The Story Of How An Art Historian Ended Up Working In A Development Bank
In one part of my life I was unemployed, depressed and living with my parents. No hope of finding a job because I studied humanities -yes, that monster that everybody thinks is useless- and all the cultural sector was crowded, with no room for new jobs.
Suddenly, I received a call from a friend, a very prominent STEM graduate freelancer; she told me about an open position for a job in a development bank. First I thought it was a joke and she was just pouring some lemon juice on my wounds of sadness and despair, but then she gave me an email address to send my resume and ended the phone call saying “They are looking for a guy just like you“.
My first thought was that and art historian working in a bank is like a buddhist monk teaching at a military high school. But to be honest, I was so desperate that I emailed the bank to start the application process. They sent me the job descriptions; it was for a consulting position in a project about GIS, maps and development projects in LATAM. “Ok I will give it a try,“ I said…
To weeks after I sent my resume I received a call from the HR department for an interview. Obviously, I was nervous but the interview went smoothly and was shorter than expected. Then nothing…
A few weeks later, I got a phone call -It was my new boss!!! YES!!! I GOT THE JOB!!!
I started my new job in one of the fanciest buildings in the city, on a very high floor of a huge tower. I was literally flying -usually jobs in humanist fields are in libraries, museums and old small offices. I was introduced to my coworkers and the adventure started.
To be honest, I didn’t expected to be useful at a bank but then came my first meetings and loads of work.
My work consisted in translating the results of the development programs -literally huge binders with numbers and excel infinite-multilayered files- to the results in a visual language using a GIS platform with multimedia resources.
The challenge was huge!
The way I dealt with it was by approaching the beneficiaries of the programs and trying to tell a story, a story of change where I tried to reflect the wellness of the outcomes of the programs. I asked for a camera and pictures and started telling the stories of those community schools built in the middle of nowhere that gave children the hope of a better future with just a simple new classroom.
Frankly, it was then that I started to understand why I was hired -I have a point of view that not all the specialists in STEM or economics have: A visual understanding and storytelling point of view.
I was asked to prepare a workshop for other coworkers about the way they could think about their development jobs -a visual way. Then I used the methodology of one of my first semesters of the Bachelor in Art History. I prepared a workshop based on one of the most classic books in the Visual/Humanities field: John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.
Ways of Seeing is a book based on a TV show from the 70’s, and the basic thesis is about how the way we see or “read“ images can affect the whole picture or final result.
The workshop helped to create a new way of seeing the outputs of a development project and how they were really affecting the beneficiares of the Bank programs in a positive way.
I understood that my position was a missing link that commonly is absent from companies or businesses that are more oriented towards numbers. They needed somebody that understood visual culture in order to create communication paths with the final costumers and beneficiaries.
This is what I now consider to be the importance of my work because I try to bring to the table the skills built with my humanist education, and now I’m pursuing knowledge from the other side with design thinking studies and UX/UI experience.
So, my best advice is that if you are creating a startup or company, don’t forget to include an art historian, a writer, a philosopher or so on, in your team; it will bring a new approach to solution and designs that might be obvious and simple but powerful and effective.