We learned something new today. The term “engineering” is partially derived from a Latin word that means “cleverness.” Which is our way of saying: if you’re about to embark on a career in engineering, well played.
While the term engineer dates back to about 1300 AD, it’s safe to say its core principle—finding new ways to solve old problems—has existed since man scrawled on cave walls by torchlight. To us, there’s something truly noble about people who see engineering as a calling. From the wheel to the aqueduct, from the abacus to the calculator (and computer), it was always about the relentless, even foolish pursuit of meaningful breakthrough.
We thought it would be cool to ask some Lenovo engineers what advice they might give aspiring young engineers as they make their way through school or enter their new career. Hands down, the best response we got came from Matt Fardig, a Senior Engineer at Lenovo subsidiary Stoneware, a cloud computing solutions provider. Let’s turn it over to Matt…
My engineering journey began at a young age with my love for video games. I have fond memories of our first Atari 2600 gaming system and playing Asteroids with my dad. It became a competition. When I would beat Dad's score, he would stay up late after everyone went to sleep until he beat my score. And you have to remember that, back then, we didn't have digital cameras or social media so his way to “share” his accomplishment (and brag) was to wake me up no matter how late it was (even on a school night).
We ultimately graduated to a Commodore 64 and I wrote my first Basic programs. From then on, I was hooked. I wanted to know how this stuff worked, and how to improve it, so it was easy to choose a career in computer engineering. When I started college, I quickly learned that I had a knack for breaking computer hardware by just touching it so, while my degree is in Computer Engineering, I focused mainly on the software development side of things.
My advice to aspiring engineers is to find something that intrigues you and something that challenges you on a daily basis and go after it. In the IT world, it is all too easy to settle into a job where you do the same thing every day and you never push yourself. There is no reward in that and you will quickly grow into the mumbling grumbling engineer that we so often get stereotyped as.
Don't be afraid to take a risk—and take that risk while you’re young. For me, that risk was joining a startup company called Stoneware. We ran after crazy ideas and developed a piece of software that did things no other software was doing at the time.
There were some really big ups and lots of really low downs in the 12 years before we became part of the Lenovo family. If you haven't heard the statement “We are cutting everyone's salary by 40% to keep the company alive” right after the birth of your first child, then you probably aren't taking a big enough risk! The emotional roller-coaster of a startup is a rush and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.
My final bit of advice is this: after you scratch that itch for adventure, excitement and risk, find a good solid company that still lets you innovate and keeps you personally involved in pushing your field of choice in new and exciting directions. Let's face it: that itch will never be satisfied. We are engineers. We will never be happy unless we are tweaking and changing and improving things on a daily basis.
Big thanks to Matt for sharing his hard-won knowledge. Keep an eye out for more installments in this series.
(Beautiful aqueduct photo: thanks to Emanuele via Creative Commons.)