Careers You May Have Never Thought an Engineer Could Do

March 4, 2017 Region 5 Leadership No comments exist

By Luisa Florez

If life were to give you lemons, would you make lemonade? Or would you make a lemon cake? Or would you squeeze the lemon for its juice and pour it over your fish fillet or elote? The opportunities to use the lemon outside of lemonade are endless. The important thing is you have the lemons and know how to use them.

Same goes with engineering. During college, you will gain skills that engineers are known for such as problem-solving and software skills. You may be a mechanical engineer, but that doesn’t mean that you have to work with motors or if you’re a civil engineer, build bridges (though it may be easier to get into those respective industries with those majors). In fact, I have met mechanical engineers that do aerospace engineering. I have met civil engineers that are in consulting and in law, chemical engineers that are in finance, and industrial engineers that work in a television studio. Your engineering degree may open doors to a specific industry, but you should not feel limited to only those career opportunities. With the help of mentors, you can strategize a way to leverage your strong analytical skill set to get you on the career path you would like to achieve.

Below, you will find the stories of three SHPE members who used their experience as an engineering undergrad and their enthusiasm for problem-solving to fulfill their passion in medicine, education, and finance.

Alexis Antequera | Chemical Engineering – Medical School

Q: What is your major in college and why did you decide to go from engineering to medical school?

A: I am graduating in May with a degree in Chemical Engineering! Going into college, I was unsure of if I wanted to pursue a career in engineering or medicine, and I figured the best way to decide would be to gain the first-hand experience in both. While I really enjoyed my challenging classes, talking to industry reps, and learning about the real-world applications of engineering, I continued to fall more in love with my shadowing experiences and craved patient interaction. I’m painfully indecisive, but I just thought for a very VERY long time about what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life and felt in my heart that it was a career in medicine

Q: How did your engineering background prepare you for your role as a doctor?

A: My engineering background will be beneficial for critical problem-solving. Medicine involves much more than just memorizing anatomy and diseases, and the way engineers pull together known the information to solve for unknowns will be advantageous in my career. Also, I’ve definitely learned how to handle stress, so I think I’ll be able to thrive in high-pressure situations.

Q: Do you have any advice for those contemplating on an engineering degree and the opportunities that arise from this degree?

A: Even though it’s cliché, my advice is to find what you are truly passionate about. It took me until the end of my junior year of college to firmly decide I wanted to pursue medicine, so take as much time as you need! Figuring out what you don’t want to do is just as important as figuring out what you do want to pursue, so explore all the amazing opportunities that are available after graduation. Don’t prioritize money, don’t worry about what someone else thinks you should pursue and don’t limit yourself. Talk to people who are working or are experienced in your interests and ask tons of questions! Ultimately, just choose what you know will make you happy.

Carlos Vega | Petroleum Engineering – Education

Q: What was your major in college? What industry/sector are you working in now and why did you decide to go along that path?

A: I was a Petroleum Engineering major at the University of Texas at Austin. I am currently working in Education as a Teacher Fellow working at KIPP Academy (at my old middle school!) in 6th Grade Math. I am learning and teaching under an experienced teacher, simultaneously working towards my Master’s Degree in Education. Originally, I was a Field Engineer in the Oil and Gas Industry, but after the downturn, I saw an opportunity to give back to a community that gave so much to me not only in middle school but also in high school and college. After all the outreach I did at UT through organizations, such as SHPE, I knew I wanted to help out the future generations, as they climb the mountain to and through college and pursue careers in STEM. When this opportunity came, I could not pass up on it. Eventually, I will go back to the engineering field, but at the moment, I feel like I am in the place where I need to be.

Q: How did your engineering background prepare you for your role in education?

A: My engineering background prepared me for this role in education by showing me how to be flexible and a problem solver. As a teacher, there are plenty of times when you have to think on the spot and problem solve immediately. Engineering showed me how to do just that by giving me the needed problem-solving skills to solve a wide variety of problems, such as something small like fixing a lesson on a spot when it is not going well or something big like classroom management issues.

Q: Do you have any advice for those contemplating on an engineering degree and on the opportunities that arise from this degree?

A: As an engineer, regardless of what college you go to, you will be extremely prepared to take on any challenge after graduation. Engineers are given the necessary problem-solving skills to be able to go to a variety of industries and be just as successful or more as the person next to you. You can go ahead and be an engineer in oil and gas or you can be a middle school teacher. You can even go back to school and pursue a medical degree or a business degree.

Alejandro Hernandez | Electrical Engineering – MBA – Finance

Q: What was your major in college? What industry/sector are you working in now and why did you decide to go along that path?

A: I received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Houston. I worked for various years in the Technology industry, quit my job, and pursued an MBA. Upon graduation from the MBA program, I will be working in the Technology industry as a Financial Analyst. I decided to pursue this field as my short term and long term goals are to be a successful project manager and people manager, respectively. With this in mind, finance is a very important aspect of all organizations and having a deep understanding of the theories and practices of it, I believe, will set you up for success in any role that you embark on. An MBA helps you to learn about all aspects of business and it gives you the option to specialize in the area you find most interesting (Finance, Supply Chain, Marketing, Management).

Q: How did your engineering background prepare you for your role in finance and how did it help you while you pursued an MBA?

A: Upon receiving my BSEE, I started working for Hewlett-Packard Company as an Electrical Product Engineer where I was heavily exposed to the technical and business aspects of the field. Engineers are very good problem solvers with great school preparation that helps to solve various industry problems. On the other hand, we receive very little preparation dealing with people. My engineering background helped me to solve complex business problems and to identify feasible, efficient, and intelligent solutions. Finance analysts often deal with large amounts of data that they have to translate into useful information through the use of various tools (the technical tools learned through engineering help make your life a lot more enjoyable). Also, my background helped to establish credibility and open doors in various endeavors as engineers are known to be smart. Not related to the question, but useful, is that the MBA helped me to understand how organizations are run, the key things businesses need to be successful and, most importantly, it taught me a lot about myself and about understanding and dealing with people problems.

Q: Any advice for those contemplating on an engineering degree and on the opportunities that arise from this degree?

A: I faced this very dilemma when deciding if I should pursue an M.S. in Engineering or if I should pursue an MBA after my B.S. in EE and after working for various years in a technical field. On one hand, an engineering degree would allow me to further specialize in the technical field I was in and to possibly negotiate a pay raise. On the other hand, an MBA, as one of my mentors told me, would allow me to be qualified for management positions in the future (not immediately as I would need more work experience), understand the business as a whole, understand people, get paid more, and most importantly allow me to transition into other fields if I chose to do so. I evaluated my financial situation, myself, and my career goals to conclude that an MBA was the obvious fit for me. Although a Master degree in engineering would help me to master my field and to progress through the technical ladder, I felt the MBA would give me more long term benefits, an opening to different fields, and it would make my life easier when transitioning into management roles. Had my goals been to master engineering and move into deeper R&D roles, my choice would have been different.

At the end of the day, as long as the choice you make involves investing in yourself, you will not go wrong!

And as various sayings go:

  • “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”– Benjamin Franklin
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandela
  • “The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.” — B.B. King

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