One of my favorite personal sayings of all time is a quote that a good friend of mine came up with: There are two types of engineers, those who know they want to go into engineering, and those who don’t. While at Tufts, you’ll find people who have been coding since they were 12 years old, classmates who use oscilloscopes to attenuate radios, and freshmen engineers who had already received research grants. However, by that same token, for every engineer who finds they were destined to build and create, you’ll discover 10 more who are just starting to explore their techy side.
Personally, I find myself to be right in the middle of those other 10. Originally a biology major at Tufts, my journey over to engineering was an academic and interest based, rather than fate based change. While I enjoyed math and science, I was never necessarily extremely into technology (In fact, I distinctly remember my friends laughing at me in high school because I didn’t know what an operating system was, though I really should have known that). Naturally, switching into engineering at Tufts scared my like crazy!
However, now as a sophomore electrical engineer with several tough classes (barely) under my belt, I’ve begun to realize how minimized my viewpoint was back then. I’ve always been an engineer who doesn’t want into go into explicitly engineering when he graduates, and, while it may sound crazy, it’s ideal for me.
To start off, while I’m not the kind of guy who would jump out of his chair because a new version of the iphone is about to come out, I absolutely love to solve problems. You throw an infinite chain of resistors at me and ask me to calculate the resistance between two points, and I’ll spend days trying to figure it out. Engineering, in my opinion, is not a subject meant to teach you how to build things, rather, it’s about problem solving. This skill, as I’m sure anybody knows, is something that applies to any academic venture. Academia consists of questions, questions are problems, and problems need answering. That’s where engineering comes in.
A great example of this occurred when I walked into my business planning class a few days ago. The minute I strolled through the door, I knew something was up when I saw two big groups on either side of the room, each trying to put together a puzzle. Apparently, we had 10 minutes to put together a 500 piece puzzle, a feat that was obviously impossible…unless you noticed the numbers on the back of each puzzle piece.
As it turned out, each of these numbers meant something special, thereby allowing for the impossible feat to become possible. While we weren’t able to create it on the first try, our professor, James Barlow, encouraged us to think about it in a different way, especially in terms of the efficiency. Eventually, we figured out the order of the puzzle pieces and created a factory like assembly line to get the whole puzzle together during the time period. It was a puzzle in a puzzle, something engineering is perfectly suited for.
In addition to this, one of the largest reasons I was hesitating with engineering was because I had other interests. What if I wanted to be an actor? A writer? A teacher? OK, most of you who are considering engineering probably aren’t looking at those concentrations, but, turns out, having different interests help you so much as an engineer!
To prove my point, I’ll bring up my good friend and tour guide, Brett Fischler, a computer science engineer and engineering management minor. Brett and I love to rave about our engineering classes, how interesting they are, how much work they are, and how much we’re learning. But what we really like to talk about is our tours. We both love giving tours more than anything else at Tufts. And, as a result, we’re both planning to go into engineering for a few years, but then hopefully go into something where we can work with people. Like business! Or management! Engineering prepares you for a career switch in a way no other major can. Just hearing the words engineering make people think you’re at least decently intelligent, and, if people think you’re intelligent, they’ll want to hire you.
In the end, here’s the message. Class of 2017: if you’re hesitant on being an engineer, relax, take a few deep breaths, and realize that you’re not locked down for the rest of your life. If you do engineering, you’ll learn some awesome things, meet some even more awesome people, and really learn how to use what you know. That frightened freshmen that was switching into engineering two years ago (me) is now not just learning things like calculating the voltage difference over a MOSFET, but also how to think in a different, and special, way.
Engineering, especially at Tufts, will give you one of the most useful and global educations you will ever receive. I’ve had friends graduate with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and then go work for Goldman Sachs right afterwards. We’re fun people who do different things, and whether you’re building these things or selling them, engineering gets you ready, and excited, for all of it.