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We answer nine questions about the engineering profession, gathered from a quaint little website called Reddit, in this episode of The Engineering Commons. You may notice a common thread in our responses, as there is rarely a clear-cut solution, and the answer often depends on the situation!
- Carmen turns to application (app) notes or textbooks for answers to many of his engineering questions.
- Jeff notes a constant stream of engineering questions in the Engineering and Ask Engineers subreddits that can be found on the Reddit website.
- We decide that answering Reddit questions doesn’t make this a “Jumping the Shark” episode, but it may qualify as a “bottle episode.”
- Q1: Can an engineering job be hands-on? A1: It depends. (7:00 — 18:45)
- Q2: How important is it to work for a Fortune 500 company as a new grad? A2: It depends. (18:46 — 28:14)
- A Google executive claims that GPA and test scores are worthless for predicting job performance.
- A video of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughing at the iPhone is mentioned by Brian.
- Q3: How many hours a week do engineers work? A3: It depends. (28:15 — 33:07)
- Q4: Which programming language is most useful to engineers? A4: It depends. (33:08 — 47:25)
- Q5: What are some good websites for mechanical parts? A5: Stock Drive Products, W.M. Berg, McMaster-Carr. (47:26 — 59:06)
- Carmen and Brian recommend Digi-Key and Mouser for electronic parts, as well as eBay and Amazon Supply for other industrial components.
- In a past episode, we interviewed Todd Nelson of the Analog Footsteps website, who has a nice article about the history of electrical databooks.
- Q6: Where should a high-schooler interested in engineering look for information about the profession? A6: It depends, but look for exposure to industrial and hands-on experiences. (59:07 — 1:11:44)
- Q7: How can one quickly construct a voltage regulator? A7: It depends, but not with a simple voltage divider! (1:11:45 — 1:19:57)
- Carmen mentions a well-known reference book about electronics, The Art of Electronics.
- Q8: Do engineers ever use calculus? A8: It depends. (1:19:58 — 1:26:36)
- Q9: How does one overcome difficulties in dealing with middle-aged coworkers? A9: It depends, but be understanding, and look outside your work environment for social connections. (1:26:37 — 1:41:30)
- Our sincere thanks to those Reddit readers who upvoted The Engineering Commons in this thread about engineering podcasts!
Thanks to Colin Kinner for the photo titled “Question mark sign.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.
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Michael Lachman, who started his career as an aerospace engineer, leads us through the pros and cons of following up an engineering degree with an MBA.
- Adam doesn’t have much interest in business, so he doesn’t think he’s a likely candidate to pursue an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree.
- Our guest for this episode is Michael Lachman, Founder and President of EyeQ Research, a consulting firm that provides ophthalmic medical device manufacturers with market research, industry insights, and business guidance.
- As he was growing up, Michael was inspired by the efforts of the United States’ space program to land a man on the moon.
- Michael started his career with Lockheed Corporation, working on feedback control systems.
- Much of our guest’s work for Lockheed involved simulating spacecraft dynamics in software code, which he dutifully did by writing programs with the FORTRAN programming language.
- Michael pursued a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, figuring that an MSME degree would provide him with a more diverse set of career opportunities.
- Jeff and Michael worked together at Baxter Travenol (now Baxter International) for a short period of time, both having had their graduate design projects at Stanford funded by the company.
- Despite wearing three-piece suits to work, Jeff and Michael found their work atmosphere in the mid-1980’s to be a far cry from the 1960’s era portrayed in the Mad Men television series.
- Students are typically required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as a condition of applying to a business school.
- Our guest reports that going to business school on a part-time basis, while working a full-time job, is a difficult task.
- Already possessing strong quantitative skills from his engineering coursework, Michael elected to attend Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, so that he could benefit from the school’s emphasis on marketing and case studies.
- Certain employers place a great emphasis on where one obtains their business degree, so it’s a good idea to investigate corporate hiring practices before committing to any particular university’s MBA program.
- MBA programs are often compared based on the rankings they receive from the magazine US News and World Report.
- Universities conferred 74 percent more business degrees in the 2012-2013 school year than they did just eleven years prior. Brian wonders if this means that the MBA degree has been significantly devalued.
- Receiving appropriate financial compensation for one’s enhanced skill set (in this case, through the acquisition of an MBA) often requires finding a new employer.
- A typical MBA program has courses that fall into one of three broad categories: analytical, functional, and ethical.
- Several years after receiving his MBA, Michael was hired by an investment banking firm.
- The efficient market theory claims that, at any given time, all information about a firm and it’s financial prospects are immediately factored into the company’s stock price.
- Michael covered the ophthalmic medical device as a research analyst. Ophthalmology deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.
- In 2005, our guest started his own consulting firm; this allowed him to continue performing the market research he enjoyed, but without having to make stock recommendations.
- The cost of MBA programs has skyrocketed in recent years, much as with other educational programs.
- Opportunity costs reflect the value of foregone possibilities; that is, what benefits you could have enjoyed by pursuing the “next best” alternative.
- Our guest suggests that engineers take a rational look at their career objectives, and the possible economic outcomes, before embarking on an MBA program.
- Michael can be reached through the e-mail address found on his website.
Thanks to the Tulane Public Relations for the photo titled “Business Class.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.
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Electrical engineer Meagan Pollock explains how engineers can be more effective role models. We also learn about promoting equity in the workplace, discover how digital movie projection technology is used to improve medical care, and consider whether or not software engineers deal with entropy.
- Jeff doesn’t recall any technical role models growing up, but benefited early in his career from the guidance of more senior engineers.
- Carmen references a Star Wars quote about lightsabers in joking with Jeff.
- Our podcast feed has changed from including the complete show notes to providing just a summary of each show’s contents. Please leave a comment on our website if you would prefer the full show notes to be restored (at the cost of dropping early episodes off the feed).
- Our guest for this episode is electrical engineer Meagan Pollock, who started her career with Texas Instruments, and is now the Director of Professional Development for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity.
- Like many engineering students, Meagan wasn’t fully aware of what engineers do until she was well into her academic career.
- Since she has degrees in both computer science and engineer, we ask our guest to take a position on whether software engineers are “real” engineers; it turns out she’s far too smart to take the bait!
- Meagan shares the benefits of doing a few stints as a co-op student. A paper (pdf) about her experiences is available online.
- Our guest worked with the Digital Light Processing (DLP) division of Texas Instruments.
- A medical application for DLP technology is the VeinViewer device.
- Jeff references our interview with Cherish Bauer-Reich in Episode 49 of this podcast.
- Our guest feels that industrial experience should parallel the material taught in the engineering classroom.
- Meagan earned her Ph.D. through the Engineering Education program at Purdue University.
- Pedagogy is the art of educating students, while androgogy is the art of teaching adults.
- Many educators are experimenting with ways in which active learning methods can be used to supplement, or even replace, passive learning activities, such as lectures.
- Meagan recalls a quote from Dave Goldberg, whom we interviewed previously on this podcast.
- Our guest learned a few lessons about drawing up contracts when she worked as a consultant.
- Having a web presence is important for establishing thought leadership, according to Meagan.
- Meagan references a blog post she wrote about having a million dollars.
- The Engineering Commons podcast began with a tweet from Chris Gammell:
- Jeff references recent accounts about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley.
- There are three actions that are characteristic of an effective engineering role model:
- Challenge and dispel stereotypes about what it takes to be an engineer.
- Promote proper STEM messaging:
- “Engineers are creative problem solvers.”
- “Engineers make a world of difference and help shape the future.”
- “Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.”
- “Engineers help shape the future.”
- Appeal to student work values:
- Intrinsic — autonomy
- Extrinsic — money, benefits
- Social — helping others
- Prestige — respect from others
- The Engineering Grand Challenges may also inspire youngsters to consider an engineering career.
- Meagan recommends that engineers read the executive summary for the report “Changing the Conversation,” issued by the National Academy of Engineering.
- K-12 students relate better to younger adults, so there’s a need for younger engineers to speak at local schools about the benefits and challenges of an engineering career.
- Meagan can be reached at her website, MeaganPollock.com. On Twitter, she is @MeaganPollock.
Thanks to the Ol.v!er [H2vPk] for the photo titled “bonjour du quai branly.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.