“Endless Possibilities in Engineering” is written by Shirin Farrahi, principal software engineer at Cadence.
I had a French teacher in high school who brought a fan to class and opened it up. She told us that each blade of the fan is an opportunity, something we can do in the future. The best choice of study is something that keeps all options open. In some fields, your options are fairly limited, closing the fan by half or completely, but in engineering the fan remains fairly open for a long time, giving you many opportunities.
Some people are fortunate that they have always known what they wanted to do in life. When I was in high school and even in college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I liked math but didn’t know what I wanted to use it for in the long run. Thankfully, I studied electrical engineering, which allowed me to explore different areas to find my interests.
My Career Path
In college, I had the opportunity to do a few research internships, and the experience I gained there was very helpful in securing me a spot in graduate school at MIT. I intended to focus on a traditional area of electrical engineering but then became interested in learning about hearing and ended up doing a Ph.D. in bioelectrical engineering. Although that was very interesting, I chose something completely different after graduate school. I became a Signal Integrity engineer, helping analyze high-speed links for computer servers.
After four years of that, I moved on to my current position as a software engineer developing tools to analyze hardware at Cadence. In my current position, I enjoy getting to see what customers are building and using our tools without having to dig into the development details. As opposed to spending several years developing one piece of hardware, I get exposed to many different projects and get a good overview of what’s happening in the industry.
Within Electronic Design Automation there are many different areas, and I recently changed projects within Cadence to work on automating Printed Circuit Board design. This project is definitely the most exciting thing I have worked on and has the potential to really change the way our industry works.
Advice for College Grads
It always helps to enjoy your work, so try to follow your interests. In engineering, there are so many different opportunities that you are bound to find something interesting. It’s also important to continue learning throughout your career. In high tech, this is even more critical since technology changes so quickly. One of the best ways to continue learning is to work on research projects or file patent applications. These benefit your company, but also give you a personal boost.
My experience with various fields in engineering is not unique. Of my many classmates, some went on to law school, medical school, or business school. The opportunities in engineering remain varied for a long time, so if, like me, you don’t know what you want to do, engineering keeps your options open.