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Career advice from the ECN engineers

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:23am
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

A few months ago, we asked our engineers (that’s you guys) a few questions about how you felt about retirement, engineering, and the future of the industry. (Check out the infographic or the Whiteboard in our August issue.)

While we learned a lot from our experienced engineers (turns out most are happy with their careers), we also asked for some advice for engineers in the future. Some of it was a bit contradictory (Learn the basics and choose a specialty vs. don’t be too specialized), but all of it is worth sharing.

There were some words of wisdom about what could enhance your career:

"Keep learning. Whatever you have learned in school or on the job up to this point is a small fraction of what you will need in your future work."

"Get as much education as practicable, but become as practical-minded as you can. Strive for a 'common sense' approach to problems. Book knowledge is always needed, but a valuable engineer is one who can expertly put theory into practice. Anyone can learn equations, .a good engineer knows how to make a valuable widget with his resources."

"To have a greater ability to solve problems become a generalist. an engineer with 10 years of experience should be able to design all parts of a product, including even selecting materials, complete all required documentation (calibration, maintenance, etc.), and then write the control system software."

Engineer working on plans for Lake Union area, circa 1960sSome practical advice:

"Stay away from the giant companies until you get your feet wet and know your area of expertise."

"Find a good mentor for your own guide."

 

And some that spoke to the joys of having a job you’ll love:

“Never just show up for the paycheck. Don't be just a 'cog in the machine.'"

"Find a field you enjoy and you'll never work a day in your life"

"If what you are doing for a salary and what you would do if you had just won the lottery are the same, then you are doing it right."

 

A little bit of general advice:

“Be flexible.”

"Don't ever think you know it all, be ready to learn, from those older and those younger."

"Don't let Computers replace your imagination."

"Mute your politics and know the physics of your solutions"

 

How to deal with difficult management:

"Be sure you do the right thing despite what you are told (with exceptions). Management will hang you out to dry if it is to their benefit. Don't allow them to be that person."

 

Mechanical engineering students stand in formation for cadet training in 1918. While courses in military tactics dominated student life in the 19th century, the retooling of Auburn as a land grant institutionJust one (or two) bitter responses:

"Choose another profession."

 

And some advice we’re going to say everyone should follow:

Don't do drugs

(So wise.)


And some alternative advice (That we don't endorse, but think is amusing):

Good weed and progressive rock.


But the most repeated advice from the 568 engineers that responded? (It was about half of the responses in one form or another.)

Never stop learning.

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