8 Replies Latest reply on Jan 9, 2020 6:49 AM by Andy Clark (Workshopshed)

    What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?


      In the Comments Below:  Let Us Know How You Got Started in Your Career!


      “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” - Steve Jobs

      "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." - Steve Jobs

      One of my favorite speeches of all time was the Stanford commencement speech that Steve Jobs gave toward the end of his life.  Many of you have careers in engineering, and you come to the element14 community, the first online community for engineers, because you have a passion for engineering and technology.  During my first year working on the element14 community, one of the most exciting things that I have been a part of was the Bit by the Bug campaign where you shared what made you fall in love with engineering & technology:


           How Were You 'Bit by the Bug' of Engineering & Technology?


      Your love for engineering and technology is what helps make this community special.  Hopefully, we all are doing something that we enjoy doing, even if everything is not perfect, but we've all had to start from somewhere.   Sometimes, we can go down many paths during the course of our lives and this could involve having to start over.   We're currently working on a webinar that is geared to those people that are just getting started, or perhaps starting over (or again?) down a path that may lead to a new (or different?) career in engineering.


      You're Invited to Be a Presenter!

      In the past we've focused our career webinars in the past on IoT.   They're still very relevant and worth checking out if you haven't already:



      This time around we would like to do something that speaks about engineering as career.   rscasny recently reached out to the top members to see if any of the Top Members  were interested in joining us as a panelist for a webinar on engineering.   I would like to extend this invitation to the rest of the community at large.   During the Project14 livestreams, I found that having members come on as hosts led to a very interesting discussion.  We'd like to do something similar with the upcoming webinar!


      You don't have to prepare slides, prepare a speech, or prepare statements or anything like that.  Every career path is unique and we want to hear from a number of different perspectives and have a casual conversation on engineering as a career.   You'll have an opportunity to voice your opinion or tell us about your experiences.


      In the Comments Below:  Let Us Know How You Got Started in Your Career!



      If you are interested in being a presenter for this webinar contact me directly at tariq.ahmad or comment below to let me know you are interested.

        • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

          When I was 11 years old and living in a mining town in a jungle in South America, my Dad asked me to decide if I wanted to stay home and train to be a professional athlete or go away to boarding school in Canada and get an education. He explained what the different careers might be like - the biggest difference I can remember is he thought an education would "keep my options open". I was not fond of school and boarding school was a big scary unknown. I was happy fishing and golfing and swimming and making jungle toys every day (there was no TV in the country). However, I decided to go to boarding school, where I got interested in becoming a mechanical engineer because the most interesting technology I was exposed to was all mechanical. When I got to university and discovered electronics and computers, I switched to pursuing electrical engineering (because it seemed like it would be a cheaper hobby then acquiring a machine shop). My Dad was right - I've had fun solving problems in lots of different jobs, because my education provided options, and I still get to have fun playing lots of sports. I even get to hang out on element14.

          3 of 3 people found this helpful
          • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?
            Andy Clark (Workshopshed)

            I currently label myself as a maker rather than an engineer. I've a strong background in electronics but have spent most of my career in software and currently manage a team of 5 engineers. In my spare time, I design award winning electro-mechanical contraptions and write about them for the Workshopshed blog, Element14 and a range of magazines.


            I got into electronics at an early age when my parents got me one of those electronics kits where you connect up transistors etc using short bits of wire and sprung connections. This was suplimented with some old Practical Electronics Magazines from friends of the family. I continued at school with the Craft Design Technology course where I built an X-Y plotter driven from a ZxSpectrum. My teachers also persuaded me to take a GCSE in electronics. This was completed in my spare time with help from the physics teacher. For my project I created a door alarm with anti-tamper device, key switch, loud alarm and a silent indicator so you could see if it was triggered whilst you were out.


            X-Y Plotter


            Due to a full timetable in the 6th form, I could only fit in an A/S level in electronics which again was done in my spare time. This time the project was a metronome with a tone generator and headphone amplifier, made with a custom PCB that I etched at home. For all of these projects the process was the same, Research, Design, Experiment, Build, Test, Review.  A technique that has proved quite useful over the years.

            Metronome Schematic Metronome Project

            On leaving school I got an apprenticeship with Dowty Aerospace. I had applied for many different companies and had some massive application forms to complete and some grueling interviews.


            Dowty gave me a year in industry and paid work in the holidays. They also taught me loads such as drafting (pen and paper precursor to CAD ), electrical fitting, machining and all of the processes needed to engineer aeroplane parts. Projects during this time included a tracking solar panel and a fairground ride both which required models to be created. I also helped out my room mate with a high voltage switcher for an Electro-Luminescent panel which was needed for his project. They also allowed me to work on some cool kit such as a de-icing heater for propellor and a test rig for a tank controller.


            After the year in industry I studied at Imperial College and despite almost failing mathematic in the first year, I graduated with  BEng Electronics . My final year project was an investigation into battery charging.


            Whilst I was a college a couple of things happened. Dowty had been bought out and was restructuring. This meant no jobs for electronic engineers.  I had also got involved with the Student Television station, initially as a presenter but in subsequent years the marketing manager and chairman. In the summer between the final years we gutted and refitted the studio, rewiring the lighting, editing suite, audio and video amplifiers.


            After trying to get a job in media, I was contemplating my options. Whilst sitting in the computer lab, my mate Simon asked how to build compound documents in MSWord.  I explained but advised him not to use that for his course work as it was overkill. He told me it was for his part time job teaching the clients of a small software company. I responded with "I could do that", and that's how I got into my career in software.

            4 of 4 people found this helpful
            • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

              I'm a software engineer - mainly building iOS apps right now, and managing the mobile team, which includes Android.


              I got here because I went to university for chemistry

              I didn't like the university level chemistry, so after the first term I switched to physics.


              Being a broke student, I signed up for the physics co-op option, which included paid work terms. However, I was unable to land a physics job, so the coordinator suggested I should just get a job at a local computer place as that would be helpful for any career.

              I ended up loving the software projects I was handed there (as well as the hardware parts of building computers in the late 80s!), so after the summer I switched over to the computer science co-op, and life was suddenly a whole lot easier!


              The co-op work terms had me working at a handful of different companies doing various different projects, so it was also a good test to see if it was something I really did want to do going forward.


              My first employment out of university was working with early-90s mobile technology (Atari Portfolio), which then led to Apple Newton and a bit of Palm Pilot. I guess I've always been a mobile app developer

              I did do some work with bigger software and bigger data in the first decade of 2000 - mostly SQL, Java, Javascript, HTML, coupled with business logic to automate the migration of old database software to become network accessible.


              After the 2008 recession I lost my job when the insurance company I was working for was sold off, so I did try something completely different for a year: I was a certified energy advisor doing assessments to enable home owners to get government grants for energy efficiency upgrades. Very cool, but I missed the computer work and so went back to software fairly quickly. That's when I bought a MacBook and started building apps.


              It's fun to see how others got into their line of work!




              2 of 2 people found this helpful
              • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

                I pretty much always knew that I wanted to be an engineer.  Early on, I would take everything apart in an effort to understand how things worked (some things I actually was able to put back together).  My super hero was my Grandfather, who was an electrical/mechanical/petrochemical engineer.  He had an amazing shop and he was always tinkering with tools and building better tools.  I absolutely love visiting him and watching him work.


                I also loved tinkering with electronics.  In my early teens, any money that I was gifted or earned went to buying electronic kits from Radio Shack. When I started High School, my two greatest interests were math and electronics and I was very fortunate to get great teachers in these two fields.  In math, I was in an accelerated track, where we would take five years worth of math in four year (algebra, geometry, calculus I & II and differential equations).  In electronics, I had an excellent teacher that taught not only electronics but also a radio electronics class.  I ended up taking both classes (radio was after school). By the end of my Junior year, I had accumulated enough credits to graduate, if I attended summer school and took the two senior requirements (U.S, government and history).  I am not sure what the hurry was, but I did just that.


                Because of my early departure from High School, I need to find a college level program in somewhat of a hurry.  Near the end of my Junior year, I representative from DeVry Institute of Technology was on campus.  I attended the presentation, and decided that their Bachelors of Engineering Technology program looked very interesting.  This was a three year program (12 quarters), and about the first year looked like it was almost a total review of the education that I received in High School.  I signed up, moved to Phoenix Arizona and never looked back.  The program worked out very well for me and I was ready to go when I finished.  I interviewed and accepted a position as a Senior Technician that started within days of my graduation.


                While working, I continued my education, taking a lot of programming and system design classes.  My career was long and very successful, and while I was very happy with my choices, I do wish from time to time that I might have attended a more typical college, or continued for a higher degree.

                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

                  What got me started in engineering:

                  I always like science classes, the teachers always were a little wacky and creative, alot different than the english and history teachers.

                  I thought it was cool to know how stuff worked and how it was made.

                  The teachers were all passionate about sharing their knowledge with the students, and teaching us how to think critically, challenge us tto thibnk out of the box.


                  In 10th grade I moved onto high school, and was lucky to have a high school with a vo-tech school attached to it.

                  One high school club offering was the amateur radio club. It was in the upper floor of the electricity shop of the vo-tech wing.

                  We got to learn about electronics ( tube biasing and amplifiers way over my head ) some basic electricity, morse code, first got our novice ham radio licenses, operated ham radio equipment during study halls, earned our general class licenses.

                  In fact, the beginning of each school year, we just told the study hall teacher we were going to the radio room instead of study hall, and we were golden for the rest of the year.

                  This was in the early to mid 1970s, things were a bit less formal and school still was a sanctuary for the innocents ( well, maybe not always so innocent :-)  but nothing compared to the 2020 outside influences )


                  The radio club was small, but everyone in the college prep curriculum who joined went onto college to become electrical engineers.


                  As a contrast to alot of folks that talk about their distinguished scholarly & career journey, I was just good enough in school to graduate. I knew alot of really smart people that dropped out. They didnt have the love for engineering, or the dogged persistence to see though the tough times. I was a survivor.

                  If I did it, you can to !!!!


                  What kept me going in engineering:

                  Out of school, I took a job as a field engineer for GE. I liked the romantic stories of company paid travel, working on all kinds of controls and power equipment, alot of training classes,   jumping on the white horse as the Calvary does to save the customer. I learned so much about so many things.  GE was the big dog in the world of electronics and electricity - we brought good things to life.

                  Technology changed, and we grew with it. From analog magnetic controls, to solid state, SCRs, transistors, IGBTs, PLCs, digital controllers, PCs, low speed networks, high speed networks, servers, wifi, AI,.......

                  technology just keeps accelerating, now using global partners,  and its very exciting.  I'm still at it, 38+ years with GE, always changing, always learning about new technologies, software, hardware, modeling, cyber security


                  Still bit by the bug:

                  I run a robotics & makers club: Just as my teachers in my early years were passionate about sharing their knowledge with the students, and teaching us how to think critically,

                  I hope I can help influence and energize other kids and people to all become builders or electrical engineers too.

                  I aim to excite people to think out of the box. build wacky stuff just because they learn about technology while doing it. Learn to think more analytically, less emotionally, data and fact driven, organize ideas, plan effectively, etc....

                  Secondly I can justify building wacky things in the sake of sharing that passion with other people: at the library, school STEM events,  conventions, community events, girl scouts, boy scouts, teaching coding classes, Element14, You Tube,  etc....

                  Atho I have a long road behind me, I'm still just getting started moving forward on the path ahead.....


                  Let me know if my experience can help you in your webinar.

                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                  • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

                    I'm not exactly sure I'd define myself as an Engineer, I spent 25 years in the military as an Aircraft Avionic Engineering Technician  -  so technically I'm a techie by trade.


                    How I got there is unusual, it was my birthday one day at school, and the local gang of bullies was looking for me. I don't consider myself a coward (25 years in the military remember), but I do recall being fearful as one of their own had recently had a birthday - and they broke his collarbone in the subsequent 'roughing up' he got. This was the West Midlands (UK) in the very early 80's.


                    As I said, I'm not a coward, but I'm not stupid either, so I hid where no self respecting bully would be seen dead, the school's careers office . . . . . .  .


                    I looked thru the brochures and all that and, well, July of 1985 I joined up. 25 years later I left (having luckily never deliberately being shot at - a muppet shooting rabbits near a fence almost got greeted with 7.62mm return fire from me, his error was explained by my oppo and he judiciously elected to run away . . . . . . ).


                    I now teach other avionic technicians how to diagnose and fix faults on the Eurofighter Typhoon.



                    My personal interests started many years before, and I have detailed the ins and outs of that on here before, I'll not bore you with the minutiae (but stuff used to 'fall apart' after I had been near it with tools from when I was around four)!!  -  According to my parents at least!

                    Now though I try to keep my hand in a constantly evolving field, not always successfully. Tinkering with Nerf Blasters is a nice side hobby too, and many years of figuring out how and why stuff works, added to a desire to 'improve' stuff and a liberal dash of 'enjoying tinkering' has dragged me back to places like this and the BritNerf forum to satisfy my thirsts.

                    2 of 2 people found this helpful
                    • Re: What Got You Started in Your Career in Engineering?

                      I wanted to be an engineer before I knew what an engineer was.  My father could pretty much fix and repair anything electrical or mechanical that could be found around a household or farm in the 1950s and '60s but didn't have a college degree.  My brothers and I all got that opportunity and became engineers.  My technical background is material science, thermodynamics, and especially fluid flow.  There isn't as much opportunity in those areas for hobbyists :-) and so I have taken up electronics in retirement.  In a way though, engineering is engineering regardless of degree or discipline.  Writing FORTRAN programs to solve fluid flow problems in the '70s is not the same as programming ARM microcontrollers today but there is a way of thinking and desire to understand that applies to both.  The same is true of analyzing transient fluid flow and electronic circuits.  And so on.


                      For those who enjoy working with their hands and building physical things the joy in electronics as a hobby is twofold.  I can't think of myself as anything other than an engineer and I find great joy in building things and showing others how it is done as my father showed me.  And that is the important thing - doing what you love to do.

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