No offense but talking about pretty girls and dirty jokes were a big part of office life in every company I worked for. What you say is probably true for big corporations, but at least here in Europe I guess it is a bit more easy-going :)
The first thing I learned - which was while I was going to school working part time as a technician - is that if I had to learn calculus, physics, and all of the other difficult subjects necessary to earn the diploma, I was surely going to find my first engineering job that needed all that knowledge.
As a technician, I worked along side graduate engineers whose job had evolved to simply copying circuits from an applications manual on to a board. If there was a problem, the FAE was called in. That didn't seem very exciting.
Analog seemed the toughest at the time (not much DSP then) where I surely needed all the math for filter design, loop compensation, noise integrals, etc. A few decades later and I'm still using calculus and physics to solve circuit design problems.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of the EE students who take all of these classes end up in jobs where they are required. Many go into sales or marketing or other noble segments of the industry, It is an unfortunate aspect of engineering that a substantial amount of time is spent learning subjects that later are unnecessary. This is why I advocate that all engineering students need to get there hands involved as soon as possible in design work to ascertain if this is where their heart lies. If not, the coursework and educational path could be altered before too much time is wasted learning subject material only to pass tests.
What my first engineering jobs taught me:
1. Never gossip behind your colleagues. Keep your mouth shut. Just do your work and stay out of trouble. If you want to speak, refrain from anything personal, religious or racial. If you want to ask, stick to work-related and always ask general question because specific details could land you into a hot soup because you may stepped on someone's toe for details you tried to dig.
2. Be selective and learn what interests you most. Develop that area more, when you are still excited to learn more. Gradually you will position yourself to become a subject matter expert, if not a guru in that field and you will more confident to expand broader to pick up related areas to strengthen your key knowledge.
3. Every colleague is your friend and enermy. There is permanent of one kind. When there is conflict of interest, friends can become enermies. When there isn't, enermies never had.
Always keep a lookout what matters, a project to claim credit for, or a peaceful career and continued to be well-liked by many?
4. Learn to be vocal and competent.
Can talk, but cannot do, is empty vessel.
In Singapore, we call this NATO (No Action, Talk Only).
Can do, but cannot talk, is as good as a worker.
Your boss talks, you continue to work like a slave because you can't talk well to express your views to impress your boss and your boss's bosses.
Lastly, never talk about pretty girls, dirty jokes, heartfelt issues to anyone in your company.
Your personal details can be tools for evil people to attack you, at your weakest and the most unexpected moment.
You will surprised there are many unscrupulous people who would do anything to achieve their goals, even to bring you down.
Its the people who you work with on your first project that teach you the most. Any given project gives you a cross section of most of the engineering types you will see throughout your career.
I was lucky, I was placed with a easy going group that mentored me a lot while I was still learning the ropes. Later I was able to see the vast differences any given project can put together.
With luck, you will find good people around you to help. Worst case, you get the burned out or pissed off engineers who treat you as a threat. Either way, you will learn a lot. Just keep your focus and know that not all engineers are like those on your first project.
Just my opinion.
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.