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What is something that you've learned as a engineer that you didn't learn in school?

Hi! I am Abigail, and a high school sophomore. I am looking into colleges that I can apply to, to major in engineering, because I think that is what I would like to be in the future.
Although school teaches you a lot, there are some things best learned through experience. I'm wondering what are some things that have been that way for you as an engineer?
I want to get a picture of the true experience of being an engineer.
Thanks in advance!

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Borislav’s Answer

Hello Abigail


This is a very good question and you are absolutely correct - school lays the foundation and although sometimes it may feel like the matter you are learning may not have relevance to the 'real world', it is important to not lose focus because the foundation is very important. Experience comes with working on real challenges and applying the knowledge you have to solve real world problems. Experience will eventually give you the confidence to work faster/more efficiently and be willing to accept more responsibility because you are confident that you can deliver. Working in dynamic groups and being able to do so confidently and efficiently comes through experience. These 'soft skills' are developed on the job. Communication in the work space is something that gets better through experience. I once took a bicycle mechanics course because I wanted to learn how to fix my bicycle. The instruction summed up the experience factor pretty well for me. He said: "you can do anything I can, it's just that it will probably take you hours to do what I do in minutes". Hope this is helpful and good luck!

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Luis "Lou"’s Answer

Everything.
What you learn in school is very useful, but only parts of it will apply out in the world.
A friend of mine once told me (and I agree 100%): "What you learn in school is HOW to learn." Another thing is: you never stop learning.
Good luck.

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Simon’s Answer

Communications skills and time management will improve when you get in the workplace. Most companies hold and/or encourage you to go to training seminaries etc., be sure to go to seminars that stress people skills. The most significant item I learned in the work place was cultural and personality differences and how they affect the way you must communicate. Remember that it much easier for you to change your approach to accommodate different personalities and cultures than trying to change others to meet your standards/expectations. If you do a project, take time to understand the customer and their needs. Good luck.

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Peter’s Answer

Abigail:


The most important engineering aspect that they don't teach you in school is the human element. Engineering project sometimes fail. And the reason they fail is generally not due to technical causes. Its because the engineers did not listen carefully enough to the Client or to the community as to the important factors that need to be taken into account for a successful project. Thus the project ends up either not truly solving the problem at hand or else causes unwelcome side effects that could have been prevented had the engineers listened to carefully the community or thought about the problem more broadly. Its wise to never approach a project, early on, thinking that you already have the answer.

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