What Newbie Engineers Should Know

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In segueing from student to professional engineer, there are a few things you need to know and practice.

For one thing, you need to shift from your college timeframe to the timeframe of work. After four years of college, you're used to planning and working around a semester or quarter. The educational process of exams and classroom undergrad assignments usually takes just hours. Moreover, homework problems assigned in one class rarely dovetail with those assigned in other simultaneous classes.

On the other extreme, the papers and theses imposed by Ph.D. or Master's Degree programs are sometimes measured in years—far too time consuming for industry needs. The point being that industry timeframes can be either too slow or too fast for the projects you may be assigned to work on. They may take much longer than your typical homework assignment or move at an accelerated sprint that makes that Ph.D. projects seem positively immobile by comparison. Industry is constantly driven by ever-shrinking concept-to-market times. In addition, many industry projects are multi-disciplinary.

Another hard cold fact novice engineers must come to grips with is learning when to stop. Market forces and budgets demand that further design, analysis and/or research simply won't add enough extra value to a product to justify the cost. That means not over-designing products, or over-researching them. Those coming into industry with advanced degrees often find this a difficult concept to grasp.

The key is to confine one's engineering efforts to what the customer wants and needs. If a customer wants a product to last for 25 years but the market is only willing to pay for a 10-year lifespan, there's no need to over-engineer the product and price it out of the market.

For an additional perspective, check out this video:

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.

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