Engineers! Please share you experiences!!!

Hi Everyone!

For one of my engineering mechanics classes (Strength and Materials) we need to collect feedback from engineers. We are going to compile the responses and share them with our class, so your feedback would be heard by many (including anyone else who reads this thread)

Here are the questions I need answers to:

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
  2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
  3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
  4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
  5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
  6. What kind of engineering did you study?
  7. What kind of engineering do you do now?

**
also, I forgot to mention this before but if you could please post where you work (company name) and how long you’ve worked there, that’d be great! thanks so much!

Any type of response (long, short, one word, many words :stuck_out_tongue: ) would be most appreciated! I know it’s such a busy time for you all, but if you could take 15 minutes to answer these, that would be great!

Thanks in advance,
Liz

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
    The chance to be creative and have that creativity have a tangible impact on society is pretty cool. That is a unique combination and there are not many jobs where you get paid to do both at the same time.

  2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
    I’m a serial problem solver. The opportunity to apply a wide variety of skills and apply scientific and artistic principles is irresistible to me.

  3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
    Some may disagree but in my view there are two types of 'e’ngineers. Those with a lowercase ‘e’ and those with an uppercase ‘E’. The 'e’ngineer that site in the lone cube doing their thing is certainly important but to be really effective you need to be an 'E’ngineer. This engineer has to have a well rounded education, and be able to communicate ideas and concepts clearly. If you cannot do this you cannot build an effective team, nor acquire investment capital, nor customers, etc.

  4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams? It depends on the situation but in general the best situation is a well oiled team working to accomplish a common goal. A team may not be all engineers but a variety of people, just like in a well balance FIRST team.

  5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
    The reality is that most everything you take up through the undergraduate level in college is just the basics of a lot of things. A common mistake too many graduates make is they willfully forget everything they studied and spend the rest of their career being a lot less effective.

It is important that engineers understand the fundamentals of everything, including mechanics. There is even a professional test called the “fundamentals of engineering” that ultimately leads to something called the PE or Professional Engineer certification.

Nothing is more irritating to me than to sit in a meeting with other engineers and listen to nonsense because they chose to forget the fundamentals. I don’t expect them to be an expert in a particular subject. We have experts on staff to handle the specialties. But please have basic clue !!

  1. What kind of engineering did you study?
    Electrical Engineering

  2. What kind of engineering do you do now?
    During my career I have done some basic Chemical and Mechanical engineering but about 95% electrical, computer, and software engineering.

Today about 10% electrical, 10% computer, and 80% software engineering.

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
    It’s really creative, I get to work with a very diverse group of people, and building robots is awesome because it’s like living a permanent sci-fi movie.

  2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
    I always wanted to be an astronaut, so my parents told me to do that I had to get into engineering. I got to like math and science a lot, so I had this chain of interest in chemical engineering, then software engineering, then electrical, then mechanical, and now systems. FIRST is what made me stay in engineering and decide to work on robots.

  3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
    Extremely important! The robots we build are complicated systems that need everyone to work together seamlessly, so software/electrical/mechanical/manufacturing all need to understand each other really well – who’s responsible for which parts? What modifications are needed? How do high-level requirements affect the detailed design we have to do? How do you make sure the other departments know when you’ve made a change and how it might affect them? Also, I’ve had to give a ton of presentations in front of customers about the system, answer their questions, and generally make them feel good about what we’re building for them. There’s a lot to be learned about talking with customers versus teammates versus management vs whomever, and it’s a really valuable skill to have.

  4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
    In teams, all the time, anywhere from four people to fifteen people. I have my own individual work to do, but it is one part in a big chain of tasks for the team, so I’m always aware of where I fit into the big picture.

  5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
    I’m not an ME, so I can’t answer too specifically, but since we send robots down to 6000m depth (and therefore under a LOT of pressure) our MEs spend a LOT of time talking about material deformation and strain. There’s also safety factors that come in pretty handy – a single lift point for a 1-ton vehicle has to be guaranteed to hold.

  6. What kind of engineering did you study?
    My degree is electrical and computer engineering, and I took a bunch of mechanical classes my last couple of years.

  7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
    Systems engineering, with a bit of an electrical slant.

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
    I haven’t actually had engineering as a career for almost 20 years. I quit early…my wife supports us. She’s an engineer too. But I’ll try to answer the questions as best I remember my job working for the Army Communications Command for 6 years in the 1980s. I enjoyed getting a big system up and running, it was a blast bringing a 40 ft satellite antenna, and all the stuff that makes it work, to life.

  2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
    It seemed natural for someone like me who enjoys figuring out how things work.

  3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
    Very important, much of the work involves planning and instructing others what to do.

  4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
    Mostly alone on different projects, but as a small team doing one type work.

  5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
    In some fields, but not the one I was in. It is quite important with this robot design stuff, though!

  6. What kind of engineering did you study?
    Mechanical engineering

  7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
    I worked as an Electronics Engineer, then as a mechanic, now I volunteer as a mechanical engineering mentor for the robotics team.

You’re welcome!

1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?

All of the biggest and most permanent changes in the world over the last few hundred years were caused by engineers and scientists. Everything we use, from obviously complex things like computers, cellphones, and cars to seemingly simple things like roads, bridges, and even toilets, have been passed through the careful hands and brains of many engineers. Engineers have done so many things nobody really thinks about, like figuring out how to make a bridge in a new place that won’t break when a train goes across it without having massively overbuild or guess and hope it doesn’t fail. That used to be a big deal. Now, it’s just another bridge, but it still takes a lot of care that the users never appreciate to make it right. Every area of engineering is like that, and you never know what’s going to be the next huge world-changing thing.

2. What made you decide to become an engineer?

I’ve always been good at math and science, and I like knowing how things work and how they’re put together. I started working with computers as soon as I was literate enough to count parentheses for my dad. My grandfather was an electrical engineer, and he was a really neat guy. By the time I needed to decide, I couldn’t really imagine doing anything else.

**3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)? **

Absolutely critical. A large portion of my current job is taking projects that are going through my company and figuring out what the technicians who will have to maintain them need to know, and then telling them, while communicating back to the design engineers what they can do to make things less likely to fail and easier to repair when they do. {As you’ve probably learned through FIRST, everything breaks eventually.}

I have to write up reports for management on what I’m working on and hand-off documents for the field technicians I support. I attend countless meetings where my ability to explain my point of view clearly and quickly determines whether the project team ignores me, answers my question, or makes a change to fix the problem I’ve found. I get to do the same thing in email. I also write detailed maintenance procedures, which have to be accurate and clear enough that when a technician I’ve never met tries to execute them at three in the morning he doesn’t make a mistake that will affect our customers and can get to the end without having to stop or wake someone up for help.

I write and give training presentations. There is a special horror in having to watch and listen to an entire two-hour playback of yourself giving a training class by videoconference, knowing that every um and er is going to be available on the department training website for people to replay at their leisure, and realizing there are too many to edit out.

4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
Yes. :]

Most of my job is working on projects that affect many departments and have a lot of people working together on them. The direct team size varies from a dozen to a few hundred people, depending on the level of complexity. I spend most of my time talking to people, formally or informally, about different projects and platforms I support. I also get to go off into my corner a fair amount to take care of my individual tasks, but everything has to be communicated to somebody.

5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?

At the most basic levels, yes. Just knowing they exist and the general situations in which you need to find an expert to have a look at those issues is important in almost any engineering situation. It’s not necessary for every engineer to be an expert on them, unless they’re in a field where that’s the fundamental problem being solved, but every engineer needs to know when to punt.

6. What kind of engineering did you study?
Electrical Engineering

7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
Systems Engineering/Operations Support

Here are the questions I need answers to:
1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
I’ve always been a problem solver. You can usually pick out the kids who will grow up to be engineers. They’re the ones tearing apart their nintendo, their vcr, their minibike, and their parents cars. Oddly enough, when they put them back together - they still work. Or they work better.

2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
See #1.

3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
Good communication skills are absolutely the one of the most important skills you can have. You may have the perfect solution to a problem, but if you cannot convince everyone else that it is the perfect solution then it won’t be implemented. Unfortunately, there are a lot of engineers without the talent or experience to make decent evaluations based on data and calculations. That means that in many cases you will be in a position where you have to convince others you are right.

4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
Well that depends. If I can do the job myself, I do it. But I sit with 8 other engineers. I would say that at least a dozen times a day I ask them to take a look at something. Being in a team is about having different viewpoints and approaching problems from different angles.

5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
That depends what type of engineer you are. In most cases only a PE needs to worry about strength of materials. Nowadays computers handle most of the computations for shear, tensile, etc. A PE needs a thorough understanding if they’re going to be signing off on safety. Otherwise, most of the time, you can use cookie-cutter or off-the-shelf solutions that already have the specs written on them.

6. What kind of engineering did you study?
Mechanical, with electrical and programming as minors.

7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
I’m a glorified secretary. I still do some problem solving on assembly lines, but it’s not “engineering” as I always envisioned it. That said, I enjoy the job, which is really the only important part.

Here are the questions I need answers to:
1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
I solve problems, create many things, and directly see the results of my efforts first hand. Sometimes I like it because it’s just plain hard and there aren’t many other things that I would find both interesting and challenging. You make a decent amount of money at it too, but it’s more about the fact that I really like what I do; money really is secondary. Once you experience it, you’ll understand.

2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
The hand-me-down Tandy computer my dad gave me when I was in 2nd grade, and legos. In high school it was fueled designing trick plays for our football team and then running them. Oh yea, and calculus was really easy so I figured college wouldn’t be that bad, right?

3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
They’re as necessary as the job I do. If I can’t properly communicate an idea to my team leads via proposal or presentation, it will get rejected for a sometimes lesser idea. If I can’t report proper status to my managers, they don’t know how much money to allocate to our project or our future projects. If I can’t communicate with my coworkers, well, really no one would get anything done.

4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
Both. When I code, I’m alone but I have peer reviews and collaboration with other devs. When I do h/w, it’s almost always at least paired.

5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
Extremely important, even for software/electrical engineers. Sure, we don’t care about the shear strength of silicon, but we do care about scattering, heat, processor load, and everything else under the sun. In a multi-million dollar system, if you’ve never considered stresses of indepedent systems upon each other you are in for alot of frustration and heartache.

6. What kind of engineering did you study?
Electrical Engineering

7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
Software & Electrical
For the FRC team I do mechanical since we have plenty of electrical engineers. Go figure :cool:

Thank you so much for the responses! They are going to be a great addition for our project.

I forgot to mention to please include the information of what company you worked at and for how many years.

Thanks so much!

Hope this helps your project.

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?

The ability to solve very challenging problems with very creative and innovative solutions.

  1. What made you decide to become an engineer?

CAD class and FIRST robotics in High School (I was going to do music before hand…)

  1. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?

I am a graduate researcher in robotics. Communications is vital in what I do. I have written several publications and it is vital that you can communicate what research you have done in paper so that other researchers can not only understand what you have done, but also use your work.

In terms of spoken communication, I run two student design teams and I need to make sure I can effectively give them an idea of my requirements for what I want so that they build a good product.

  1. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?

Research wise, I work alone. But for the hardware development of my robots, I have teams that work with me.

  1. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?

VERY! At least in my field of work. We talk about the strain caused from the hardware on a day to day basis. I recently made the design teams re-design some components in one of the robots due to a high amount of strain on the servo motor out-put shafts.

They are all VERY IMPORTANT topics.

  1. What kind of engineering did you study?

I have a B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in controls. I will have a M.S. in mechanical engineering this summer.

  1. What kind of engineering do you do now?

I do robotics research and development.

For me it’s less about being excited about my job and more about being at peace with it. I don’t excite easily about anything. Even when I am excited about what I’m doing, I can’t sustain it. So, for me, I like engineering because it’s something I can do everyday and not get sick of it, and it’s something I respect.

I can’t recall any one moment when I decided I was going to get into this field. It was more of a gradual acceptance of what my talents were and what I enjoyed. I remeber I always had more fun and put more effort into any sort of competition in science classes ( water bottle rockets, rat trap cars etc.). Then I got into FIRST and realized that I could easily spend 40 hours a week working with the team, but school felt like a huge chore. So, some time during high school I realized that there was work I could do that wasn’t painful and seemed worth the effort. By the time I had to go to college there wasn’t really any debate or hand wringing about what my major should be. It felt, and feels, natural so I guess I got it right.

I briefly considered going into journalism, which I think I had some talent with. But I didn’t really enjoy it, and I realized that I wouldn’t respect my own work 10 years down the road.

Communication is everything. Engineering is 10% coming up with the solution, 90% convincing everyone it is the solution. I couldn’t even scratch the surface of how important being able to get your ideas across are. Suffice to say that my communication skills have gotten me further in my education and career then my ‘hard’ engineering skills.

Right now I’m the only ‘real’ engineer working for my company in the US. So, for the most part, I work alone but in conjunction with our manufacturing overseas. This is another area where those ‘soft’ skills come in. I need to be able to communicate my designs to people who don’t speak English nativly. So I have to keep my language simple and use numbers, pictures and engineering terms where possible.

For a ME, absolutely. I don’t have occasion to apply that field much, but I could easily have ended up in a position where I did. I actually liked my SoM and metallurgy classes in college. The math was kind of dry but I think everyone agrees destructive testing is a blast. Right now I only work in injection molding and most of the materials science has been done for me already. By using standard part thicknesses, fasteners and so on I can avoid a lot of that work. But SoM is core stuff for an ME. It’s ok if you don’t remember all the equations 10 years from now (I don’t now!), but you have got to be able to make sense of a stress/strain diagram, phase diagrams and so on. Modern CAD software can really speed this stuff up, but you need to know how to interpret the results of it’s analysis.

My degree was in Electro-mechanical engineering technology. So I guess that puts me somewhere in between a tech with an associates and a full on engineer specializing in mechanical or electrical engineering. I gravitated to the program because degree holders typically end up in real ‘hands-on’ positions. I didn’t want to end up permantly behind a desk, or living in a machine shop. This is turning out to be a nice middle ground for me.

Right now most of my time is being spent taking an existing product, modeling it, refining it for faster/more efficient molding and evolving the design. The CAD and injection molding stuff isn’t really much fun. I have a lot more fun making prototypes and trying weird new approaches to some old problems using a pretty set bag of tricks.

I work at Newgy Industries. We make Table Tennis practice robots. I’ve been there for about 6 months now (and just finally got my phone connected! W00t, I have an extension, therefore I am!). I was hired straight out of college.

Here’s my input:

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
    Let’s see - Oh, yeah! I still get to play with cars! Kidding aside, being able to solve problems that result in an improved process or product is my thing. I can look at my own car and see improvements that I contributed to, very cool! Also, on a manufacturing floor, every day is a new challenge - which can be a good thing or a bad one…

  2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
    My guidance counselor noted the 200 point split between my math and verbal SATs and thought I was prime for the job. Coupled with my inate ability to disassemble all of my Mom’s appliances at a young age, with a 50/50 chance of re-assembly I might add, I was destined to be an engineer.

  3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
    In my current position with Toyota, communication is a, if not the, number one priority. Toyota is based on a “management by consensous” mentality, where we like to make important decisions which the stake holders buy into. In addition to verbal communication, our reports are also very visual, to help overcome the language barrier perhaps; here a pretty picture may actually get the deal sealed over a descriptive paragraph. Very challenging environment for a numbers guy.

  4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
    Teams, though each of us is specialized in certain areas.

  5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
    No doubt, the concepts are very useful - though, as an automotive manufacturing engineer in assembly and paint, I have yet to use the underlying calculus in a real world situation. SOM comes into play big time in stamping, welding, and vehicle design though - so it depends on where you end up.

  6. What kind of engineering did you study?
    BS Mechanical Engineering, MS Manufacturing Operations

  7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
    Automotive Manufacturing Engineering and data analysis

If you could please post where you work (company name) and how long you’ve worked there, that’d be great!
I have spent 15 years in automotive manufacturing… 2 Years with an aluminum wheel manufacturer, 13 years with GM (5 years on the Corvette and 8 years on mid sized sport utilities) and all of 5 months with Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, I am currently assisting with the launch of a few new assembly plants in Canada and Mississippi.

  1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?

It offers me the potential to do work that I find interesting, rather than being forced to do something I don’t enjoy just for the sake of earning a living.

  1. What made you decide to become an engineer?

My family owned a junkyard for cars (and other scrap equipment), so I grew up in a machine-oriented environment. When I first went to college I was intimidated by the academic requirements for an engineering degree so I initially studied other things. Eventually I decided that I would someday regret shying away from the challenge, and switched majors to Engineering.

  1. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?

I personally believe they are extremely important, although I find that many of my peers don’t feel the same way. If my customers realize I didn’t pay attention in English class, why should they believe that I paid attention in Advanced Mechanics of Materials?

  1. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?

I’d say primarily in teams – but in a team of individuals, if that makes sense. It’s critical to be able to work independently, be self-sufficient, and “wear a variety of hats”, especially in small organizations (like an FRC team, for example). There’s not a lot of redundancy in skills in the teams that I am usually a part of. Everyone brings different things to the table.

  1. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?

I believe all the engineering disciplines should have at least a basic understanding of each other’s core issues. I think Mechanical Engineers should know Ohm’s Law. I think Industrial Engineers should be able to decipher C code (if not write it). And so on…

  1. What kind of engineering did you study?

Mechanical Engineering, but I steered many of my technical elective classes into things like Electrical Engineering and Software Engineering.

  1. What kind of engineering do you do now?

No simple answer, I’m afraid. My business cards say “Mechanical Engineer”, but I’m the “Lead Avionics Engineer” on several projects. I tend to cross back and forth between a variety of disciplines, which is one of the reasons I like what I do.

I’m currently at Sierra Lobo, which does R&D in the Aerospace Industry. I’ve been there about eight years. I also own my own business, which I’ve been doing for over ten years. In the past I’ve also worked at bigger companies like IBM and GE.

1.What excites you most about engineering as a career?
I love to build stuff. Ever since I was a kid, I built stuff. I even put a sail on my littler red wagon so I could ride in it instead of pulling it around.

  1. What made you decide to become an engineer?
    One of my dad’s clients was an engineer from Shell Oil who was the project manager for those platform ships that go out and they sink one end of them. He saw stuff I built around the house like a fire place heat exchanger and custom suspension systems. He said “you should become an engineer” and I did.

  2. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
    Engineers are typically not touchy-feely people. Our communication skills are usually lacking. What is important is attention to details and documentation. Depending on the type of position, your verbal and written skill requirements vary. In engineering sales, they are very important.

  3. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
    I primarily work alone. We do meet and brainstorm but you usually go off and complete your assignments and present the results. Where I work right now, there are only a few engineers and we just talk over the cubical walls.

  4. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
    Not every engineering position requires an in depth analytical knowledge of stress, strain, and deformation (or expansion/contraction ratios and galvanic cell potentials). But all engineers need to understand the concepts and keep that in mind while working.

  5. What kind of engineering did you study?
    I studied mechanical engineering at UCSD.

  6. What kind of engineering do you do now?
    Right now I do mechanical, electrical, fluid dynamic, thermal dynamic and hydraulics.

  7. Where do you work now and what do you do?
    I work for a Pentair company called Hypro. I work in the FoamPro division. We do the fire fighting foam proportioning equipment. I get to play with fire trucks and make lots and lots of bubbles. It’s really fun to make bubbles. Ever seen an Olympic swimming pool emptied in one minute (10,000gpm) and all that water turned into foam. That’s a lot of bubbles every minute. :smiley:

I guess it is fair for me to chime in…

1. What excites you most about engineering as a career?
I really love technology. I love using high tech things, I love learning about high tech things, and I love making high tech things. I also like that what I do really has a direct, tangible impact on people’s lives.

2. What made you decide to become an engineer?
I started out wanting to be an Astronaut - just like every kid growing up. Over time, I started being pulled by all of the high-tech computers that were coming out, mobile robotics was starting up, and then FIRST was just the icing on the cake. Over time I realized that I really didn’t need to be an Astronaut to be happy - I just liked all of the toys they had.

3. In your job, how important are good communication skills (written and spoken)?
Communication is EXTREMELY important in my job. Especially your ability to express your ideas in words. This is how you pitch our idea to the team, or convince the people with the money that they need to spend more of it (not the easiest task in the world). Technical writing is a must if you are shooting for project management or team leader because they are the ones that write progress reports. The biggest problem I have seen is when an engineer can’t translate “Engineeze” into English so the business people reading the reports can understand them.

4. Do you primarily work alone or in teams?
We primarily do things in a team setting with multiple engineering disciplines collaborating on a single project. Commonly I’ll be the only mechanical engineer on a project, but I will have to work very closely with a software and electrical engineer in order to make sure my design keeps all of the magic smoke in its place.

5. Is it important for an engineer to understand strength of materials concepts (stress, strain, deformations)?
The biggest thing I got out of college was a gut feel for these types of statistics. Often times in our line of work having that strong feel for strength of materials will get 90% of your design done - then you have to do all of the calculations for critical failure points. Identifying critical failure points is also aided by your understanding of material properties and kinematics.

6. What kind of engineering did you study?
I studied Mechanical Engineering, but also dabbled slightly in Electrical Engineering.

7. What kind of engineering do you do now?
I am a Mechanical Engineer

I work for Foster-Miller as a Mechanical Engineer working in the Future Robotics group. I have been here for 1.5 years.