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If I Only Knew Then...

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Charles Murray
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Re: Sage advice
Charles Murray   9/18/2012 6:43:08 PM
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Interesting point about October Sky, Rob. You've cited something that's definitely true -- many kids who appear to be naturally inclined toward engineering don't necessarily make it through the curriculum. Some who are mechanically/electrically inclined don't like the heavy emphasis on theory. Others simply get distracted, and engineering is not a good place for distracted students.  

Charles Murray
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Re: Be flexible
Charles Murray   9/18/2012 6:49:19 PM
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Definitely true, Naperlou. I believe that's why some schools are now moving towards degrees in "electro-mechanical engineering." 

William K.
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If I had only known then...
William K.   9/18/2012 10:55:54 PM
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The big advantage of being specialized is that you become obsolete as the technology changes. The challenge is to have a broad array of knowledge and skills, and then find an employer that will utilize them. I seldom, if ever, refused any task, those that went well added to my credentials, those tasks that did not go so well added to my experience and insight. I know a lot of things that won't work, and that is valuable knowledge, it really is. 

But the nost important thing, I have found, is to find a position where you can like what you are doing and look forward to each day as a new chance to do enjoyable (fun) stuff. And when you do find such a position, as I did, just hope that the parent organization does not send in some ignorant neandrothal MBA to ruin everything.

When your alm mater solicuts support for their new MBA program, remind them that they have betrayed everything that is good and honorable, and gone over to the dark side, where they will get no support from you. possibly they might learn, probably, not.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: If I had only known then...
Rob Spiegel   9/19/2012 11:15:43 AM
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I'm not sure I understnad your first sentence, William, but I agree with your thoughts about doing something you can look forward to every morning. So I encourage my kids to find something they love. I don't necessarily believe in the chiche that "do what you love and the money will follow." But I also don't believe the successful course is to try to guess on a career that pays well. 

gsmith120
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Re: If I had only known then...
gsmith120   9/19/2012 11:34:07 AM
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I believe that you should do what you love and parents shouldn't select or try to force their kid(s) into a career they selected.  It is hard enough some days to work in a career you selected now imagine going to one someone selected for you.  

I knew a man who forced his sons to go into engineering.  He made a comment that the oldest son was finally starting to like engineering.  His youngest son was very unhappy in college and eventually dropped out.  The father just didn't get it.  I'm not sure why it was so hard for him to let his kids make their own career decisions. 

Doing things like that can (and did in this case) make for a very unhappy people.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: If I had only known then...
Rob Spiegel   9/19/2012 12:06:19 PM
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Good points Gsmith120. I can't imagine having the ability to force kids into any particular course. Having been a rebellious kid, I've often been surprised that my kids haven't rebelled more. At any rate, I think the surest course is to encourage kids to find their individual talent and calling.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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IF I ONLY KNEW .....
OLD_CURMUDGEON   9/19/2012 1:47:08 PM
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I AGREE with many of these entries either in part or in toto.  As a youngster, I was always curious to learn how things worked, and to that end "unrepaired" many working apparati in our household, much to the consternation of my parents.  As college loomed near, I decided that I could do NO other work (profession) than to continue in that mode.  Because finances were very limited for us in the '50s, I chose a cooperative program (a new concept then) in which I would spend 3 years at the primary school, and transfer for 2 additional years of concentrated engineering curriculum.  Unfortunately, as I was to embark on phase 2, the program was cancelled, so I stayed at the primary school for the additional year, getting a Bachelors in Mathematics & Physics.  (Never really took to Chemistry!)

Since I had so much practical experience based on my personal investigations, I was immediately hired by a fairly large communications-oriented company.  The unadvertised benefit?  They had a rather liberal Tuition-refund program for employees.... a C average or better got an enrolee 100% reimbursemnt of ALL costs, including the administrative fees.  Obviously, although my grades were all A's (well,maybe one A-!), I got full reimbursement.  When I left that company & went on, I was able to appreciate their largesse again.  This time I went for my Masters in Computer Science.

My point to relating all this?  It IS fundamental to ALL good engineering understanding to have a FIRM, FUNCTIONAL, & FAR-REACHING knowledge of Mathematics.  One cannot succeed without it!

My parents were typical pre-WW II parents, in that they were hard-working, conservative (NOT the political, conservative!) people who grew up before, during the Great Depression.  In that regard, they had only their primary education as a tool to guide them through life.  They were awestruck when I exploded on the scene w/ valid technical advice & explanations.

I DO NOT for one millisecond believe that today's youngsters of college age, and pre-college age, will make the same impression amongst their elders when it comes to communications skills.  With such a proliferation of non-verbal communication devices being invented daily, it is my firm belief that in just a few generations, the spoken word will be almost obsolete, and in a short time after that, newborn will NOT have tongues shaped as they are now to aid in verbalizing.  While I'm NOT against the modern technology of iPhones, etal., I believe that the social conscious has to be reined in or else I fear my prognostications WILL come true.

William K.
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Re: If I had only known then...
William K.   9/20/2012 7:04:54 PM
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An explanation: The first sentence was a blast of irony, in that while most people regard a benefit as a positive thing, that is not always the case.

And about the value of the education: I had a co-worker who had ust earned his masters degree in electronic engineering He proposed designing an asic for one of our products, asserting that the cost would be less than $40,000 for the design. This was a product that we sold perhaps 50 units in a good year, and the 5 ICs involved cost a total of less than $5 per unit. So I wondered about how much economics he had learned, regarding return on investments of effort.

He also had a problem with getting his shoes on the correct foot. remember, this fellow just got his masters degree with a good GPA, at Oakland University, in Michigan. He was intensly qualified (only) in a small area. Hence my opening sentence.

Greg M. Jung
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People Skills
Greg M. Jung   9/20/2012 10:40:35 PM
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Placing greater value on people skills would be the main adjustment I would make if I only knew then what I know now.  In my younger days, I focused extensively on engineering mathematics and rational problem solving, without placing much value on the 'softer skills' .  Now that I am more experienced in the workplace, I would have placed much greater emphasis on team building and leadership and also communicating my ideas to the general population with better clarity.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: If I had only known then...
Rob Spiegel   9/21/2012 1:05:12 PM
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That makes sense, William. Sometimes taking basic skills and applying them to a wide range of topics is the best route. I started out writing about Native American art many years ago. And there were many journalistic adventures between that and Design News. But the basic skill set is the same.

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