“Allow some level of randomness or variability in your career.” — Ignacio Contreras
I remember, at 7 or 8 years old, I used to create circuits with this toy DC motor that you could buy at electronic stores. My grandfather, who I lived with, used to give me some money for arcades or comic books, but instead, sometimes I would go to the electronics shop to buy lights, copper cables, batteries, and motors to build a small circuit.
I was always trying to disassemble my toys and see what was inside, and my parents didn’t appreciate the fact that I wanted to tear apart the family TV. When I first got a computer, I probably spent more time coding and building my own programs than playing games.
From early on, I knew that I liked technology. When it came time to choose what I wanted to study in college, I made a list of all the different career paths I could take from different universities in Chile, my home country. I chose engineering right off the bat, and after a few years, I became an electrical engineer.
Now, I’m director of marketing at Qualcomm Technologies. I’m working on public and analyst relations, but of course, the tech background is there and has helped me in my career.
I work with the Qualcomm IoT and Automotive teams. I like both of them equally (picking a favorite would be like choosing between my kids). Whenever we have announcements or we need to communicate externally, I support the product teams in those areas.
The hardest part of my job, but perhaps the most rewarding, is finding the most effective ways to place the messages and stories you want to tell in the public domain — and, ultimately, in our audiences’ minds. I see my job like the movie “Inception,” where folks go deep into people’s minds while they’re dreaming to place an idea that will change their perception. Through our communication efforts, I have to go into the minds of people in the industry, understand their needs, and then position the ideas and concepts that will help drive attention to our products.
One very good piece of advice I received a few years ago is: Allow some level of randomness or variability in your career. That can lead to some positive outcomes, even though it wasn’t part of your original plan or natural career path.
In my case, four or five years ago, I was working on business development within Qualcomm Technologies. I received a call from a colleague, now my boss, asking if I was interested in exploring an opportunity in marketing, which was something I wasn’t doing at that time. I took a chance and jumped into the marketing world here — without knowing exactly how I’d benefit from such a move. It’s been very rewarding. It’s good to have a career plan, but along the journey, allow yourself to have some moments of randomness and to make a decision that’s unexpected, even if you don’t have an idea of the outcome.
As a kid, if you’re interested in technology or STEM overall, get into it and go deep. Spend as much time on it as you possibly can. As you grow and enter college or the workforce, you’ll probably have less disposable time to learn, do new things, explore, and pursue new passions. Get involved as much as possible, very early on. There’s probably no better time to do so.
Ignacio Contreras is director of marketing at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., where he leads the team responsible for media and analyst communications in support of automotive and Internet of Things (IoT) businesses. Prior to his current role, Contreras managed media communications strategy in support of R&D and corporate technology marketing units. He also led the team responsible for content in C-level executive communications. Contreras holds two patents relating to small cells and electric vehicle charging systems. He earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a Master of Engineering Sciences at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He also earned an MBA, with an emphasis in Technology Strategy and Marketing, from UC Berkeley.