Spotlight on Careers: Engineering

Magellan recently hosted a webinar with experts in the field of engineering, to help students learn more about the different options and pathways.

Our panelists were:

  • DAVID BOWKER, Director of the Office of Future Engineers at Purdue University
  • PHIL SCHMIDT, Retired Engineer
  • CYNTHIA GRANT, Human Resources Manager – Talent Acquisition at Syska Hennessey Group
  • EMMA LEHMANN, Senior Biomedical Engineering Student at the University of Virginia

As our panel spoke, I tried to capture some of the important nuggets of information they shared.  Below is the chat transcript:

Purdue has over 11,000 engineers – about 30% of the population at Purdue.

Phil – retired engineer. Got his BS at Lehigh University (beautiful Gothic campus – Magellan counselors have visited several times!), then worked at Pratt & Whitney – large aerospace company.  That inspired him to get his pilot’s license and learn how to fly!

Phil – As an engineer – you really need to communicate effectively and clearly with people.

Cynthia Grant is an architect! And she’s now in HR and recruiting.  How can you combine art and math? Architecture!  She got her degree at Cal Poly SLO.  The Magellan team visited Cal Poly SLO a few weeks ago – WE LOVE IT! Beautiful campus.

What do architecture firms build? Anything you see that has a structure – airports, schools, homes, office buildings.  Some acronyms:

  • AEC – Architecture Engineering Construction
  • MEP – Mechanical, electrical and plumbing

Emma Lehmann – senior at the University of Virginia, majoring in biomedical engineering.

Math – what to take and when? What if your school doesn’t offer calculus? Don’t rule out engineering in college if you can’t take AP Calc BC in high school.  You can take a summer class or January term math class to be at the same level as everyone.  Look at community college curriculum for summer math, if you want to accelerate.  You’ll take 2.5 years of math as an engineer in college, starting in college.

Admission offices will look to see what you have available – they won’t hold it against you if your school doesn’t have AP Calc BC.

Extra-curriculars play a big role in college admission – you have to show your interest in math and science.

Emma thought Calc 2 in college was a lot harder than Calc BC from high school!

Are hiring managers looking at GPA? Way less important than experience. They’re looking at experience and ability to do the work.

Do I need to do engineering internships in high school? Not necessarily.  But in college, internships are super-important! You learn REAL SKILLS that you will use in future interviews.

Internships help you showcase your interests and skills.

Many employers, including Cynthia’s company Syska, have a structured 10-week internship program, designed to help you learn about what they do.  Most of the time at the end of the internship you will be offered a job.

Some colleges offer a co-op program in which you’ll have a real job for 5-6 months at a time (Northeastern in Boston, Drexel in Philadelphia)

Engineers will generally get paid for their internships and co-ops.

Many/most colleges have STEM and/or engineering job fairs where you can find internships and jobs.

DON’T BE SHY! Aside from clubs and orgs – go to the student services and career services offices!

Your resume should be ONE PAGE!

Communication – it’s a critical skill in life! As a technical person, you need to be able to explain to people what you are doing.

Technical writing is a great skill to have – if you aren’t naturally gifted in this, you should build this skill.

Sitting by yourself, working on a computer isn’t really how engineering works.

You need to learn how to communicate and work with diverse sets of people.  The students and employees who advance are the ones who can communicate and relate to other people.  Once you’re a fourth year engineering student, everyone can do math and science. The communication will set you apart.

When do you need to lock in your engineering major?  Most colleges will let you declare in your second year – but you’ll have time to change your mind!

Take advantage of advising options at your school! Engineering is broad. Your degree will dictate your first job but after that, you can move through different disciplines in engineering.

Look for courses out there online or in person where you can explore the different engineering disciplines.

This website is the Engineering Grand Challenges website.  It helps students think about the problems engineering can solve.

This website lists the different types of engineering to help you learn a little more about each discipline.

At Purdue, about 25% of students go directly to graduate school, and the rest go into jobs.  Some schools may have a higher percentage going to graduate school.

Do what works for you!

Our panel offered some advice for high school students:

  • Have a good work/life balance. Take care of your mental health.
  • Enjoy high school and college! Choose a college that fits you well.
  • There’s lots of really good engineering programs out there! Find a good fit but don’t get caught up on rankings. It’s not about where you go so much as what you do when you get there.

Wherever you go to college, GO ALL IN!

We hope this advice and this webinar is helpful as you prepare to start building your college list!

If you’re interested in connecting with Emma from our panel, you can reach her by e-mail here: She loves talking to younger students about her experience as an engineer at UVA.

1 thought on “Spotlight on Careers: Engineering”

  1. Thank you so much for offering this webinar and thank you for all the panelists. It was very informative and helping.


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