better.
Instead of reporting wars and conflicts, I am helping organisations communicate their values and what they believe in. I always strive to help my clients reach their audiences and also to change policies and situations for the better.