From Engineering To Business Development In The Renewable Energy Industry: Tips To Making The Switch

This article was written by Sunkanmi Dairo

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, I currently work in a Business Development Associate role.  During the course of my emerging career, I have had the pleasure of engaging with young and inquisitive minds about the choice of a career path. This write-up is a snippet of these conversations. 

One question that I get asked quite often is: “Why do you, an Engineer, work in Business Development?”. My typical response is quite simple and it goes like this;

“At the very heart of engineering is the yearning to solve problems. Now, an Engineer’s brain is wired to identify problems, then s/he defines the problem, critically analyzes the problem and proffers viable solutions. This procedure can be transposed to developing a business. 

In my context, I identify the challenge(s) (problems) to the market penetration of the product or service that I am selling, then I define the problem(s), critically analyze the problem(s) and finally, I design and execute solutions that are specific to the market segment or customer category as the case may be.”

This methodical approach to Business Development is my modus operandi. I believe that this is what marks the distinction between my work output and that of others in Business Development who do not have an Engineering background.  

Here are two more questions that I get: “I have an Engineering (or technical) background. How exactly do I land a Business Development job?” and  “Why are you in the renewable energy industry?”.

My typical response to the first question goes thus:

“Your technical skills, in this case, your hard skills, are no doubt an asset. But what you want to do is shine the spotlight on your soft skills. First, you want to find out what the top soft skills are that are needed to thrive as a person in Business Development. These skills are not necessarily industry-specific so be sure to arm yourself with them. You can read articles on The Top 10 Skills Needed to Thrive in The Fourth Industrial Revolution and apply your findings to a Business Development role. A great place to start showing off your soft skills is your resume. Ensure that your resume is not too technical, rather, showcase your top soft skills in it.”

My typical response to the second question goes thus:

“If you do not already know, the relationship between energy consumption and economic growth is a mutually reinforcing one. Specifically, there are a number of empirical studies that have established the causality relationship that exists between electricity consumption and real GDP per capita. 

That said, it is no longer news that Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, is energy poor. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is plagued with an electricity network that is renowned for its lack of reliability. On all fronts, demand greatly outweighs the supply of electricity. Albeit the efforts that are being made in Nigeria to fortify the national grid, a lot needs to be done to consolidate these efforts. This is where renewable energy comes in. 

Some characteristics that renewable energy has over its nonrenewable sources of energy are: it does not get depleted, it is ideal for the decentralized generation of electricity, it has relatively lower maintenance costs, it has health and environmental benefits and its exploration leads to the direct creation of several jobs locally.

True, some sceptics have their reservations about renewable energy as is their prerogative. But time and again, renewable energy has proven to be a viable alternative that works.”

If you are an Engineer, just like me, and you are thinking of making the switch to a business development role I hope reading this piece has given you the much-needed clarity. Or, maybe, you want to join an elite class of professionals who are working to change the African narrative, a switch to the renewable energy industry will give you a fulfilling career. 

Image: Pixabay

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