Why I Study Engineering

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.

The Fifth Element
Flying cars – The Fifth Element

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.

USS Enterprise
USS Enterprise – Star Trek

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!

signal analysis
Useless gobbledygook!
fft
More useless gobbledygook!
fft
Even more useless gobbledygook!

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 😉

22 Comments

  1. I’m on the other way round, I love engineering very much, especially aircrafts, cars come to no. 2!!! But I also like graphic design, actually my interests are quite wide, oh nope, not really…I don’t like cooking or baking..

    • Hahahaha! Don’t misunderstand that I like cooking because of some of my posts. I don’t like cooking too, I just force myself to do it so that I can eat healthier.

  2. interesting story of ur past 😉 Well STPM is not that bad ler…although I do heard of people goin into Degree in Forestry or whtsoever f**k sh*t, but well, is kinda challenging as it trains our brain and endurance. Yes, in Form 6, all those f**K sh*t formulas, calculus, sinusoidal diagrams really gave my head a spin! luckily I managed to get thru it, phew!

  3. Thanks for sharing your delicious grandmother stories here which I am amazed to hear and salute you for being such a brilliant student at school. *ahem *ahem. I was very tickled to hear that you even realized your goose was well and truly cooked. Muahahahahaha Only a few knew how to use this line. You certainly had a rosier education route than me so don’t ever regret please. No one says that we have to be an engineer after studying engineering. I have met this famous Sandwich Man in Bangkok who shared his amazing story with me ~ http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/pdf/int_sirivatvoravetvuthikun.pdf

  4. I guess at some point we have self-doubt. I was in the commerce stream in lower secondary school and I was adamant that I wanted to be an accountant. Sadly, my dad got a transfer to KL and I was put in a school that did not offer commerce. So I ended up in science. Of course I was sad. At university I was in the Life Sciences Department and to cut the long story short, I did become an accountant eventually. But there are times when I do remember my love for biology….

    • I think to be an accountant, you don’t really need to major in accounting in university, right? I’ve seen many accountant friends who ignored university. They just got a job as accounts assistant after high school, and then take ACCA course and exams part time.

  5. I am no engineer but I think my son has something related there… his preference is actually business, he is more on the business minded kind of stuff, making money and all that.. but eventually he chose engineering E N E… I thought he was interested in that too but no, he said the name is more glamour only.. *pengsan* Well, at least he managed to go through his four years plus and it was a relief for the both of us…

    • Engineer is no longer a glamorous name lo 🙁 , but actually not bad la, engineering graduates can do many things, not just stick back to engineering field of jobs 😉

  6. Looking at those formulas, I phobia already… Pssstt, tell you something, nobody needs to know but it has passed, so it’s ok.. I always failed in my Physics and Chemistry in Form 4 & 5 . Yes throughout the two years.. In mid term exams, year end exams, trials, etc.. But I got agregade of 7 and 5 in SPM for Physics abd Chem respectively.. So you see, I’m that bad in those two subjects, thus, engineering is so not for me ahh…

    • Hahaha, should have went for art stream huh 🙂 . But then, good students (good results students) should not go to arts stream, arts stream are for bad and naughty students. That was the notion 😐

  7. It is nice to read introspective posts like this one. Good that you know your mind when you are young – do not want to do bio, do not want to take STPM. With what you have studied in your degree, I am sure you can design and build a robot with no problem. Actually the things that we learn in college that we think we are not using now in our jobs actually trained our brains to the state where it is now. When we learn those difficult things, the synapses in our brain actually grows so that is why you are now picking up things quickly in your current job because your brain has been trained.

    The way you sound in your article I guess you will keep status quo in your career line for the time being. So are you programming firmware?

    • Yeah, I will probably remain as it is. If I ever switch field, it would probably be in the not so near future, and probably as a traveler or writer 😎
      I write programs to remotely control instruments. Basically my job description is “Develop test system to automate testing of electronic products” 😐

  8. ah, Mechatronics.. during uncle’s time this was still new, so uncle just followed the gang to go for E&E Engineering, though uncle actually have thought also about architecture (and in schooldays composition can be any profession like lawyer, doctor, teacher to please the teacher).. and after graduated, uncle joined an IT firm and become a Systems Engineer, still bears engineer in the title but doing things totally nothing to do with what I studied, haha~~ guess this is not uncommon huh?? :p

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