Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Freshman Advice Part II

Until my Junior year, I was always hesitant about calling myself an "engineer." Why? I hadn't taken the classes, I didn't feel I knew enough, and I was very nervous that I would change my major.  Your first two years as an undergraduate basically consist of math and physics, with the occasional programming or materials class which are called "engineering classes."

But none of you should feel this way.  Why?
  • You must begin somewhere.  You can't reach the upper-div engineering classes without taking the prerequisites.
  • You'll only change you major if you are thinking about changing your major. I recieved this advice from my first female engineering mentor.  It was a huge sigh of relief for myself.  To be honest, I don't know what other majors I would do. 
  • Everyone has the ability to change majors and careers. Even Isaac Newton considered himself to be a master of many different disciplines.  Nobody is going to say, "Well you said you were an engineering, and you must continue since you are bound by your previous statement.*"  Even throughout engineers' careers, they may move into business, management, finance, or even education.  Don't think your career is bounded....like y=tanx. :-)
  • Engineering is a mindset, not a degree.  There are some people who I would consider engineers by the amount of experience and ability to create inventions and ideas.  Also, having straight A's does NOT make you a credible source for a bridge project over the San Francisco Bay.  It takes training and experience to become well versed in the discipline, but that doesn't mean that less-experienced engineers should not call themselves so^.
Moral of the story: It's okay to call yourself an engineer as a freshman.  Just don't go around demanding that you know everything because you've declared your major :-P

*Not unless this is a legal contract, when that's a whole different story.
^ Reminder, there is also the legal distinction between real "Professional Engineers" and "Engineers-in-Training."   Many do not become PEs, but EITs are not any less worthy/valuable.

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