The 6 Most Valuable Lessons from an Engineering Degree

May 20, 2014 Renee Masur
plans for a mechanical engineer

 

With post-secondary education, a degree in one vocation does not always lead down a clear cut career path. I started research for this article asking people to tell me what kind of work they were doing with their degree. The answers ended up being all over the map. Some people with an engineering education would end up running their own successful businesses or doing something so completely unrelated. I wondered what happened from A to B in their career path. But so many people were going from A to C to Y to E. It just didn’t make sense. 

The original title of this article was “What Can I Do With An Engineering Degree,” but with the kind of responses I was getting, I saw that there was something more valuable to take note of: Value.  

So I asked people who studied engineering to tell me what was the most valuable lesson they learned while in school. Here’s what they had to say: 

1. Be Receptive to New Ideas  

New ideas

“The best skill instilled by studying Engineering was the ability to be receptive to new ideas. Engineering prepared me to learn stuff which was to come after the Engineering. The concept that I can learn anything I want is the best thing that happened to me.”

Arun Verma —Manager and Developer at tutorindia.net and teacheron.com

Degree: Mechanical Engineering 

2. Persevere Through Obstacles with Grit 

Persevere through obstacles

"There is no other undergraduate major that requires the discipline, creative problem solving, and critical thinking that engineering does. The rigorous coursework changes you — in a good way. There is a certain earned confidence that comes from surviving it, and knowing you can solve really difficult problems. It transfers over to every other facet of life. You don’t see problems as a bad thing, but rather as something to be solved with time and thought. That’s the beauty of engineering."

Jill Keto—CEO and Co-Founder, ZoomChess.com 

Degree: Mechanical Engineering 

"Taking courses like circuit analysis, physics, and calculus taught me to ‘keep calm and carry on’!"

Anjuan Simmons—Software Project Manager and Certified Scrum Master

Degree: Electrical Engineering

"Perseverance and hard work are a must in technical fields. It taught me never to take “no” for an answer on things that seem impossible at the outset."

James Onstad—President and Cofounder of Education Framework 

Degree: Electrical Engineering 

3. When You Don't Know, Give Your Best Possible Guess 

Two paths, choices

"Learned how to avoid Analysis Paralysis. With every design, choices appear where there is not enough data to choose correctly. Many people get paralyzed trying to make the correct choice. Instead, make your best guess and if you find it was the wrong decision, now you have enough data to choose wisely. Back up and go down the other path." 

Kee Nethery—CEO of e-commerce company 

Degree: Electrical Engineering

4. Be Logical and Use Systematic Approaches to Problem Solving

Be Logical and Use Systematic Approaches to Problem Solving

"The most valuable lesson I learned in college was how to approach a problem in a logical manner. I took 1.5 years of physics as an undergrad and the physics professor did a great job of rewiring my brain so that I could tackle problems in a logical and systematic manner. I have used this important skill every day since. I keep thinking I should track down my professor and thank him for having such a positive impact on my career."

James Krewson—CEO of FindersCheapers.com

Degree: Computer Engineering 

"The best takeaway I have had from my engineering degree is the ability to have and utilize systematic approaches to solving problems (of any kind, technical or not). Engineering is all about solving simple and complex problems. Using those skills in business have allowed me to move my career focus beyond engineering quite successfully. Every business focus has problems that need to be solved. Approaching them with a structure makes the outcomes better than if one just ‘swings at ghosts.'"

Eric Kulikowski—Leader Development Coach and Speaker 

Degree: Mechanical Engineering & Aerospace Engineering

5. Time Management 

Time Management

"I learned to build and ship projects in an orderly fashion. Now in my own company, I’m very disciplined when producing and shipping websites for multinationals. Learning to prioritize tasks, follow through, and organize a development team are essential traits for successful web developers.

My engineering degree is an important tool in establishing credibility for every project and it aids me in communicating with technicians and international experts. To date, it is the most important degree I have completed."

Jordhy Ledesma—Online producer and CEO of a web development firm in Latin America.

Degree: Information Systems Engineer

"The most valuable lesson I learned when pursuing my Civil Engineering degree was Time Management. When taking such hard core classes; especially during my junior and senior years, it was important to dedicate a certain amount of hours to various classes. My freshman and sophomore year; through the help of upper classmen friends, I was taught how to develop my own method of effective time management. If I had not reached out for help and resources, it would have been nearly impossible to study efficiently, excel in my coursework or graduate on time."

Indira Wilburn—Media Personality and Voice Over Artist 

Degree: Civil Engineering 

6. Break Down Problems Bit by Bit

gears - break down problems

"Studying engineering requires you to break down problems to bite-size chunks and determine a solution. It’s hard work and just like a muscle, the more you use your brain and stress it, the stronger it gets. I was an officer in the Army for over 22 years. I never solved any engineering problems, but I solved a whole bunch of others! I determined innovative, low-cost training solutions; helped under-performing soldiers get better or leave the Army; build and present persuasive briefings; work with foreign military members—all of these taxed my brain but due to my engineering degree, I was prepared to solve."

Mark McMillion—Founder and Primary trainer for McMillion Leadership 

Degree: Civil Engineering

"All of my engineering classes constantly re-established the concept of understanding every piece of a process. When the full picture is completely mapped out, the individual aspects or components can be analyzed using critical thinking to re-engineer the full system to be more effective and efficient. This has carried over into every aspect of my life, whether it be my career in business analysis, personal finances, or starting my own business."

Jeremy Codiroli—Business Analyst for Georgia Pacific and Owner of Sensum Consulting 

Degree: Industrial & Systems Engineering

"I think the primary engineering skill that has helped me was the ability to take a large problem and to break it down into smaller logical pieces that can each be solved which in-turn help you solve the large, and at times very over-whelming, problem. In life this is not just applicable to technical problems but to any large problem. What might look like unsurmountable problem doesn’t look so when broken down."

 Ajay V. Gupte, Ph.D.—President and CEO of Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database 

Degree: Electrical Engineer and Masters & Doctorate in Computer Science


Can you relate to these lessons? Chat with us in the comments! 

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