A column by our own Kristin Lewotsky found its way onto LinkedIn and turned up some interesting responses. Lewotsky writes about how her friend’s son is leaving for college to embark on a degree in mechanical engineering. The gist of the column is, what would I have done differently if I knew then what I know now. When thinking about life in general, the list could be infinite. But this column refers specifically to her college career. And the responses that followed were along those same lines.
What you can’t know is which sector will be hiring after you complete your four (or so) years of college. Will electrical engineering be hot, or will the “rebuilding of America” require more civil engineers?
Sidenote: In a previous column, I determined that people were no longer given general titles of electrical or mechanical engineer. They are now titled by the application space they work in -- automotive engineer, biomedical engineer, etc.
Lewotsky goes back to the basics: Take as much math as you possibly can. When in doubt on a physics problem, take a series expansion. You can never have enough memory. Before you apply a simplifying assumption, make sure that it’s both simplifying and that it applies. With enough duct tape and WD-40, you can rule the world.
What advice followed from our LinkedIn group?
From reader Beth Robinson, a response that I wholeheartedly agree with, “I would have chosen to go into my school’s co-op program. It would have helped me understand the parts of engineering that are hard to teach in school and made getting a job afterwards much easier.”
Another great tip from Robinson is to not forget about people and communication skills. It may be because I’m slightly (hopefully very slightly) out of touch with the next generation of engineers, but I believe that our youth do not possess the same communications skills as my generation, simply because they communicate less in a verbal fashion. Clearly, there are countless examples of great young communicators, but on the whole, verbal communication appears to be a less important skill.
A response from another reader is a firm agreement about the importance of mathematics. “I don’t believe one can have enough fundamental higher mathematics knowledge to fully appreciate the specific mathematics of the engineering disciplines.”
Taking a completely different viewpoint, one reader proclaimed, “Run screaming in any other direction! As an engineer of 42 years in electronics, I’ve seen once-proud British companies wither and die, and seen a lot of good engineers thrown on the scrap heap as a consequence.”
And finally, some advice that should go along with any career choice, and one that I often repeat. “You spend a lot of time at your job, so you had better choose something that you enjoy.”
Those sentiments are echoed by a reader, who says, “The best advice I can give is to choose a career in engineering because you enjoy solving problems and thinking creatively, not for job security or good pay. There are other, easier careers to achieve those goals.”