When I look back on my childhood now, my future as an engineer seems all but inevitable. My Dad is an electrical engineer, and although he never once in my entire life pushed me towards engineering, the inadvertent exposure to it that I was given, along with my inherited aptitude for math and science, was simply too much too ignore.
I was always building things. I built a periscope out of toilet paper roll tubes and old compact powder mirrors. I made a tight-rope walk out of an old dog-leash between two trees in my backyard that was, to my mother’s horror, no less than 10 feet off the ground. After watching The Lord of the Rings for the first time (and falling completely in love with Legolas), I fashioned a bow and arrow set of out sticks, twine, and a rubber band. Could I actually hit anything I aimed for? Of course not. Did I run around the yard like fool being chased by Orcs? You bet.
My favorite thing to build, though, was a fort. Normal kids might throw an old comforter over a couple chairs and be satisfied, but not me. Building a fort was a massive and exhilarating undertaking. I would amass every blanket and chair in the house. I would steal plywood boards from my Dad’s workshop. Couch cushions were a staple, as were bungee cords. I had a system when I was building. There was a schematic in my head that I followed – each step and design feature meticulously planned. If something fell or didn’t quite fit, I stepped back and stared at my work and the materials I had left, devised a list of possible solutions, and tested them out until one worked.
Long before I even knew what an engineer was or did, I was implementing and developing the skills that would one day shape my future as one. So when people started asking that question my senior year, the answer came smoothly: “I’m going into engineering”.
Cornell Engineering sort of just happened. I wasn’t one of those people who applied to every Ivy. In fact, when I started the whole college process, I didn’t even know which ones were in the Ivy League. Like so many other students, I started with one of those generic Collegeboard searches. I entered in my basic criteria – biological engineering major, large school, location somewhere in the Northeast, etc. – and out came a list of about 20 schools. Cornell was one of them.
After clicking on its link and reading through its overview, I decided it seemed decent enough. On paper, it appeared to have everything I was looking for in a school. Then I google it. The photos that popped up were stunning; now I was officially interested. I proceeded to spend the next several hours browsing through everything and anything related to Cornell University. The further I dug into the school’s background and history, the more it started to stand out in my mind as a real contender. Then my parents took me on a visit there. One step out of the car and I was sold.
Cornell Engineering was hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. There were days where it made me question my competence not as just as an student, but as a human being. How could I not understand this? What was I doing wrong? How could I be this stupid? I remember calling home on several occasions after a test or before a big assignment was due, and the moment I heard my Mom’s voice on the other end, I simply burst into tears. It was overwhelming. It was exhausting. It was, at times, completely and arbitrarily unfair.
But Cornell Engineering helped make me who I am today. It taught me the meaning of hard work. It showed me that the things in life most worth fighting for are the ones that don’t come easy. At Cornell, I learned how to learn, and I learned how to achieve. I discovered how strong I am and how much I can accomplish when I am truly focused. I developed a set of skills that will help me not only succeed in the professional world, but in every other aspect of my life. Being an engineer wasn’t just my major, it was a part of who I was. It was the lens through which I viewed the world. And the knowledge and experience I gained during my education gave me the power to go out into that world and create actual, meaningful change
When people started asking that question again my senior year of college, the answer again came without hesitation: “I’m going to get a job”. Well, first I was going to finish up the Masters of Engineering I had started during my final semester of undergrad, but after that I was going to enter the real world. After four and a half years of pouring myself into my classes and my program, I felt I owed it to myself to see things through. To not go out and start my career felt, to me, like a wasted opportunity; like a sacrifice of the gift.
There were many people who did not agree with or understand my rationale, and at first that really bothered me, but eventually I stopped caring what everyone else thought of my decision. It was my life. And I knew what I needed to feel like my life was fulfilling.
I now have a job as a medical devices associate at Global Prior Art, an intellectual property consulting firm located in Downtown Boston. And I absolutely love it. The projects I am involved in are interesting and exciting and always changing. Every day I learn something new about the medical device industry – where it’s been, where it’s going, and how we are getting there. This job is helping me build an incredibly diverse and solid technical base, something that will help immensely as I continue with my career down the line. My coworkers and managers are wonderful. Everyone is so fun and friendly and supportive. The environment at the office is fantastic.
I love being a part of the professional world. I genuinely enjoy going into work everyday. I like taking the train into the city every morning. I enjoy getting dressed up in my business casual work clothes and feeling legit. I like having meetings. I think it’s fun having calls with clients and taking business trips. I like going out for drinks after work. I like that after I leave the office, my work doesn’t come home with me. I absolutely love that the weekends are mine to enjoy. I like that every day when I go into work, I have a purpose. I like working towards something, towards my future. I like knowing that I am doing something productive with my time that is making an actual difference in this world.