Monday, June 8, 2015

How I ended up being an engineer

Every now and then, as I go through my mid life crises (getting older and taking stock of what my life has been about), I wonder how I ended up an engineer.

As a kid, I never thought of being an engineer.  Originally, I wished to be pilot.  I'm not sure what inspired me to want that.  But I developed myopia early in life and was told that becoming a pilot would not be possible as one needed perfect vision.  After that, I never really thought of what I wanted to be.  Since my father was a businessman, that's what I thought I end up as.

At school, I was a fairly average student during my early years.  Something changed when I was in the 7th grade and I started doing well.  This continued as I started doing even better in the 8th grade and continued to maintain that.  After the 10th grade in India, we usually have to choose between science, commerce, and arts.  I had always thought I'd take commerce, but because I did well at school, and because most smart kids took science, I decided to take science.  I reasoned that I could always fall back to commerce or arts, but going in the other direction (from commerce to science) was darn near impossible.

In high school (11th grade in India) I didn't particularly care for biology because of the way the teachers taught it (felt kind of disorganized and dry).  Fortunately, an option showed up to drop biology and German (the latter being another subject that I didn't particularly enjoy at that time) and instead opt for electronics.  That option was quite a relief.  I continued to do quite well through high school.  After high school, the best options (i.e. the ones that the smartest students pick) are either medicine or engineering.  Since I dropped biology, medicine was not an option and so I "chose" engineering.  Among the engineering specialities, the students at the top usually opted for electronics, followed by the various other disciplines, with civil engineering at the bottom.  Since I did well enough, I was able to opt for any branch, but "chose" electronics.

In college, I didn't really enjoy electronics but I was able to do reasonably well anyway.  As we got to the 3rd and 4th year, more and more subjects around digital systems started appearing and I had a natural interest in those.  I found them very easy to absorb and internalize compared to earlier subject matter that I tended to just ingest and memorize.

I really enjoyed my first job as a programmer and then subsequently applied to graduate school to focus on computer engineering.

In graduate school, I once again had to focus on basic electronics to get through the qualifying exam.  But once that was done, I was able to spend all my time studying and researching computer engineering subjects.  What I didn't like about graduate school was the pressure and uncertainty around research and getting the research published.

Since graduating I have worked in the field of computer networking.  I sometimes wonder if I picked the right career.  How might my life be different if I had picked a different path in high school, something like economics or business?  I guess these are the questions that come up during a mid life crisis.  Yet pondering such questions is a waste of time, because I am where I am.

1 comment:

  1. I did engineering in India and did MBA in USA and working in a completely different field than my engineering degree. I LOVED my subjects during my engineering and I'm confident I would have done well as an electrical engineer. Never got a chance.

    I get these questions in my mind once in a while as well