Why Engineering? - From Business to STEM

 
 
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It all started back when… 

In high school I spent two semesters focusing on health fields and I was truly prepared to go off to college in pursuit of Nursing or something similar. I took all of the required Health Science classes. I spent several months job shadowing in hospitals and doctor offices of many specialized areas.

I actually really enjoyed learning about the human body and the sciences, but I didn’t quite enjoy the jobs I experienced. Nevertheless, I am so glad I did it. It gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the field.

I went on and graduated with an A.S., General Business from a local community college. Having worked in the service industry as my first college job and being groomed into a leadership role at the time, I enjoyed working under pressure and thinking on my feet.

I became super customer-service oriented because of such and have been exploring potential business ideas ever since. But I also didn’t necessarily believe that a business degree was going to get me there, after all…both of my parents (and many of my family members) became entrepreneurs without one!

I just felt like something was missing - I still felt unsatisfied or incomplete in terms of choosing a “career path”. This is when I really honed in on what I possibly wanted to do. So I sat out a semester and started considering all potential career fields (even more specific business routes).

I researched every single week - all of the majors and degrees my Uni and other Uni’s offered. And for each, I searched for more specific things like job pros + cons, day to day tasks, outlook/demand, stability and security, etc.

I did this via the internet, talking to academic advisers, peers, and even YouTube - never relying on a single source.

During that time, I came across Engineering. 

My initial thoughts were “there’s no way I can do this.” I mean…aren’t Engineers like, really smart? I had very little to no exposure or prior interests in STEM. Girls “like me” in high school didn’t go on to become engineers.

Math wasn’t even my strong suit. When I asked people if they thought whether I would be a good fit, they looked at me like I was crazy. “But you don’t blend in with the rest of them.” “Aren’t you like…to be pretty to be an engineer?”

And that’s when I knew that I could do it. When I was able to give myself so much validation, that I didn’t even care what I lacked in knowledge or experience at the time, or who society deemed as engineer-esq. Despite not fitting the stereotype, the challenges were super exciting to me.

I’m a natural problem solver, I love science and I thought there was a ton of cool opportunities to be explored. I’m also a quick learner, team-oriented and enjoyed creatively determining solutions. I used all of those as reasons to why I could crush it in the field.

I was thrilled. I started to look around and think about how the world has evolved, because of engineers! Although there is a certain level of problem solving in just about every field, engineering to me was on a much larger scale. And honestly, go big or home *hair flip emoji*.

Engineering is challenging, innovative, evolving and rewarding.
— Mary Nguyen

I became interested in the field for many reasons:

  • I get to solve the world’s problems, literally.

  • Engineers either create things that don’t exist or make the existing things better. Winning?

  • It’s everywhere, from personal technology to billion dollar industry projects.

  • It’s both technical and creative. We take a problem, whether large or small, and find a solution. Talk about getting to be imaginative!

  • The results from our projects and our contribution to society is magnanimous. From space exploration, to national security, to the environment. We’ve got you covered!

  • And let’s not leave out demands, security and benefits!

I chose Mechanical specifically, because…

I thought it was the most concrete. I learn best by seeing and doing. I like knowing that I can help take a concept and turn it into something practical - a real, functioning entity.

I also liked it, because it was broad and less field-specific (such as Aerospace). This was important for me in the beginning, because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted yet.

A B.S., Mechanical Engineering seemed to be flexible and mostly aligns with what I deemed important. And from my experience, this has been proven true! I’ve gained experience in a variety of fields such as robotics, thermal systems, propulsion and structures.

If I could give my younger self advice

Sometimes I wish I could go back and encourage myself to explore more opportunities that scared me or that I would’ve thought “wasn’t for me”. I steered from STEM for so long, because the field highly lacks public representations of women figures such as myself.

I would’ve pushed myself to broaden my interests and curiosity early on, as well as to put myself out there more! There are a ton of opportunities to be explored and people who are willing to help along the way.

Nevertheless, I am still so thankful. Our journeys will consist of failure, rejection and redirection, which all advances learning experiences. I do not at all regret my prior decisions or paths, as they’ve molded me into, well, me!