Stuck at my Career... Help Required

Hello Gurus,

Hope you all are doing well.

This is the first time I am writing a post on this forum and I hoping for a guidance from you all.
Before I start telling you all about my dilemma, please let me tell you about myself.

I am an SAP consultant, I am earning fairly good salary, but I am not satisfied with my work as an IT Consultant. While studying Mechanical Engineering I loved the Machine Designing subjects. I would spend hours drawing things in different perspectives, but after that I never got a chance to draw again. Through out all these years I was so busy with my work that I forgot about my passion for Machines and Mechanical Drawings.

In 2011 I though of stepping up in my career and did MBA in San Francisco. While studying I got introduced by companies like IDEO, FROG Design, we did case studies on these companies, and I got fascinated by the way these companies work. I also got introduced to the design thinking concepts, this made me rethink about my career all I thought was working for design companies as an Industrial Designer.

I have no experience in Design and its been 8 years since i drew, I tried to learn Photoshop and Illustrator by myself but then again I got so engrossed at my work that I did not find time to focus on my passion.

Now I am seriously thinking of working for these companies, or working for any Product Design Companies. I looked for entry level jobs but all they want is a design experience. How do i enter into this Industry? I am a hard worker so I think if I get an entry I will definitely make it, but how to enter is the question, Is it a must to have a proper design education? I sort out 2 graduate programs in California college of Arts which are according to my needs. But should I really go for masters or BFA degree? I am 29 now and investing all this money and years is it be worth it? After graduating how much does an Industrial designer gets? All these questions are there in my mind and I am trying to seek answers for them.
Your help will be appreciated Gurus, may be I will be able to carve my future path. Thank You

A couple quick things:

  • Financially most likely not worth it, designers don’t get paid as much as you would think. Starting over in your thirties (where you would be after getting a degree) would mean most likely a 50% reduction from what you currently make (taking a stab in the dark). But see the last paragraph…

-Yes you need some kind of design education, and internships, in order to get hired by any of the places you listed.

-Don’t worry about learning photoshop and illustrator for now, they are just tools, worry instead about learning the design process and practicing sketching.

In the end I can’t really tell you if it’s going to be worth it or not, that’s really up to you. What I can say is that id is really something you have to want to do. If it is and you get a job doing it, then I think for most of us, it’s worth it. Regardless of the pay, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Thank you for the valuable advice, do you know any way where I can utilize my MBA and still be a part of design world?
How about Design Strategist? Or Design Management? Do you know any good certification courses where I can learn and get a path to enter into the design Industry?

Hey shaunakdeo,

Design engineering might be a good option. Here’s an article from frog’s current Product Development Director on transitioning from standard engineering positions, it might be helpful: Design Mind | Thought Leadership blog | frog, part of Capgemini Invent. A good first step would be to build a portfolio. I think frog has restructured though and doesn’t look for mech eng’s any more however (though someone may correct me).

Strategist might work if you have a research background, most strategists I’ve worked with came from fields like anthropology or psychology, if not design. I doubt management will work without quite a bit of design experience.

This is some good advice, I’ve known many older companies that are a lot less design focused who have design engineers do a majority of the design and product development work, hiring freelance designers to act more as stylists. But I’ve seen mechanical engineers move to those positions as well as some designers who wanted a little more mechanical aspect to their workload.

Thank you guys for the wonderful advises.

About design Engineering, what should I look for to begin with? My Mechanical Engineering knowledge is very old, I graduated in 2006. While graduating I learned Unigraphics but I forgot that too. I read that CAD is an important skill to have. I am living in Decatur IL and the community College in my area have a Drafting and Design Engineering course. Please visit page 92 of the PDF below. Do you think that it will be a good start for me? If you can give your valuable opinion I would really appreciate it.

I will not mind starting at lower level positions, but entry in design world is the biggest challenge for me, currently I dont want to invest too much on formal education, Colleges charge a lot, also the cost of education in this community college is $2500. I saw online CAD classes for $1500, should I invest on the classes or education? After getting this certification do you think that I will get entry level job or internship some where? Or do you think I need to have 1-2 year formal education?

Thank you guys, it is helping me a lot in choosing my path.

Shaunak Deo

What about doing a one year course of adaptation to ID. There are many to non IDers who want to get into a design masters, maybe it could be a way of taking a deeper look and see how it goes without risking too much. I’d encourage you to take more than just online lessons, the feedback in this field is really important and face to face is way better than through a monitor.

About the community college, I’d also take a look to the manufacturing course and something related to art. CAD + Manufacturing is back end design, it could be a good way to get into the design business.


Thank you for the great advice, could you please elaborate more on this adaptation course in ID? Could you also tell me more about these program and the Colleges, so that I can talk to the faculty and advisers to know more.
Yesterday I went to the community college just to check there facilities and talk to faculties. The facilities were OK and I will talk to the faculty coming Tuesday, I want to start with the basics, as you guys suggested Manufacturing processes and CAD and drafting, i will focus on that. I also want to start working on idea generation and putting those ideas into paper. Can you guys suggest anything? How you guys gets inspired to have an idea? and how do u put that idea into paper? Is there any book which i can read?

I would really appreciate your help, thank you

Shaunak Deo

With a MBA you could work for one of these firms as a client development manager… or in some way tie your mba into a business development manager… which may be a better fit. I find most “client development managers” who do not have a deep understanding of design have a hard time grasping the clients true needs and end up just being sales people trying to push services…

BDM well if you are learning agile this could be a fit… With out know your exact MBA and the school hard to say, but this could be a stepping stone.

As for the people who talk about pay cuts… blah blah blah, that is a life choice and what is more important to you, money in a career where you are not happy, and i don’t care what anyone says, if you work 9 hours a day and are unhappy that spills over into your personal life as well. with out knowing your financial situation and if you have any dependents… it hard to offer more insightful info.

I also went to school with an individual who had graduated with a degree worked for several years and then returned to get his ID degree in his early 30’s - a decent designer whose career was more fast tracked then other people in our class due to his experience in business which lead him into more leader ship roles and who is now a vp of design… with a good pay above 100,000. now if you want to be a designer and work at the “boards” creating concepts I agree with others your pay scale will advance a little slower.

Just my experience as it related to 1 person i know.

Having done exactly that (engineer to design engineer) I can say that that article is 100% true. Especially designing on your personal time. My wallet design, which isn’t even finished, got me my job as an industrial design engineer.

Having a ME background and enjoying machine design, it shouldnt be difficult for you to understand easily the design for manufacturing. Back end is also fun and interesting and could be the way to land a first gig within the design field, some prototyping would be helpful as well, foam mock ups, cardboard mock ups, wood, etc. In my opinion, the problem is the front end, the research, trends, strategy, ideation, sketching, etc

I’m European, so I don’t know much about universities in the US but I read somewhere around this forum about adaptation courses. You should be able to find this kind of courses there as well. 404
I believe that with your background and applying yourself, could be a way of stepping into the business.

Get some sketching books like learning curves, design sketching or koos eissen’s sketching. Check the portfolios you can see around in coroflot or behance, like that you learn about presentation skills and design process at the same time. If you can, I don’t know if you know any IDers around your area, try to meet some of them. Networking is important and they could give you some insights about the field, just invite them to a beer or a coffee.

For daily inspiration I use pinterest, tumblr and the design websites (core77, designboom, fastco, industrialdesignserved, carbodydesign, etc) Movies and books, specially sci-fi in my case. Be curious and observe what you have around, think of how would you have designed that, the flaws you find in that particular product. Research about how that thing is used, in which context, ask people how they use them, what for and what they think. Then, sketch, your ideas, the more the better. There are some books about design process, but I’m don’t have them here. You can do some research, companies like ideo or frog usually show some of their process in their blogs, dig a bit into that.

If there are any questions or details, just ask. I don’t internet at home right now, so it took me a little while to answer back, sorry for that.


Hey guys, thank you so much for your valuable suggestions.

I have started taking Solidworks classes in community college. I will also take some manufacturing processes classes and prepare a portfolio.

Let see how it goes, currently I am working 12 hrs a day, but I am so excited that I go to college on Tuesdays, Thursdays and on weekends. I am excited to showcase my portfolios, will ask your reviews after I create one.

Apart from that if you have anything in your mind, let me know. I am always open to new suggestions.

Shaunak Deo