No jobs in the niche tech field you’re passionate about? Create your own!
By Nicole Messier (CEO & Co-founder, blink blink)
Craft Circuits. Creative Circuits. Soft Circuits. Have you heard of any of these fields? Or seen any job listings calling for a Craft Circuit Engineer? Probably not, and you’re not alone. In undergrad, where I studied aerospace engineering, I never dreamed of becoming a Creative Circuit ladyboss, mostly because I did not know these things existed.
Now, I’m running a company, called blink blink, that sells Creative Circuit Kits to engineer DIY arts, crafts and fashion projects embedded with circuits and simple electronics. We designed our kits with empathy for girls, ages 8-18. My days are filled with traditional business requirements, but I spend a good deal of time with my friends, having creative field-days fashioning up light-up scarfs, gloves that glow when you touch them, and a variety of fun circuit-based crafts.
By creating my own opportunities in tech, I’ve helped define a new field — Creative Circuit Engineering — while simultaneously providing opportunities for girls to explore creating with technology. Win win!
So, how do you create your own opportunities?
1. Can’t Find Your Community? Create It!
When it comes to the tech world, you’re probably the odd (wo)man out according to the statistics. For years, I thought about going to design school, and two years ago I finally made the leap to attend Parsons School of Design’s MFA Design & Technology program. I had dreamt that design school would be more balanced and less male-dominated compared to my undergraduate studies as an aerospace engineer. I was wrong.
Although the numbers were better, the gender imbalance still trickled throughout the environment. So, my colleague, Joselyn McDonald, mustered up a group of us to create a community where the women in our program could come hang out, make tech projects and share job opportunities.
Can’t find a community that fits your interest? Find a group of like-minded individuals and create one together. Through just a few short meetings and hang-outs, we had created a space for women in our program to collaborate.
2. Find a Partner in Crime (a.k.a. Your Co-founder)
Now that you’ve created a community of people with similar interests, it’s always helpful to have a partner with whom you can work with and perhaps even run organizations with. Some call this, co-founder dating. I call it partner in crime hunting.
My blink blink co-founder Joselyn McDonald and I spent an entire year co-founder dating. We worked on everything from creative coding projects to teaching, and even traveled together before fully committing to running a startup together.
One plus one does not equal two in the world of collaboration. Two people get more than double the amount of work done compared to one person. It’s helpful to have someone there to bounce ideas off of, vent to, and who holds you accountable.
3. Share What You Know
Graduate studies in design and technology can take you down some crazy roads.The ones that kept my interest included craft engineering, fashion tech (no, not fitbit or Google Glass, the more whimsical and playful kind you dream about as a kid), and soft-circuits (think conductive thread, eTextiles to make circuits).
This sounds pretty awesome and niche, but there aren’t a lot of jobs as a craft and creative circuit engineer (to my dismay).
If you find yourself interested in tech ideas and products that aren’t mainstream, chances are you’re not the only one whose interest these subjects will pique. The best way to get other people intrigued is to start teaching and introducing others to the subjects. And you can teach just about anywhere.
Joselyn and I began teaching blink blink creative circuit workshops at every opportunity that was available. We would pop-up at fairs, parks, and started reaching out to museums and schools. People will love your passion and want to join your adventure. You just have to give them the chance!
4. Document Your Adventures
Now that you’ve created a community of people, found a partner in crime and started sharing your knowledge with others, you’ve undoubtedly had a few adventures worth documenting. If you’ve hosted a gathering, made something, or taught an awesome workshop, document it on social media and your personal blog.
You never know who is looking for someone doing the work you’re doing, or when you need to show someone your work. Online documentation can open up new and exciting opportunities. Joining professional networks like Linkedin, Behance or Twitter will help you share the work you have so carefully documented with the world.
5. Harness Your Network and Ask for Help
To get blink blink started with little financial support, I’ve had to ask for a lot of help. We’ve received help on everything from branding to workshops, and with the help of our network, we’ve been more successful.
With all of your adventures, you should have a robust network of people who are either interested in similar fields as you or who consider you a friend that you can ask for help. Asking for help is not exactly a part of our culture, but it allows you to connect to others, and them with you. It makes them a part of your team, and they’re a part of your adventure.
Try and muster up the courage to create your own opportunities. The work and the hustle is worth it in the end. If you’re interested in DIY, fashion tech, soft circuits or generally excited about getting girls excited about technology and engineering, please reach out to me. We can create new opportunities together!
blink blink Creative Circuit Kits provide all the tools to engineer DIY arts, crafts, and fashion projects with circuits and electronics, designed with empathy for girls ages 8+. blink blink launched a Kickstarter to get girls excited about technology; support them at bit.ly/kickstartblinkblink!