I think my interest in engineering stems from a keen interest in solving puzzles. At 6 I had a mechanical mechanism implemented to turn on/off the light in my bedroom when the door was opened/closed. At 10 I created my first 25 by 25 correctly formed crossword puzzle for school. I graduated high school 1 year early and at that time, electrical engineering was shown as basically power engineering of power stations and transmission lines. I chose to pursue chemical engineering because it seemed a bit more difficult and that interested me. After 2.5 years in college, I discovered chem labs gave me a huge headache from the (organic) odors and switched to computer science having fallen in love with programming an HP 67 calculator. I turned down job offers with more pay to work in EDA where I could combine computer science and EE to solve many puzzles. I knew college ChemE buddies who were offered jobs to work for 2 years in Saudi Arabia with all expenses paid and $100K free and clear (but don't fraternize with the locals).
For several years while at IBM I participated in projects that brought science and math to schools and that was fun. It is disingenuous for leaders to say we need to emphasize math and science more in our schools, when I and others see first hand how colleagues with math and science degrees are laid off and their jobs are sent overseas to help the company be competitive, even without any data to show that it is in fact helping. Because we didn't complain enough when it was happening to blue collar jobs, it seems poor for us to complain now when it affects us. It will be painful adjusting to the world economy as it naturally seeks to equalize pay for equal work around the globe for all countries. Still, I have to say that it has been good to solve puzzles and be paid fairly well for doing it for 31+ years.
Became an EE for the love of inventing. When I was a youngster, I always invented stuff, and becoming an EE provided a better means to accomplishing more. Then working in various companies, the motivator was making a product or subsystem that was worthy of becoming a product. I had lots of fun in the those days. I think the most important thing of being an EE is the hope of doing something great.
My career in high-tech has been a wonderful adventure, a challenging voyage spanning technology, international business, and a network of extremely intelligent and driven colleagues. Electrical engineering, even more than most disciplines, has transformed our lives as well as the global economy! I would definitely recommend a career in technology to any woman, or man‚?¶ It is positive, enjoyable, and lucrative!
My father, Carl, was an engineer....he taught me sines, cosines and tangents at the dining room table when all I REALLY wanted was to learn multiplication tables for my elementary school class! Result: love for math. And my mother, Nancy, could solve any math problem....as long as there was a $ sign in front of the number! OK, the business side too was inculcated early. I read "The Existential Pleasures of Engineering" by Samuel C. Florman and saw myself. Silicon Valley was the Mecca in 1981 and it drew me. But: I was one of 4 female students in my BSEE class...And still today I am too often the only woman in the technical meeting room! How many women engineers and technologists are there, especially in positions of influence? How do we fare, and what can be done to crash through the ‚??silicon ceiling?‚?Ě For women AND for men, a chance to learn from women in engineering who have "been there, done that," I encourage you to come to the DAC 2010 WWED/WWINDA Workshop! Details will be posted on the DAC website in April - hope to see you there!
Jasper Design Automation
I first went into engineering for the money, but eventually realized that I actually love electrical engineering (especially analog and RF) and can't imagine doing any else for a living. I was not a geek at all in high school, did not even know anyone that was a geek, and was much more interested in sports, making money, etc. I believe that had I learned about engineering as a profession at an earlier age that I would have latched onto it right away, which is why I believe that an introduction to engineering course should be taught in all high schools. I was very lucky in that engineering was the best paying 4-year degree at the time, and the lure of money led me to a career that has many rewards beyond financial gain. If the engineering field had not paid well when I was choosing a college major, I may have missed out on one of the most interesting careers that can be imagined!
I became a Radio engineer after learning that Amateur radio operators could talk as well as listen. Now as an IEEE Life member I have had the privilege of watching the electronics industry grow from discrete to integrated circuits, computers shrink from roomful to palm size and witness ever increasing product complexity. The biggest personal challenge was learning an international standard that withstood the test of time. I chose Ethernet (IEEE802) in the late 1970's and have ridden that wave for 30+ years. My son is in the legal profession where the knowledge base consists of Federal, State, local laws and ordinances.
I became engineer out of couriosity; I liked to find solutions and develop an understanding of complex problems by using programming languages and I simulated systems like mechanical networks or tried out optimization algorithms. Recently I asked my son, what he would like to become and he said in turn: "nothing that somebody can do for half the money abroad". Frightening how worldly-wise kids are nowerdays. Looks as if word has gone around.
What got me into Electrical Engineering? Some bizarre twists and a 'why not' attitude... I grew up on a farm and wanted to make a living building custom cars. In going into the Coast Gaurd, I found the only job close was working on aircraft. My eyes wouldn't let me do that; the recruiter suggested electronics tech and I said 'why not'? I continued as a tech after the military until my military knee injury rendered that impossible. Over that time, I grew frustrated with the terrible design work I saw; the equipment was not designed to be worked on, which I though was incredibly stupid. When the VA offered me retraining I said I wanted to get an EE degree, surely I could do a better job the those already working. Of course I realized in school that engineers were only following what they were taught - no one taught design for lifecycle.
Notice I didn't mention my family or school. High school was 'college for the rich' and my family told me 'we don't go to college'
What could influence new people? It's got to be a non-financial calling. In this greed based culture we currently live in, I feel it's a hopeless task. However, I will be at our local Science Center this weekend promoting the field.
(Oh yeah - as the nickname indicates, I did get to build a custom car. And look forward to building another.
The big three draws seem to be:
1. exciting and popular event (space race)
2. accessible and novel tech (early personal computing)
3. Encouragement from relatives and friends who are engineers.
All three examples are diminished these days: manned space exploration has stagnated, computing is now complex and commonplace, and engineers are marginalized in pay and job security and so are less likely to encourage others to follow.
I'm positive #1 and #2 will happen again in some form. #3 will then follow.
As a child of the '60 and '70s, my interest in technology began with following the space program...and of course Legos, an Erector set and around age 9, taking apart a spare telephone to see what was inside. An interest in radio & TV as a teen lead me toward electrical engineering, and exposure to a Commodore PET computer in the late '70s sealed the deal for me. What better way to leverage my love of math & science into a rewarding career?
Today, most of my co-workers are middle-aged like me. My company doesn't hire many young engineers in the U.S. -- those jobs are mostly in developing nations. My children are all fond of math & science and are very good students, and one is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering -- a field that hopefully still has a future in the U.S. If any of them were interested in EE -- or specifically in doing hardware design as I do -- I would sadly discourage them, since the reality is there are not many hardware design jobs available in the U.S. for fresh college grads.
Thanks to everyone who has commented so far- really interesting stuff to read. (Please keep them coming). I am seeing a reoccurring theme here- it sounds like for many of you this wasn't a choice as much as it was something you were drawn to (as betajet says, "a calling, not something that seemed like a good idea at the time.") The question is, why does it seem that fewer and fewer people feel that pull? Several of you have pointed out that the media tends to lionize rappers, athletes, celebrities, etc. I am betting that is not new. Engineering has never been a glamour job, and it seems like that suits most engineers I've talked to just fine. I agree with betajet's point, which I've heard before, that electronics have become so highly integrated and complicated that for the most part there's nothing to tinker around with anymore. And I think that stunts the growth of the profession. Kids who are so inclined might crack a gadget open to if they could figure out how it worked. And 20 years ago that was completely possible, conceptually. But today, not so much. I would argue that the same proportion of kids today are born with a natural inclination toward engineering, but that there simply isn't as much to nurture that curiosity and interest. Stuff is too complex and kids can't put themselves in the place of designing and building it. What is to be done about that?