What did you want to be when you grew up?
If you’re like most people, the answer to that question was probably a profession you saw on television or met in real life, such as a doctor or dolphin trainer. You weren’t aware of the endless career options that actually existed because behind the dentist you admired was a team of record keepers and hygienists helping run the same show.
Ask any magician: the real magic happens behind the curtain. And now that you’ve seen in the shadows, you know there are more careers than the dozen you could name as a child.
The best part of this enlightenment is that you’re still not done encountering new fields. Hybrid professions appear every day, and technology’s rapid growth is fueling that fire. Instead of choosing ultra-scientific routes or complete artistry, people are creating another option. And leaders across the design community are some of the first to take notice.
Rather than let exaggerated claims of right- or left-brainedness define potential, a generation of technical-creatives is ditching the idea that they can’t be both.
Writer Matt McCue summed up the phenomenon perfectly, saying, “The age-old standard of working your way up the ladder at a single company for the duration of your life has been disrupted by career professionals blending skills that were once thought to be mutually exclusive – like design and computer programming – to make entirely new hybrid careers in anticipation of the market needs of tomorrow.”
To build upon that example, think of a website developer clamoring away on the computer all day. Sure, this person manages the technical side but [s]he also heads the site’s visual design and layout. In fact, some of the first few steps (aside from knowing a programming language or two) involve mapping out a design that can turn into a fully functional website.
Outside the task of bringing that vision to life, the developer also has to consider what the final product will be like for the people using it. Now, this seemingly technical job involves immense creativity and people skills to boot.
Web developers and animators aren’t the only ones to bridge the gap between techies and creatives. People all over the world are finding new ways to layer artistic approaches onto a technical foundation. As a result, professions and products are blurring the lines between two of the world’s most distinct categories. And the important thing is recognizing them and encouraging the movement to spread.
Kara D. Federmeier, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, shed some light on the truth of the hemispherical relationship in the brain, stating that it does, in fact, take “two hemispheres to be logical – or to be creative.”
Education is one place to start. Have you heard of Biomedical Communications? It sounds strictly scientific, right?
It’s not. Though the degree program currently lives within university medical schools and health programs, the average curriculum looks more like it belongs in a private liberal arts school.
Yet, pros in this field aren’t just great photographers and poster designers. They’re intelligent creatives who also have a passion for science, medicine and instruction.
Take Sarah Kim, a biomedical communicator with a stunning portfolio and a dual degree in biology and psychology. Looking at her CV, it’s hard to determine whether she’s an artist or a scientist – especially with research titled “Visualizing the Neurobiology of Trauma to Improve Patient Care” under her belt. But today’s surge of technical creatives in the workplace means she doesn’t have to choose. She’s both, and there’s a place for her skills in art and medicine.
Similarly, the hybrid professional is also starting to weave both skillsets into everyday life – not just the office.
For example, flipping through the lifestyle section of a magazine will reveal ways to revitalize your home with decor or plan a memorable social gathering. While that kind of information brings value to many, people are starting to look beyond their Pinterest boards for lifestyle inspiration and creative hacks.
A prime example of this shift in perspective is the idea that SCRUM – a precise methodology used to tackle projects primarily in software and manufacturing environments – could be applied to the process of planning a beautiful wedding.
After considering this pairing, Scrum Your Wedding was born. The company was founded by Hannah Kane and Julia Smith, who both had experience in agile project management and Scrum methodology, amongst other things.
And the technical applications don’t stop at planning, because today’s brides have also been known to ditch the craft store in favor of coded ceremony details, such as custom Snapchat filters. Of course, throwing an awesome party isn’t the only reason you may look to fuse technology and creativity in your daily life.
Open APIs, or publicly available application programming interfaces (APIs), allow anyone with the know-how to add a few lines of code to change the way an application works. Say your bank’s app uses an API like this.
If you wanted, and knew how, you could program the account to block purchases over a certain amount or on a certain vice. The impressive thing about this example is that using technical skills to improve your lifestyle in some way, without working in Fintech or banking, shows how “both-brained” thinking picks up traction and eventually turns into viable professions.
Sometimes, the creativity lies in the approach and not the actual medium.
Award-winning designer Christopher Simmons would likely support that claim. On the website of his now well-known side gig, This Message is Medium Rare, Simmons said, “If you look at the world both critically and with wonder, there are lessons to be learned everywhere.”
Take Simmons’s word for it. He’s transformed the act of eating a burger into a science with carefully documented details and mouth-watering photos. If you’re wondering where the technicalities come in, consider his website design, along with the fact that he’s conjured up a methodical approach to examine something quite commonplace.
There’s money-making possibilities behind all of these cases, but today’s clear front-runner in the hybrid race is the front-end developer, who also dabbles in other areas.
Luckily, Greif’s unicorn classification is going on five years, and hoards of developers with that mix of skills are moving through the professional world. Perhaps, in another five years, children will answer “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with something very different.
Maybe it will even be “full-stack website developer.” Whatever it is, just make sure you do what you love.