I loved futuristic science fiction as a kid. I loved how movie producers depict the imagined future. Flying cars, photon jets, space travel and whatnot.
When I wrote
essays compositions titled “My Ambition” as a primary school kid, I wrote about many professions. I had wanted to be a businessman like my dad, and then a doctor, a lawyer, and even to be the richest man in the world! Somehow, when I entered secondary school, as I got more and more fascinated by the above-mentioned sci-fi, it changed into “I want to be an inventor!” and had remained a constant.
I always felt it was very cool of those movie producers to come up with kick ass designs and features of future machines that I could never have imagined by myself. I dreamed of becoming an inventor, playing my part in making these visions of the future come true.
When I got to Form 4 (or Secondary 4), us Science Stream students were allowed to choose between Pure Science and Semi Science. Or was it called Half Science/Partial Science? Can’t remember the actual term. Pure science students would have to do all 3 of the science subjects: Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Semi Science students would still have to do Chemistry, but we were allowed to drop either one of Physics or Biology, and replace it with Computer Technology or Accounting.
To my teachers’ dismay, I dropped Biology and selected Computer Technology without hesitation. I was one of the top students in my school back then *ahem ahem*, the top students usually does pure science and I was the only exception. I remember My Form 4 class teacher tried to persuade me to go for pure science, he even told me that I had hurt the Biology teacher by not wanting to take up her class. I remember being summoned to the headmistress’s office for an hour of counseling. Top student should not drop down to semi science and mix with the less elite students!
I was adamant. Since I had the choice to pick a subject related to technology, I refused to budge from my decision. Biology is useless for an inventor! Stop wasting my time!
After a week or two, we settled into the lessons and the teachers gave up.
That was not the only time that I was summoned to the headmistress’s office for some quality one-on-one time. When I was in Form 5, I selected Bahasa Cina (Chinese Language) when filling up the registration form for SPM (Malaysian O-levels). Hence I was summoned to her office again. I’ll leave this story for another time and keep you perplexed as to why this happened.
The first moment when it occurred to me that I might be screwed for making the wrong choice was when I started to survey my tertiary education options. There was no bloody field called Invention! There were business, marketing, graphic design, engineering, medicine, law, finance etc, but no such thing called invention! What did inventors study in, then?!
Then I began to read the details. Apparently, an engineer is someone who creates things. If you want to build and create things, study engineering, or so I was told. Okay, so engineering it was.
But which specific field of engineering? Civil engineering is about constructions, that’s a no. Materials engineering is about something that I did not understand, so that’s a no too. Electronics engineering and mechanical engineering. Both these guys seem related with inventing devices and machines. Which one to choose?
Then I realized there was a new field of study called Mechatronics. It was designed specifically for fence sitters like me who could not make up my mind. There were only a handful of colleges/universities that offered this course, thankfully TAR College was one of them.
I was never going to go to the more expensive Sunway College or Monash. My dad was not going to sponsor me that much. It was either TAR College or STPM (Malaysian A-levels) for me. My dad had wanted me to go the STPM route and then study in one of the local government universities, but I ain’t going that route! I have seen enough examples of Chinese students who excelled in STPM but was sent to do Degree in Forestry. Or Degree in Fishing. Or Degree in F**king-Rot-In-Hell. Definitely no! Not in a million years! So TAR College it was for me.
The moment I started studying in college was the moment I realized my goose was well and truly cooked. Engineering school doesn’t teach you how to build awesome gadgets and devices. What engineering school teaches you are a lot of formulas and equations that made no sense whatsoever. What engineering school teaches you are sine waves, discrete signals, fourier transfers and all those weird shit. What engineering school teaches you are a lot of theory about how to calculate momentum, velocity, pressure, and a bunch of other useless stuff. They don’t bloody teach you how gadgets and machines are designed and built!
It didn’t help that most of the time, even the lecturers had no idea what they were teaching. It was just reading from the textbooks, copying formulas and equations, memorizing how to calculate the correct answers. I truly hated the lessons! I guess it showed in my results, I completed my Diploma with a CGPA of 2.9. Advanced Diploma was worse at 2.7, in fact I failed 4 subjects and had to take re-tests, I nearly missed out going to the UK for my degree top-up program.
The best part? I am using absolutely nothing from my studies in my job even when my job title is called an Engineer. Well to be fair, I did avoid all those circuit and components shit and went after programming jobs.
Lately, I realized, I really did choose the wrong field of study. I loved how cool those futuristic cars and machines look. It was about how cool they look, not how to build them! I should have went into arts and graphic design!
Nothing much I can do now, as I do not look forward to picking up arts from scratch now.
So, you might ask, if I hated engineering that much, why work as an engineer? Why not go to banking or finance? Some engineering graduates do branch to those jobs. Well, to answer that question… maybe I’ll do it in another blog post 😉