"So what do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor or engineer?"
Growing up in Sudan, I grew up around the notion that becoming an engineer or doctor are the "safer" and more "prestigious" fields. In my view, although they are in some ways, there are still a range of other safe and lucrative career pathways which people can pursue.
I myself was in a dilemma growing up about what it is I wanted to do at university and beyond. My late grandmother Dr Zarwi Sarkisian alongside Dr Khalda Zahir were the first female doctors in Sudan who both graduated from the University of Khartoum in 1952. Hence, there was a lot of pressure from my extended family in the form of assumptions that I was going to become a doctor like my late grandmother.
I genuinely thought I wanted to become a doctor, specifically a cardiologist, until I started studying biology and realised I actually didn't enjoy it. So I dropped IGCSE biology in year 9 and decided I wanted to become an engineer instead. In Sudan electrical engineering is one of the hardest faculties to be admitted into and I had the grades to get into it, so I got accepted. But, before the course had started, I had obtained acceptance and the visa to pursue a foundation programme at the University of Sussex. At some point, when it all started feeling quite real, I realised I had elected to apply for electrical engineering just because my grades would get me into it and that I actually hated electricity because I got electrocuted when I was in year 6 which was a traumatising event. As a result, I changed my application and applied to Economics, which was a subject my mum had taught me at home which I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue as a career.
I feel deep down though that due to societal norms I was made to feel like I had taken the "easy route". Also, whenever anyone would ask what I studied I'd say economics and they'd respond with "so, business?" as if they were synonymous. In addition, I’ve had so many conversations with many of my friends who admit that they chose medicine solely because that's what their parents wanted them to do.
So I've launched this Career Spotlight series to shine a light on a range of other degree options and career pathways beyond the less traditional ones to inform, inspire and empower others to explore their own interests and talents. I'm constantly inspired by many people around me who have taken the leap and pursued their passion and less traditional careers which are in many instances different to what they studied at university, so I'm hoping I can share their own accounts and stories.
Ultimately, I think regardless of whether someone decides to become an artist, lawyer, journalist, sportsperson, musician, politician or whatever they're most passionate about, it's what you do within your career that matters. And in order to excel in your career, you have to have a real drive and passion to pursue it.