Oluwaseyi Sosanya is a design engineer based in London. He is Co-Founder and CEO of Gravity Sketch, a startup that focuses on the future of digital creation tools. Gravity Sketch is an intuitive computer-aided-design tool that allows users to create 3D models through virtual reality. At the beginning of the year, the company raised seed investment to allow the team to expand to support its work with automotive companies. Oluwaseyi Sosanya was awarded a 2017 Enterprise Fellowship.
“I don't look at engineering as a career, but rather as a lifestyle. I often feel like if I don’t have the tools to make improvements to a product or a process, I at least have the capacity and tools to learn what it takes. I find this extremely empowering. ”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
As a co-founder of a software company with no history in software, I find myself questioning, learning, and exploring all the time. I am learning how developer teams work, what coding languages are relevant for our product and how end-users use the software. I wouldn’t call myself a software engineer, but I find myself applying a lot of my mechanical engineering skills to software development.
My background is in manufacturing physical products, so I am much more familiar with product development cycles that take time and have a final deliverable. In manufacturing, I used a detailed understanding of processes and insights to help teams design stronger products. In software, I realise that there will never be a ‘final deliverable’. Technology is constantly changing and to stay relevant, we are adapting and constantly delivering the most appropriate product possible.
As Co-Founder, I am also constantly speaking to customers and partners. Building a company from the ground up is exciting as it allows us to decide what type of company we want to become. I have been able to apply some of my skills as an engineer to the development and structure of the organisation. Aside from emails and administrative activities, I try and spend most of my time with the team, learning and exploring the elements that make up the product and the company.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
If I am completely honest, it wasn’t as much of a choice as a rare opportunity. In high school, I didn’t spend much time thinking about what I would be when I grew up. I was very much into my hobbies, which were BMX, DJing, filmmaking and my friends. I worked throughout high school and always knew how to make money. My maths teacher noticed I wasn't applying to universities, and asked me why. She told me I should look into engineering, and took me to visit one of her friends who worked at Intel to see the fabrication process. This experience, and her support and interest in my future, drove me to look into engineering.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
I like the freedom and agency to explore my curiosity. I am not sure if it was something I was born with or if it developed over time, but I am fascinated by how things work and how they could work better. As an engineer, I often feel like if I don’t have the tools to make improvements to a product or a process, I at least have the capacity and tools to learn what it takes. I find this extremely empowering.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
I am most proud of being seen as someone who can add value and inspire students. I have given workshops and lectures at schools and I was invited to hold a workshop at a high school in my hometown for students who were underachieving in traditional academic subjects. I walked them through the process of designing and constructing a small piece of furniture. Seeing the students' self-esteem and confidence grow with each lesson was a real treat; to date, it is one of my proudest moments.
How do you think racial parity in engineering can be achieved?
Access to information and education. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have an electrical engineer for a grandfather and so from an early age I had an idea of what engineering was. I knew that if something was broken, my grandfather could fix it.
However, there wasn’t a real presence of professional engineers in the low-income neighbourhood that I grew up in, let alone role models of colour for us to look up to. I believe that as a society, we need to tell a more complete story of what engineers are and do. In schools, the focus seems to be on the academic demands that must be met for someone to become an engineer.
How has the ethnic diversity of the profession changed since you started working in engineering?
I still find myself as one of the few people of colour at many industry events. I am now seeing more women in the space, which is really inspiring. I have actively set out to employ women and people of colour to help stimulate the landscape. However, to truly have an impact on the lack of diversity in the profession, I believe we must spend more time with young people to help inspire and motivate them to take up engineering.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Follow your curiosity: the drive to learn should be fuelled by a continuous urge to question.
Research the vast engineering disciplines: engineering can mean so many different things, don't only accept the stereotypes. Explore the unicorns (companies valued at more than $1 billion) and try your best to connect with a few to hear their stories. Try and find a mentor if you can.
Don’t give up: embrace the challenge even when it is uncomfortable. There are many places along the journey where you may want to stop or give up, but let your burning curiosity drive your determination.
Make it what you want it to be: define what you want to be eventually. Use your experience to learn who you want to be and how to become that person. Engineering can open many doors and lead to some of the most exciting challenges in life. The more closely your personal and professional interests are aligned, the more you will get out of it. I don't look at engineering as a career, but rather as a lifestyle.