It was a bit of a shock to me and some of my peers when we started our first jobs. The real world of engineering was NOT like the stereotype or like school. 21st century engineering requires a wide range of skills and our managers were asking us to do tasks school hadn’t prepared us for.
Surprise surprise, another stereotype isn’t true. (sarcasm)
I’m going to dismantle the engineer stereotype, bit by bit, in 6 posts.
PLEASE share these posts with any science teachers, teens or their or parents in your life.
I especially want teens who are considering engineering or any other science field to read my posts. In my tutoring I see many brilliant students who think they can’t be this or that profession because they don’t fit the stereotype. It breaks my heart. The stereotype is increasingly false in 21st century engineering, and those who do not fit it are highly sought after by smart companies.
The first misconception is a big one. Hang on, it may be a bumpy ride, but it’s worth it.
Myth #1: You need straight A’s to be an engineer.
I am breaking a huge taboo by saying this, but you do NOT need straight A’s to be a good engineer. And I would guess this is true of many other professions. Sorry teachers and parents, but it is true.
After my first job no one cared what my GPA was. All they cared about was that I completed my degree and went to a good school they had heard of. That is it.
I myself did not get straight A’s in high school and earned solid B’s in college. I was not valedictorian of my class, barely made it into the top 15%. Yet I have worked in the Aerospace industry on high tech carbon fiber composite parts using advanced Finite Element Analysis Software. Cutting edge stuff.
Very few of my colleagues were straight A students either. Most of them were solid B students like me, only a couple of “geniuses”.
What set us apart were not our grades but our work ethic. Hard work, perseverance, persistence, sweating the details. All of these habits paid off in the real world of engineering.
Some of you reading this may argue that to get straight A’s a student has to work hard. That is true for some students, but others learn new concepts easily and coast through school. They frequently do not learn “grit”, strategies to handle difficult problems.
I remember struggling to solve difficult calculus problems in college and feeling like it was a personal failing that I didn’t get it the first time. That self judgement doubled my stress level, and college is stressful enough all on its own. I felt ashamed to go to office hours or ask my peers for help. I did it anyway and it paid off.
Calculus is complicated, nearly no-one gets a differential equation the first time they see it. DiffEQ is abstract and counter-intuitive. I would never expect myself to make a hole in one my first time playing golf, so its unreasonable to expect the same of my brain.