If You Had To Do It All Over Again, What Would You Change?

February 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm 1 comment

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
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If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?

Would you even have entered civil engineering or architecture? If you knew then what you knew now? Especially after 2009?

Some of us (facetiously?) would say we would take LESS course work if we had to do it all over again.. Perhaps so we could party more? Study more? Work out more?

Getting serious, though, based on what you know now, what would you change about your undergrad and graduate education line-up, based on what you wish you knew then?

I know that the biggest shock to me as a biology/physical anthropology dual major was the lack of direction I was provided in terms of career options available to me after I graduated. I wasn’t exactly looking for the proverbial “handwriting on the wall”… although a few scribbles would have been greatly appreciated. So I went into laboratory research, killed more than a few cell cultures, developed expertise in polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, decided to go to grad school and figured out in short order that a life of lab research simply wasn’t for me. I liked the teaching part and the interacting with folks. Somehow I landed on the business side of pharmaceutical research and realized (and was constantly told) I had the “gift” of translating business-speak into scientific/technical/ops speak. That’s the short story.

This week, in my Sales Aerobics For Engineers blog, I interviewed Masha V. Petrova, PhD, of MVP Modeling Solutions: a real, live engineer. The subject, “what they DIDN’T teach you in engineering school,” is so relevant that I must refer you to it. I certainly did post it on this site.

HOW WOULD YOU FILL IN THE PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL GAPS AT THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE? Have you taken the time to identify the gaps? These gaps may include gaps in your professional organization as well as in your professional resume.

Perhaps you work for a company full of braniacs who are unable to translate what’s on their mind (literally) into simple, non-technical phrases so that customers “get it” and have confidence in what you/your company are all about. What type of training, coursework, perspective would it take in terms of education to get you/your colleagues from the company’s Point A to the customer’s Point B? How can you/your company retrofit to span that gap? Right now?

If you were asked to teach a course on civil engineering or architecture at your university or community college, what would you bring to the table, now, that you felt you didn’t receive when you were in the same shoes are the students? I believe it’s called wisdom. And professional perspective. And being honest and upfront. Your thoughts?

What’s the missing link(s) in terms of engineering education that prevents you and your company from being as globally competitive as you could be? Why don’t engineering and architecture educators “get it”? Yes, I know engineers are resistant to change. However, educators have made the choice to communicate to others. So at the very least they are committed to cross-training their brains.

If you are a member of a professional organization, how can you impact today’s engineering and architecture students? How can your organization showcase stewardship and outreach to fill in the gaps in engineering and architectural education, at the grade school level as well as to graduate and post-graduate students?

I know you understand that the ability of engineers to work in both technical and business worlds is the true fulcrum of revenue generation and competitive edge in today’s economy. And the “how to” achieve this end point is not going to be provided to you in terms of some sort of recipe for success.

Technically-oriented individuals, such as engineers, tend towards being myopic and prescriptive by nature. However, would you describe yourself as needing to be led around by the hand in order to understand the big picture? Something tells me you would be offended by that description of self. However, do you impact or react? Are you proactive or do you wait for others?

I don’t think you’ve gotten to where you are today by richoting around like a pin-ball in a game machine. You take what you do seriously. Very seriously.

So what would you now choose to do to make up for the gaps in your own professional development? What would “that” look like: taking courses, teaching, outreach to grade schools, greater involvement in the stewardship of your professional organizations?

In doing these activities, you get to do it all over again… for yourself and for others.

How about giving it a go in 2010?

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Unemployed  |  February 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I would have finished up my education with a J.D. and sued other engineers and manufacturers for product liability lawsuits, or defended them against such suits. Why? It’s easy money, and I would have been great at it

    And unfortunately that is the ONLY thing our society cares about. If you don’t believe me, pick up that item you’re holding at Wal-Mart the next time you are there and see where it is made. U.S. manufacturing is a shell of its former self. Not because we can’t innovate. New great ideas happen all the time. “Innovation” today means you will do the job of two people for the pay of one, while someone above you, probably someone with less brains reaps the bonus pay of your hard work and time away from your family.

    As long as our society has this attitude engineering is going to be a bad place to stay employed for long in the future. I recommend getting your P.E. and diversifying your education with either business or law.


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