Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why Be an Engineer?

I get asked questions from time to time. Some of them might be of interest to more than just one "Inquiring Mind." I decided this question was one of them:

Question:

I'm interested in going into engineering (I'm currently in my last year of high school) so I was wondering if you could possibly tell me what your experience as an engineer was like? :)

Answer:

I hope you do go into engineering! My experiences, both in college and with employment, have been very positive.

I know there is a lot of curiosity about gender issues and engineering. As long as you are good at your job, it shouldn’t be a real issue. I have run into a few fellow engineers who seemed to question if I had been hired to “fill a quota,” but my work soon spoke for itself. In any field, there will be conflict.

The key to being successful in any job is to do your job well, don’t jump to conclusions about other people and their motivations and really listen. Even in engineering, I cannot stress the importance of good communication skills, teamwork skills and writing skills. If you are a person who can take fair criticism well and adjust accordingly you will be leaps ahead of the crowd.

Image: NASA and ATK's five-segment solid rocket motor fires during Development Motor-3 test in Promontory, Utah, on Sept. 8. Credit: ATK

Engineering is like being an explorer. Such exciting innovations and new technologies are being discovered every day. I remember sitting in my little cubicle one day working on a nonlinear finite element model of the new 5-segment shuttle booster and hearing my boss come out of his office discussing the conference call they just had with the astronauts in the space shuttle right before launch. I sat back and just took it all in for a minute. I was a part of designing new technology that would launch people into space! I was part of space exploration going on right that minute!

Engineering school is difficult…but anyone who is inclined, interested and willing to study will be successful. Don’t let people scare you out of it.

One piece of unsolicited advice—I have a degree in mathematics also plus at least 30 hours of graduate mathematics. Math has enabled me to be a much better engineer. I would advise anyone in engineering not to just take the required math. Go above and beyond. It will pay off.

Engineering is very exciting! Humans are capable of so much and engineers get to be in on all of the action!

2 comments:

  1. “One man's "magic" is another man's engineering. "Supernatural" is a null word.” Robert A. Heinlein

    For me personally engineering has been a discovery. I wasn't aiming straight to it, but just walking on a side. It grabbed me and conquered me. Engineering is exploring, dreaming, solving and creating, all in one long span process.
    Me personally I am a structural engineer, so you can imagine how my vision is applyed to solving problems, making impossible structures become possible and realising people's visions. But I really think the same could be applied to any branch of engineering, doesn't it? :)

    [Sorry if the English is not perfect]

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  2. I love the Heinlein quote. It is funny how you do kind of "fall in love" with engineering. And I love how you said you make "impossible structures become possible." I agree that it could be applied to any branch! Well said. Thank you for the comment.

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