I’m from a small town in India, where having a computer is more than a luxury. At the age of 19 – not so long ago – I finally got my first computer. I was instantly curious, but this late introduction meant that I felt like I was far behind my peers.
So, I dedicated myself to catching up.
My first application was simple enough – a calculator created in Visual Basic – but I quickly developed my skills. Three months later I had managed to recreate one of my favorite racing games, Road Fighter, in Macromedia Flash. It got me excited.
Turning a passion into a career
After graduating from B.Tech in Electronics and Media Technology, I wanted to work in a tech space that focused on visuals. It perhaps isn’t surprising that I landed in the gaming industry.
I began as an educational game designer, creating concepts and storylines to make learning fun. I learned a lot in this role, but most fascinating was the concept of usability. The challenge of delivering a complex mathematics topic to primary school kids in a fun and easy to understand way showed me how powerful usability is. This led me to front-end design and programming, which allowed me to create quick prototypes to test ideas.
Armed with this new skill I moved to Singapore to gamify animation series for preteens. With the company boasting over a million weekly users I knew that I’d need to take my development to the next level. Here I learned about improving game performance by optimizing designs, animations and media content.
After creating more than 30 games in a span of just two years, I was given the opportunity to help develop the then-largest MMORPG game in the world, based on the book Otherland. As any game developer will tell you, it’s a dream to work on such ‘AAA’ title played by professional gamers.
Here I learned to focus on my strengths: in a highly talented team, you want to be an expert in a specific area. Using my knowledge in media, UX and front-end technologies, I contributed to the in-game shop, where players come to buy game assets. My job was to take the 20,000 possible assets and prioritize the most relevant ones to each player based on their gameplay, strengths and various other factors.
One day I found myself at a networking event, sharing my experiences in creating games for everyone from kids to professional gamers. It was here that I came to know about an opportunity at Siemens where I could further my development, by making simulation games for city planners and mayors.
An approach by Siemens
I knew Siemens as a mobile phone business – I never knew the company did so many other things. When I was contacted by Siemens I presumed it was to design mobile games! My first interview went for five and a half hours at Siemens Singapore Office. I loved how excited and passionate my interviewer – a member of senior management – was when he talked about Siemens. With a mixture of fear and excitement I made the decision to join the next day, taking my first steps out of the gaming industry.
The job at Siemens Singapore was to create an experience center called The City of the Future. Here we hosted fun and thought-provoking interactive applications that focused on future smart city technologies. The role brought with it an amazing opportunity to meet a range of fascinating people.
My current role at Siemens
My role at Siemens has made me think about how and what I can contribute to the city I live in. I now lead a team that tackles lot of visualization challenges; we work together to bring greater usability to industrial and infrastructure applications.
My team is made up of many creative individuals from various backgrounds like visual design, UX, 3D development, visual effects and software development. Our team is tasked with driving a number of innovative Siemens projects, from smart city solutions to industrial applications.
Every customer is unique, a fact that Siemens understands particularly well. Siemens was one of the first (and remains one of the few) industrial companies to create a cross-collaborative visualization team across various sectors, tasked with customizing each solution to the customer’s needs.
At a broad level the process is quite simple: I start my work with a problem statement, then build a solution to address it. My focus area is visualization; I build dashboard solutions to enable better decisions to be made faster. To achieve this, I help my team to tap into their creative and technical knowledge, which inevitably leads to innovative dashboard solutions.
Advice for those looking to follow the same path
Many professionals who, like me, have both a creative and software development background can get confused or even lost between these two fields. I’ve seen amazing software developers working as 3D artists in film industry, but not utilizing their coding skills. I’ve seen some talented visual artists working in a software development role, but not leveraging their creative skills for their work.
My advice? Allocate time to work out your strengths and how you can use them. This isn’t to say that a more creative person should only work in the creative industry or a more technically-minded person should stick to software development – you can bring innovative ideas into software development with creativity, or you can make creative work efficient by using technical skills. Bigger creative industries like the film and media industry are increasingly bringing in talent with more of a technical mindset. This is crucial in our technology-driven world, and it’s in this vein that industrial companies like Siemens are realizing creativity is vital for product development.
Above all, having started out in a small town in India. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter where you make your mark, as long as you make it somewhere that is meaningful.