Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't want to write, don't be an engineer

I apologize to my readers for being such a slacker. I've managed to keep up with my Engineering Blogs posts but my own posts have been seriously lacking. I've had a quasi-political BS thingy at work that forced me to submit for a different request-for-proposals with a closer deadline (and less money!!) than I really wanted to. In the midst of working on that proposal, I got asked to talk to a prospective undergrad about our engineering program since everyone else is basically taking the summer off, so it seems.

Two thoughts came to mind while talking to Prospective UnderGrad (aka, PUG!). 1) did I really start looking for colleges during my junior year of HS? I know I didn't visit any (lack'o'$$$) and I don't think college crossed my mind until senior year. Probably, the really smart kids in my HS started then but I was not in that group. Anywho, thought number two is more important.

PUG was nice enough to mention a few Unis he was considering and visiting. I tried to stress the focus and direction of SnowU and why I decided to join them, hoping to convince him and his mom that SnowU would be just as good as the other fancy-shmancy schools they were considering. For you Oatmeal readers, I definitely focused on using a modern sales pitch. One of the things I mentioned to PUG was that he should expect 100x more writing that he would ever believe possible.

I think my line went something like this: "I know you're very interested in building stuff but you should also expect to write, a lot. Basically, if you don't want to write, major in English or Literature or History but don't major in engineering." (I also went on to say that this is true at any university, not just SnowU.)

So, this was me trying to be Sincere, Helpful, and Knowledgeable. Now, I know I reached PUGMom because she appreciated me being forthcoming about the expectations of UG engineers. She said of the few schools they already visited, everyone else focuses on the "cool, hand's on stuff" like Baja, labs, and ASME projects but no one mentioned writing. I focused on those things too but I said I wanted to make sure he was fully prepared to enter into engineering and know what the expectations were.

So, do you think it was stupid for me to lay it all out there for a high school junior that engineers spend just as much (if not more) time writing as they did building cool shit? Were you told this before you entered into engineering? What are the odds that he'll actually come to SnowU? Any takers?


  1. As a child of engineers, I knew about the writing very early on: however, I didn't tend to hear it from professors or teachers until after I had committed to the program. From that point on, though, it was a big point in most of my classes.

    If you were clear that writing is a reality of all engineering, not just SnowU, then I don't think it was stupid. Depending on the kid, may have helped, because you were being frank and honest with him. As an extension of The Oatmeal's sales advice, being honest about the less awesome stuff is part of being "Sincere".

  2. Interesting post. Reminds me of a similar experience when I was in school with a fellow undergrad who didn't have industry experience. He worked in a small lab building one time robotics projects. When he found out I worked at MegaCorp he was totally interested. Like, "you get to work on the DestructiCon5000? That's so cool! Could you get me a job there?" I had a tough time describing that I worked with one very specific subcomponent that elements of we get from other vendors and urged him to try to stay on at the lab if he liked that sort of thing. A small lab or research group is very different from a big company productionized atmosphere.

  3. No, it wasn't a bad idea. I have gotten so frustrated with undergrads who don't think they should have to know how to write. This is just as bad as the one UG who thought he would never have to program again after my class. *facepalm* It's good for them to know, and probably prevents the "Why should I have to write? I'm going to be an engineer?" comments.