My summer experience

This summer so far has been a valuable learning experience in which I finally obtained some clarity on my future.

As an engineering student entering my fourth year, the concept of planning my next step after college is now starting to hit me hard. I have loved my 3 years of engineering classes up to this point. Although challenging, I never had any doubt once I took my first engineering class that this is what I wanted to do. However, I have taken courses covering such a wide breadth of engineering fields such that my specific career path has appeared very fuzzy in my mind.

This was my first time doing summer research, under AIM Photonics, and the cliché of “better late than never” has certainly held true thus far. Both the panels and especially the two dinners have greatly assisted in the processes of planning out my next chapter in my career. These events have given me some key lessons on how to be successful, including the main takeaways of the importance of communication, networking, and simply being easy to work with. From the industry dinner I learned that a master’s degree or higher is not a requirement if you want to be a leader in a company, which was a huge question that I had been itching to find the answer to.

At the very same dinner, I experienced the power of networking as I met one of the CAPSTONE project leaders from FLIR, and had a lengthy discussion that got me deeply interested in that project and the opportunities that it can bring me. Furthermore, my specific research project which is focused mainly on design has helped give me a glimpse into what I can expect if I enter an industry position.

I still have a few months to help clear up my vision for the next few years, but this summer has helped me tremendously in doing so.

From Nervousness to Clarity: My Experience of the Faculty Dinner

Going into the dinner with faculty event, I had I absolutely no idea what to expect. This was the first time I was going to attend an event anything like this, and it’s safe to say I was pretty dang nervous. In typical anxious fashion I left about thirty minutes in case anything went wrong, which of course nothing did, and showed up with time to spare. I walked in the door, and being 15 minutes early I was one of the first ones there.

Once my nametag was on and all of the professors found their way inside, I instantly recognized one of them as he had been my professor a few quarters back, and was one of my favorites. I always had a gut instinct that we had a lot in common, but never had the chance to test my hypothesis. Of course, his table was the first one I chose to sit at, and I was not disappointed. I never had the chance to go to any of his office hours while I was a student, but I always had heard that he was an interesting guy and I wanted my own crack at asking him some questions.

My goal going into the night was simply asking a professor about his career path, and then seeing how much correlation there is between my personal goals at the moment and their goals at the same age. It’s quite remarkable how sometimes the simplest questions can provide you with the most complex, fascinating answers, and I struck gold on my first try with this professor. As he went through his personal path and his mindset at each point in his life, I realized that my overarching goals were very similar to his. However, my path I was going to take was a little different than the one he took, so I asked his thoughts on my situation. He responded with such intellectual clarity that it made me think that I had planned out my senior year with my eyes closed. Even though the classes I was taking were interesting, the ones I would have missed out on because of them were fundamental to my goals. I promptly went home and hit the redo button on my schedule.

It’s amazing how a simple conversation can open your eyes sometimes. Although the conversation only lasted a quarter of the entire event, I knew the whole night was instantly worth it after it concluded.