Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Truth About Engineering

Young kids studying engineering like to blame engineering college or university for numerous things -

- lack of infrastructure
- syllabus is too old
- teachers and guides do not know anything
- I am better off doing something on my own than attending classes. That is what Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did.

But engineering teaches you one main thing - how you approach solving a problem. Your approach to solving a problem helps you regardless of how old the technology is. Great engineers solve problem by understanding the concept and the root of the problem. They understand all the tools and resources  they have with them to solve that problem. They do this before they  apply any solution to the problem.

When I ask candidates about their favorite movie during interview, 90% of the candidates (from computer science background) answer that 3 Idiots is their favorite movie. They add a good description to this answer as to why they like this movie.

In my opinion, in 3 Idiots, Rancho solves the problem in the movie climax because
- his basic concepts  are clear (about physics, suction, etc.)
- he knows the tools that he has (a vaccum cleaner and batteries)
- he understood the problem (he knew how much pressure was required)
- he had the right resources to gain knowledge (asking Pia about delivering a child)

He didn't solve the problem because he had a state-of-the-art lighting backup and other tools at his disposal. Even if he had all those tools, he couldn't have become a life-saver in the end without the help of  Pia who provided her the right information at his disposal.

If I have to provide an analogy to this in programming, any good software engineer can program using Notepad without ever needing Eclipse, Netbeans or Visual Studio. Also, a good software engineer needs the right resources like Language documentation, Books, examples with him to understand the solution before even applying it. What is important here is that the person understands the solution before applying the solution to the problem.

This problem solving approach is the reason that many engineering students are able to crack the CAT and join IIMs. I am not sure whether they eventually become good  MBA students, but that is a different topic altogether.

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