***Editor’s Note: The “I Became An Engineer” blog runs every Friday. To share your story email email@example.com***
This week’s story comes to us from ECN reader Adam Sanderson, Vice President of Value Engineering, East West Manufacturing.
I became an engineer for two reasons:
1. MacGyver: It’s pretty natural, actually. People get exposed to things through pop culture all the time. Similarly, I’ve heard there was a spike in the number of people wanting to become forensic pathologists after CSI came out. I watched MacGyver and loved how he came up with solutions. It was a combination of science, pop culture, and theater. But I caution anyone like me who used to watch MacGyver—don’t re-watch it. The magic is lost. And forget the remake. I watched five minutes of it and said, “That kid is no Richard Dean Anderson.”
2. Casual Dress: I’m a pretty casual guy. The uniform of many traditional white-collar careers is comprised of polished shoes, slacks, starched shirts, jackets, and ties. That wasn’t for me. I wanted a career where I could be comfortable.
When I was a kid, stuff would break. I’d take it apart to try and fix it. I liked taking things apart and figuring out how they were put together. I was probably in early elementary school when computers started coming along. My parents made sure my brother and I were exposed to these early computers. We started with a Texas Instruments TI99/4A and burned out two Commodore 64’s by running them so hard. We mostly used computers for gaming.
In the 1990s I was learning about computers like everyone else, but whenever I had a problem I’d call the help line and talk to the service techs. I’d ask question after question: “How do I restart the computer in Safe Mode? Why would I need to restart the computer in Safe Mode? What do you mean I set the display resolution too high? What does that even mean?”
I paid my own way through undergrad (Purdue University) by co-oping with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). At the time I was interviewing for my co-op, AMD had more approved positions than candidates. I didn’t understand PC architecture well enough to start in one of the more technical roles, but the lab skills I learned at Purdue landed me a spot driving an oscilloscope to evaluate 3rd party motherboards on their System Validation team. That led to tours in System Engineering and Technical marketing at both their Austin and Sunnyvale campuses.
When I graduated in 1999, if you had an engineering degree from a reputable university you could stand on the street corner and have companies lining up to hire you. During my last summer tour with AMD in Silicon Valley I even met recruiters from other companies trolling for talent while walking to my truck after work. I chose Compaq because of the low cost of living in Houston, and the opportunity to immediately gain experience in project management as well as engineering.
Working on notebooks was satisfying. The heart of the machine is an incredibly delicate and complex electrical system, wrapped in an artfully designed custom chassis mechanically engineered to survive years of wear and tear. I loved seeing another traveler on my flight interacting with a machine I had helped bring to market and often lingered at the end of the row at Best Buy to see if one of our creations was picked by other shoppers.
Read other stories, here:
- A Note From The Editor: An Engineer’s Story
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- I Became An Engineer: Because I Loved LEGOs And Tinkertoys
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Grew Up In Kenya
- I Became An Engineer: By Just Being Myself
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of The Cool Jackets
- I Became An Engineer: Because My Dad Said Not To
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Couldn’t Stop Tinkering
- I Became An Engineer: Despite Being Bad At Math
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Christmas Lights
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Uncle Chet
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- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Star Trek (Specifically Montgomery Scott)
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Was A Really Lucky Nerd
- I Became An Engineer: But ‘Nobody Knows’ Why
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Couldn’t Be An Astronaut
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Nuclear Submarines
- I Became An Engineer: Because No One Was Hiring Shoe Salesmen
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Mr. Kenny, The TV/Radio Repair Man
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A Book (And My Mom)
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A Cattle Ranch
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A Wise Father And The Possibility Of Death
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of An Evil Mastermind
- I Became An Engineer: To Get Off The Tractor
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of My Rodeo Coach