Thursday, November 4, 2010

What exactly do you DO?

I get asked that question a lot. What does an engineer do? There seem to be a lot of common misconceptions about what I do as an ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEER (aka what I actually went to school for) and things I happen to know how to do that are electrical and computer RELATED (aka things I learned from my geeky friends/things I picked up on my own/ reading an instruction manual).

I'm really not joking about that last one.

So let me start with things that people seem to think I went to school for that I really didn't:

  • Setting up your TV
  • Hooking up your cable
  • Making your computer faster
  • Setting up a router (seriously guys, all I did was read the instruction manual)
  • Running a sound system (yes I know how to use the pretty knobs, yes I knew immediately what the problem was, no I don't need my degree to tell you which knob to turn to fix your problem- I've been running sound systems since I was in 8th grade)
  • Building a computer
  • Hooking up various game systems, DVD players, VCRs, etc to your TV or computer
  • Setting up your computer, plugging in your mouse and keyboard and monitor, reading the on screen instructions to set it up, etc.
  • Programming
What I actually do as an engineer: (this one is going to be difficult to explain so I'll try to keep it simple)
  • You know when you open up some sort of electronic for whatever reason, and there's that pretty green board with all that stuff stuck to it? I know what that stuff does- I make the pretty green boards.
  • You know things like MRIs, how the first word in that is "magnetic?" That's electrical engineering.
  • You know those flashlights that you shake and they magically light up? How you can see the crap inside the handle? That's electrical engineering.
  • Things like electromagnetic fields in space, radar detection, etc, is also EE.
Basically, anything that has the pretty green boards is what I went to school for. I know how to use electronics because I'm a technically savvy person and have been working with them for a long time,  but that's not what my degree is in. If you were to take that stuff apart, I could explain to you what everything on the boards are meant to do (but probably not how they fit into the system, that gets really complicated really quickly). I don't just plug the microphone into the speaker, I create the amplification circuit. I've worked with solar panels and wind turbines, and understand generally how they work to generate electricity.

Think of "electrical engineers" as "electricity manipulators"- we create things that make electricity do what we want it to do.

I know that a lot of my friends from school could probably help me expand on this post a bit, but I'm trying to keep it somewhat simple for my non-engineering friends and family so that they might finally have some sort of clue as to what I do. So engineering friends, feel free to post in the comments about what Electrical and Computer Engineering is.

I hope that this post helped clarify what exactly I do. Now I should go to bed, because I have an interview tomorrow!



  1. Good luck on your interview!! :D

  2. I had someone say "do you mind if I ask you a work question?"
    My job involves writing software that you are quite unlikely to ever use. It's essentially an IDE for business people. Anyways.
    He then asked me if it was possible to put a PC and a mac on the same wireless network.
    I said "yes, and I have no idea how to do it."

    I know most people don't get it... but who do they think MAKES THE TV that "we hook up" to begin with?!?!


  3. You don't need a degree to know what a circuit board is....comes off condescending when you describe it as a 'pretty green board with stuff on it'.