When Hajj Flemings looks at a city, he sees more than the streets and buildings. Blessed with an uncanny gift for looking deeper into places, people, and cultures, Flemings invites those around him to bring their light and search with him for the essential.
When he graduated from Michigan Tech with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering, Flemings was well prepared to adapt to his new work environment on the factory floor at Ford—and begin refining the key concepts for his future endeavors. He went on to start Brand Camp University, an educational platform that is preparing people for the future of work, and Rebrand Detroit, a civic design and brand project and multi-disciplinary collaboration with the residents, community stakeholders, and local government to change cities—starting with his home city of Detroit.
At Ford Flemings was a quality engineer responsible for 20 percent of their aftermarket parts, including remanufactured engines and catalytic converters.
“I was giving instructions to people who worked on the line longer than I had been alive, but it was through that role I gained an appreciation for making complex concepts simple, while learning to communicate with people who knew more about the core job than I did,” he shares. “It helped me prepare to pivot on my career when the time was right.”
“I knew on day one that I didn’t want to be an engineer my whole life, but I also knew the degree taught discipline and trained you on how to solve problems.”
Being a creative at heart, Flemings was writing a branding book and establishing his business while preparing for an exit plan from Ford. “Quality engineering continues to influence what I do today to think beyond aesthetics. It means creating something that works, makes business sense, and is accessible and sustainable,” he explains. “In everything I do, I am thinking about the entire design process journey and how the product meets reality.”
There is a seasonality of products and people. Products have a lifecycle just like people who leave their positions, notes Flemings. “When creating, we need to ensure we have everything on the ground needed to create it, know how to put it in the hands of the consumer, and make sure there is a documentation trail, so we can hand it off to the next person.”
The grit and determination he gained working through challenging coursework at Michigan Tech has enabled Flemings to lead rebranding efforts for cities across the country and also in Haiti. Looking back on his career successes, Flemings says he feels inspired.
“The greatest opportunity I have in my role is to learn from others’ stories, develop relationships, and to be able to write the stories of businesses and cities to impact their culture.”