Satisfaction was the ticket for David H. Lewis, a partner at Revolution NMR in Fort Collins, Colo. "I love to create, design, and invent new things," he says. "I still love it 30 years later. One of the greatest feelings is seeing a customer's face when you created what they thought was impossible."
For me, engineering wasn't so much a conscious choice as a natural progression. As an adolescent, I was surprised to learn that there were whole colleges devoted to design -- engineering schools, they were called -- and I knew that that's where I'd be going. Unfortunately, the bugaboo that plagued me when I took gadgets apart as a youngster still holds true today -- when you try to put something back together again, there's always one piece left over.
Here are some valuable insights from more of our LinkedIn group participants:
Gary Kenward, an independent systems engineer who's worked at several major companies over a 30-year career: "I chose engineering because I wanted to work on solutions for immediate real world problems. I liked the idea of seeing the results of my efforts being used. Does this hold true today? No, not really. The industries where I have spent my career -- call them information and computer technology industries -- have commoditized the design and development work to the point where individuals with 1 or 2 year technology diplomas are being hired as 'engineers.' It has been a rewarding career, and often fun. Hard for me to say that I would recommend investing the time and money into a similar career path to anyone else."
Jon Titus, Design News contributing technical editor and the renowned builder, in 1973, of the Mark-8, the first personal computer kit: "My paternal grandfather was an electrical contractor and had worked for Bell Telephone... As a kid I had bells, buzzers, knife switches, small light bulbs, and large dry cells to experiment with. My grandfather had mounted them on small blocks of wood to make them easier to wire. I also enjoyed chemistry and went on to become a chemist by education. Along the way, though, I used more and more instruments and had to design equipment, too. During my time in the Army I got assigned to a base near Sandia Labs and took several lunch-time courses in digital and linear ICs. When I went back to grad school at Virginia Tech I got heavily involved with digital electronics and designed high-speed data acquisition equipment for my research and for sale to others. What a great time to get deeply into electronics. So, although I'm not formally an engineer, I think like one and have enjoyed designing computers and circuits as well as writing programs for everything from assembly language for minicomputers through to C for MCUs. If I had to do things over I'd tweak a few things here and there, but overall, no new path"
Tom Stokland, an engineer in the Chicago area: "As inane as it sounds, I wanted a career that I wouldn't get dirty by doing it (I was in the army at the time), so I chose electronics. But maybe I should say it chose me, since I've been doing it for 27 years, and there have been absolutely no regrets for my decision -- except when I'm frustrated by a bug that just won't show itself! I love doing embedded systems just as much now as when I did my first design all those years ago!"
Ed Smyth, an engineering management professional: "I was enthralled by learning about electronics via a mail order course. I was never enthralled about learning before that. My passion for learning continues today. Unfortunately I have been laid off and I'm being told that prospective employers are concerened they will not keep me satisfied (I'm 55). I guess I'll have to satisfy my passion in another field -- anyone familiar with Health Informatics?"
Why did you become an engineer, and are you still happy with your decision? Please let us know in the comment section below.
I grew up in small-town Alberta in the 1970s, this is significant because the town library had only ancient books, including the original Tom Swift series from 1910 era. In his first book he fixed a motorcycle and drove it with a stick shift and manual ignition advance, and chased down a flying dirigible. I was hooked and read the whole series and knew what my future profession would be. I also was enamored with the entire Doc Savage series of books, "Doc" had three of five assistants who were engineers: Renny was the construction engineer with enormous fists like buckets of gristle, and Long Tom Roberts who was the sickly electrical engineer that could speak normally while running at a full tilt. Monk was the chemical engineer, so named because he looked like a monkey with his long arms and red hair over his entire body. Number four, Littlejohn was a geologist who wore a monocle over an eye injury he got in WW I. Number five was Ham, the attorney who carried a sword hidden in his cane (but he was a trouble maker constantly feuding with Monk). I liked Scotty from Star Trek, but he never created anything unlike my book heroes. Tom Swift was a tinkerer, but the Doc Savage group were all college educated professionals (doctor, engineer, geologist, attorney), that's what inspired me to do the same.
My grandfather was trained as a machinist but quickly moved on to work as a technician and engineer for Harvard, MIT and various companies in the Boston area. My father’s career path was similar. Their personal time was filled with a long list of amazing feats like working out the logistics of building several cottages on remote islands in Maine, rigging tasks like moving multi-ton boats by hand, custom wiring photo-voltaic panels and wind turbines. Their skill sets were similarly broad. I learned by watching and helping where I could, and they continuously fostered this. I wanted to be able to do all those things and more, and the obvious place to start was engineering school.
As I started college I decided it was imperative that I understand every aspect of product development; to have a working understanding of where the ore comes from, to how products are marketed and financed. This really stemmed from a desire to generate complete creations; to be able to build things that I could use as turn-key tools and toys, things that could be sold for profit and used by anyone. To a large extent, I’ve accomplished this.
The most frustrating aspect of my career is that we technical professionals can do a nearly perfect job at developing a product and still have it fail due to a host of factors that have nothing to do with the technology. Even so, I’m still very happy with my career choice.
I nodded my head in agreement when I read the author’s relating the idea that engineering is a lifestyle choice. And also agree that it may not be a completely good thing. I’ve made a lot of interpersonal choices based on the assumption that the people around me were acting in good faith like any competent engineer would, only to be proven horribly wrong.
On the other hand, a great uncle of mine (also a technical professional) related a wonderful fact to me while I was recovering from one of those interpersonal mistakes: We, as scientists and engineers, have the ability to enjoy beautiful music, art, wine, food as any artist, musician or chef might, while also having a deep understanding of the underlying physics and chemistry. Few artists, musicians or chefs are able to have an appreciation for the underlying physics and chemistry of their creations. We have the unique opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds.
My interest in things technical and scientific began at the age of 6-7. This was right after WW2, and all the"new" technology was being talked about in magazine articles, ie, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics. Being an early reader, I would spend time at the local library pouring over these mags. I did not really understand all of it, but enough to help my imagination soar.
I have to thank my Aunt for making my birthday and holiday presents science oriented (per my request). I spent hours in the basement with Gilbert Erector sets, chemistry sets, microscope sets, magnet sets, etc. These "toys" were supplemented by the lights, buzzers, pushbuttons, doorbell wire, dry cell batteries, etc, from the hardware store up the corner.
At this point I still had never heard of engineering. It was science to me, and I knew i wanted to be part of it. As I entered HS in 1953, I read an article in Popular Mechanics about the projected shortage of engineers. Oh, I thought, that's what I wanted to be, an engineer. I did not know until then what it was called.
My HS counselor set me up with the standard college prep math curriculum. He said I will need to do well in those courses. But alas, I was a terrible student. My social life was much more important - girls. I know, most geeks don't know they like the opposite sex, but I did. My homework suffered along with my grades. Back then grading was harder then todays. I had to repeat some Algebra and Geom classes. My counselor told me to give up on becoming an engineer. But I told him I will try harder - sign me up for advanced Algebra, Trig, and even Physics. He did, and I did (ace Physics). Except for trig in which I still got bogged down.
Started engineering school, still not a disciplined student. Back then they crammed 5 years into a 4 year curriculum. This was too much for me and again the grades suffered. By the end of the second year I was signing up for only 2-3 classes at a time, so I could handle it. I did much better, but again my social life interfered, and I dropped out.
I got a full time job designing control logic, and hydraulic circuits for machine tools and other special machines. Now that was fun, and I was earning good money. I didn't realize it, but I was really learning engineering and problem solving.
One day a salesman talking about another customer of his, referred to them as "real" engineers with degrees. I was hurt. I thought, here I am doing engineering work without a degree, and I am three fourths through a degree. Am I not a real engineer?
My wife (at the time) convinced me to go back to school. I did go back part time, much more successfully this time. I guess I finally matured. I got my BSEE about 8 years later than originally planned.
With the degree, more doors opened to getting jobs with big corps. And with my new found "brilliance", went on to get my masters. I am still working at 72. I figure I have to work longer to make up for the missing years without the degree.
For the pay, benes, advancement, women, and respect? ;-) Or, was this society's just punishment for being creative and inventive? I was doomed from the start with the Erector set, Chemistry set, Legos, and alas Star Trek TOS, but was naïve and my parents enabled me. I blame my Father who wanted to be an Electrical Engineer, but instead worked in communications. Then sadly as a teenager I sat in class drawing schematics of machines and computers instead of socializing. I was young and needed the money. Fell in with a bad crowd of engineering companies.;-)My name is **** and I have been a semi-employed engineering addict for 30 Years. Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be . . .
I came at it through the shop. I am not really a degreed engineer, but as a designer of punch press tooling, I have to know and perform some engineering functions. I started designing as a way to get out of the tool room while I still had all of my fingers and most of my sanity. I no longer fear losing body parts, but often long for the sanity of the shop floor. Where I apprenticed, a really good tool maker may build 10-12 dies a year, while as a designer I often had that many in the shop at one time. When all things were correct, it still is one of the greatest jobs in the world. However, when a finished die does not produce the part for which it was designed, it makes me wonder why I ever got into the field. My excuse: when I was little, my father offered me two hammers. I chose the ballpeen instead of the claw. How much simpler life would be if I were a carpenter.
Like most, as a kid I enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. My Dad was an engineer, so I was pushed into Engineering school. At the time I thought I understood what an engineering career was like, but after graduation I found that people had planted a bunch of fanciful ideas into my head. As I struggled to pass courses and graduate, if I had known how poorly engineers are treated I'd have switched majors.
I still like research, design and prototyping (the fun parts of engineering) and do it all I can -- on my own time. Staying employed as an engineer has been difficult with recession after recession and bean counters running companies into the ground. Once again I am under-employed to pay my bills, and only able to engineer as a hobby.
One thing I'd definitely change, while I was in school I should have taken as many business courses as I could. That might have helped me nourish an engineering career since I’d better understand “businessmen” and maybe be able to play their games.It would also help me become a self-employed engineer, where I’m forced to go since age and out-sourcing automatically ejects you from today’s employers.
I became an Engineer because I was destined to. When I was a kid I took no greater joy then when I took my toys apart and reassebled them in working order with spare parts left over. I guess from an early age I was a cost reduction design engineer.
I absolutely love being an engineer except for maybe that I am to nerdy(sans pocket protector) and not being outgoing or social enough( at least according to those in the world of the gray area).
Math never makes me tired but sometimes people do.
Choose a career in engineering and you will have a great career doing something you can love and you cannot ask for anything better in a career.