Meet Oyinkansola Akintan, a Nigerian, British by citizenship, spending her childhood in London, raised in Washinton D.C, and currently living in Brooklyn, NY. She shares with us how she started her career in Industrial Engineering, balances her side hustle with her 9-5 and how it’s been working with her siblings to run Via Asha Design LLP.
At 17 years old, in the months before undergrad, she drew artwork that won contests, sewed clothes & learned to style hair on her downtime. She also read Physic books for fun, and aced Calculus before entering college, so you can imagine how difficult it was for her to simply make that infamous decision to take the creative or technical route in choosing a college major that she would someday create a career out of…so she tried to tie-in both.
Having an appreciation for creative fields drives her desire to make an impact in that industry, and without neglecting her knack for mathematics and technical subjects, Industrial Engineering was a field she stumbled across and became an academic major, a career that has allowed her to tie-in both sides of the spectrum. Her mom calls her a Fashion Engineer, and she definitely doesn’t mind the title!
Name: Oyinkansola Akintan
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Current Title | Company: Senior Operations Analyst, Gabriel & Co. | Partner, Via Ash Designs
Education: Masters of Science | Industrial & Systems Engineering
Website/Social Media Pages: Personal IG – @oyincansoda | Business IG – @viaashadesign
Can you give us a brief outline of your background, the first job you landed and how you got it?
My first job was an internship during my graduate studies with the manufacturing company that produced products for home décor/lifestyle designer Liora Manné. I always made it my top priority to show up to my internship on-time every day, observing and contributing to each meeting and project. With pure exhaustion as I submitted my 52-page project at uni on my workings with Liora, on that same last day of class they officially offered me my first job to come on full-time as an entry-level Industrial Engineer; and so began my journey.
How did you fall into the path of Industrial Engineering?
I grew up in a family of interior and architectural designers, seamstresses, and artists, and early on in my academic pursuits, my skills and interest in the arts juxtaposed with my knack for mathematics. This often created a battle in my mind between choosing the creative or technical path. Applying for college led me on an exhaustive search for a major that would leave me feeling fulfilled from both of these perspectives; that’s when I discovered Industrial Engineering (IE). I was immediately attracted to the underlying creativity I found was embedded in the field of Engineering as a whole, and specifically the ability to tie in IE with virtually any industry, sort of creating my own career path.
What jobs have your IE degree led you to?
To date, I have worked as an Industrial Engineer in both the fashion and home décor industries, and currently as a Senior Operations Analyst for Gabriel & Co NY: a fine jewelry designer and manufacturer.
What’s a day in the life of an Industrial Engineer?
In plain-ish terms, my role deals with the implementation and optimization of manufacturing (or service) processes or systems to eliminate waste of time in production, money, materials, and energy. My goal is to always think: what is the BEST way to do something? And what technology or change in behavior can I implement to improve quality and productivity for everyone involved?
At Gabriel & Co. for example, my goal is not just to implement the best ordering system and manufacturing for let’s say that 2-carat diamond engagement ring you’ve been dreaming about, but also streamlining the processes that gets it in your partner’s hands right in time for the perfect proposal! My day at Gabriel starts with a diamond-filled bathtub (I wish); instead, I spend my days sitting with users at the NY office or on Skype calls with managers in our overseas manufacturing factory to analyze their processes as-is and identify opportunities for improvement. I then work with the Operations department to redesign the flow of a process or IT to design and implement a new technology system to make the process easier and faster.
Tell us a bit more about your side hustle, Via Asha Design LLP?
Via Asha Design LLP: a London-based ‘Design by Mail’ consultancy providing interior design, space planning, & CAD services. Via Asha was founded by my sister, who pitched it to my brother and I roughly 3 years ago as an opportunity to tie in all of our skills (my siblings’ experience in the interior design and architecture fields and me in the operations field), and of course, make some extra cash! We also wanted to provide a creative solution to the high-costs and time/availability issues usually associated with normal Interior Design services by taking on the ‘Design by Mail’ approach, meaning that we consult and deliver our design solutions to clients all conveniently through email! To date, we have successfully worked on over 20 design projects ranging from home renovations to hair salons and offices.
How are you finding working with your siblings? A nightmare or absolute fun?
I LOVE working with my siblings (we’ve also pulled in my cousin who is one of our consulting interior designers). We’re a bunch of clowns, so it’s always a good time! But honestly, because we each bring a slice of different experiences to the business, it all really makes for the perfect pie.
What challenges have you faced since starting the business?
As with any other small, developing businesses, our biggest challenges have surrounded topics regarding establishing a clear vision of who we are and how we want to present this to end consumers in the most attractive, memorable, quality, and problem-solving way. As silly as it sounds, simply coming up with an Instagram bio took us months to truly define, as I knew those few words and characters would be central to our success in telling consumers who we are and why they should choose us. With our Design by Mail process, we’ve been functioning pretty well via email with clients, but (being the efficiency freak that I am), we want to be better, and will be launching a new website with a fun integration that allows us to work and design for clients using some new interactive technology…stay tuned in 2018!
If you’re running a business and have a 9-5, how do you manage to have a social life and work both jobs?
I’m a strong believer and executor of the “you’ll always find time for what makes you feel alive” saying. So no matter how ‘busy’ I am, I always make sure to make time for loved ones on my iPhone scheduler which I’ve not-so-cleverly named ‘Nike’; sometimes you gotta just do it! I’m lucky to have entrepreneurial friends with product launch events, fashion week shows, gigs, and presentations, so I try my hardest to pencil them in amidst my other deliverables. But because there are times where I simply cannot fit it in, I compensate this by having regular Sunday mini-brunch parties or wine & convo nights at my Brooklyn apartment so we can all have a moment to laugh & catch up.
Do you think having a side hustle is an issue for employers?
No, if you learn effectively how to balance the two or three. I make sure to separate my 9-5 from my side hustle by being ‘fully there’ at work. However, on the other hand, I make sure to use my morning train ride, lunch break, and hours after work to fully dedicate to my side hustle and our clients at Via Asha. Because I’ve been lucky enough to work with small, mostly family-owned companies in my IE career, I also sometimes spark up conversations with my employers and co-workers on what I do on the side so they not only see that I too have a dream that I’m building, but also to possibly have them use us as a service provider one day…you never know.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success is achieving a state of joy in myself, what I do, and how I do it. I know that the realization of my goals will have good/bad/blah days, but I want to be able to go from failure to failure without losing the enthusiasm to try again until I win!
If you could go back and make any changes, what would they be?
Man! I would go right back to undergrad and double-major in Computer Science. In this time of technology, programmers are winning! My fiancé is a UX designer and founded a startup that works on designing web/mobile apps, and when I hear his or his client’s cool ideas, I wish I could develop it right there to launch it to the world.
Can you share a recent success story that makes you feel happy and grateful?
Gabriel & Co. have been wholesalers operating for 25 years+, and in the past few months, I was a significant part of a small team who helped define, implement, and successfully launch their new e-commerce system that now allows consumers to shop our products directly online without having to go to a local retailer. I subscribe to Harper’s BAZAAR magazine and seeing their full-page spread featuring Gabriel & Co.’s items that can now be purchased through our e-commerce website that launched last month made me do a little happy dance with my morning cup of tea.
What’s the most important advice you have received that you would like to share with other ladies?
Specialize! This was the first and last memorable word my Economics professor said to our class back in 2009 and the motto I live by. I know as millennials, we live in a time of entrepreneurship where we feel liberated to tap into every part of our interests, talents, and skills, especially when technology has made it easier to do so, but the key is to find what differentiates you from the rest, your core skill. Find that ONE thing you love (even if you have to sort of create it like I did), and be so good at it that people are willing to fly you in for it and compensate you well for it. I’m living proof of that.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Take your programming class more seriously and get the contact information for that one guy who aced the class. Greg H. from UB, if you’re reading this…call me!
What is the future for you as an IE?
Having been able to practice IE in the fashion, home décor, and fine jewelry industries to date, I would love to explore the cosmetics and/or fragrance industry to see how I can make an impact in their processes. I would eventually like to be an Engineering Consultant who specializes and is renowned for implementing systems and optimizing processes in the creative industries; they need love too!