Jakaria Jalal knew from the beginning that he had to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer or a professor to deliver his parents the dream they always had for him.
He made good on his parents' dreams and got himself enrolled at Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (Buet) in 2002, to study chemical engineering and build a career around it.
Fast forward to October 2020, Engineer Jakaria Jalal became the Executive Director (ED), Sales, of Bashundhara LP Gas Ltd. He holds this office to date but his career began when he made shift-in-charge of a production factory at Global Heavy Chemicals Ltd in 2007.
Sayed Joynul Abedin is the ED of the RFL Bicycle Division, who also happens to be one more Buet alumnus like Jakaria and is closely acquainted with him. Joynul too has diverted his line of work from his field of study: Mechanical Engineering.
He graduated from Buet in 2006 and his career took off in the same year as a trainee engineer at Otobi Ltd. At Otobi, his engineering spirit felt fulfilled. In about a decade and a half, in 2021, he assumed the role of ED for RFL Bicycle division.
Shahriar Bin Lutfor, Director & Head of Business, Samsung Electronics Bangladesh, is yet another Buet alumnus, or a Buet-ian, as they like to call themselves.
At this point, it should come as no surprise that many graduates from an engineering background can hold corporate titles, that too high-ranking ones. Jakaria, Joynul and Shahriar are proof that engineers, too, can make it big in the corporate sphere. How did their roads lead herein?
The 'brain-drain' phenomenon
Shahriar had prepared all the necessary documents for moving out to Australia when he was already a graduate mechanical engineer and was doing a job as a sales executive at Renewable Energy Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd.
He was determined to leave the country and join his friends who were already settled abroad. It was also around the same time he landed the opportunity to obtain his MBA from IBA. However, it seems if, given the right chances, the right people to do the right job will stay back.
Shahriar added to this point, "When I got into IBA, I gave up trying to leave Bangladesh for good and decided on settling down right here. I did my MBA in finance as that was the only knowledge base I lacked since I am already an engineer and ideas of sales and marketing I had gained already. Knowing these three goes a long way when it comes to doing the job I am doing."
The way engineering students learn and the way business students learn are greatly different. But engineering teaches us to solve problems in real-time. That ability is indispensable in the world of trade and commerce.
According to Shahriar, a market for engineering students with business degrees is on the rise in Bangladesh.
However, Jakaria is of the opinion that not just from Buet, even private university students are now migrating abroad. According to him, it is not brain-drain, per se.
He said, "People who think they can have a better life abroad and given the right opportunity, will leave; even if they are given a seven-figure salary every month. But I personally never wanted to leave Bangladesh."
Adapt and achieve
Firstly, Jakaria, Joynul and Shahriar belong from Buet and then to make things interesting, they have all studied MBA instead of staying with engineering for their master's degrees. All of their journeys followed a similar pattern and it was starting to show.
Jakaria was doing well as shift-in-charge at the Global Heavy Chemicals factory. The drive to grow came when, in his words, "Even though I was shift-in-charge, the head-of-production used to hand me a piece of paper for how much to produce everyday. I used to wonder who decided that and I wanted to be the one to decide."
"You are studying chemical engineering and a chemical engineer can become anyone they want," said Jakaria's professor at their orientation when he had just joined Buet. He cashed in on this motto.
It was also at this speech he was advised that studying MBA should help smoothen the transition to any career path. So Jakaria did; he pursued his MBA at IBA.
Just like Jakaria, Joynul and Shahriar also got an MBA each.
Shahriar chipped in a valuable input at this point, "To be in a big post, one just has to have a clear idea about sales and marketing, the product, as well as the finance. If engineering and a commercial angle can be brought into the mix, a winning combination can be found."
But all this is adding in more questions than answers as to why engineering graduates are pursuing an MBA or helming corporate offices. Are engineering graduates then not finding enough engineering jobs?
"Not really, it is just that the world is changing around us pretty quickly," said Joynul when asked why engineering graduates, like himself, are making the move into the corporate world.
He added further, "When I was interviewed at PRAN-RFL, I saw them promoting engineers and letting them operate the business. This amazed me and I never gave it a second thought and went along with it."
Unsurprisingly, Shahriar and Jakaria too, in their own ways, gave similar accounts of their choices to side with the corporate world.
Engineers in the workforce
Going by Shahriar's account to probe into the job market for engineers, we came to learn that industrialisation in Bangladesh is on the rise. Obviously, that calls for more engineers to work in the many factories and industries showing up in whichever direction.
Shahriar said emphatically that the first five to eight years of the job life is particularly an investment period; investment in oneself. But young engineers do not like to give it that time to settle in and end up frustrated.
According to him, it would not matter where they work, here or abroad. All jobs are frustrating if enough time is not taken to understand it.
To underscore the whole matter, the dynamics of the corporate world are changing. Graduates from completely different disciplines are crossing over into entirely different lanes of profession but are also doing surprisingly well.
It stands to reason that the modern career path is one of many roads and destinations unknown.