My first exposure to engineering was in college. I come from a family with a business background, and growing up that’s what I thought all adults do. My first quarter at Davis widened my perspective and presented me with countless new paths to consider. Upon meeting numerous engineers for the first time, I built up the belief that engineers are superhumans. I convinced myself that there is a certain level of intelligence that just makes some people more suited for a field like engineering, and I was not one of them.
The education system loves pen and paper. It is what I have known my whole life. The college environment was the first place I realized how little time I have spent trying to build, create, or invent tangible working solutions to problems. And that’s just what engineers do! I was inspired by the ability to take ideas and have the tools to actualize them, and I wanted to know how I could cultivate my own toolkit.
Initially, and even still, I faced the symptoms of imposter syndrome. For anyone who is considering pursuing a career in engineering, there are a couple things that have helped me understand why engineers often appear to be superhumans.
1. Learning how to ask the right questions
Engineers are extremely good at Googling. No one is born with a wealth of knowledge, at some point, anything that someone knows had to be learned. I have observed that engineers are extremely diligent in preventing knowledge gaps. When they do not know the definition of a word, they look it up immediately, or if they are a rusty with a concept, they watch a ten-minute YouTube video to refresh their memory. Moreover, engineers do not merely ask questions. Whether asking a peer, professor, or Google, they know the right questions to ask. Engineers have identified exactly what it is that they do not know and why this piece is preventing them from moving forward.
2. A genuine curiosity to know how things work
Learning is not a chore for engineers, it is a mindset that involves a genuine interest for learning about the mysterious world in which we live.
Engineers have an ability to handle failure. It does not crumble their confidence or self-esteem, and instead motivates them to try again and improve upon the previous attempt.
4. A willingness to work through hard problems
Venturing into the world of physics, computer science, and mathematics made me realize that some concepts are just harder to wrap your mind around than others. There are math problems where I have had to spent an entire day trying to understand what the problem is even asking me to solve. Engineers have the patience to work through problems that require focus and applying the fundamentals, and often have to start over countless times.
These four traits are definitely not magic, and engineers are not superhumans, at least not in a literal sense. They are all characteristics that anyone can attain if they truly have an interest in the field. However, there is a certain degree of discipline and dedication that we can all admire of anyone who has worked hard enough to appear superhuman.