Engineering professionals help students find direction

Students explore career pathways at Engineer Your Major

More than 1,100 University of Cincinnati students attended Engineer Your Major, a conference last fall designed to help students explore the many educational and job tracks in engineering.

Presented by the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science, Office of Experience-Based Learning and Career Education and Learning Commons, the event offered 30 online sessions featuring panels of more than 40 engineering industry professionals, college faculty and students, and presenters covering a variety of exploratory options like cooperative education (co-op), ACCEND, international co-op, undergraduate research, study abroad and non-traditional pathways like law, K-12 education, and technical sales.   

This event expands students’ understanding of what engineers do and shows the wide range of career options they will have with a degree from the college. About 10% of attendees have not yet declared a major, so hearing a variety of perspectives on the reality of engineering can better inform their choice.  For students who have declared their major, the experience can offer reassurance that they made the right choice. 

The event also gives first-year engineering students a head start as they search for their first co-op this spring. 

What makes this event really valuable is that students get insight into the nearly limitless areas of work they could get into.

Chrysa Theodore, Cornerstone Research Group

The success of Engineer Your Major relies on many industry volunteers who give their time to share their experiences in the engineering world. 

Chrysa Theodore, vice president of community relations for Cornerstone Research Group (CRG), an aerospace and defense company, was a panelist at the 2019 and 2020 events. She holds a B.S. in chemical engineering and currently works in recruiting for CRG. Having interviewed hundreds of UC students, she shares her insight.

What does your company do?

headshot of a woman in business casual wear

Chrysa Theodore. Photo/Provided.

We are a high-technology engineering firm that focuses on technology development for war fighters. I work with many kinds of engineers who work across disciplines, like mechanical engineers expanding into materials engineering. 

This is super problem-solving oriented work. [If the government has a problem] they can't buy anything off the shelf to solve, we come in, listen and try to really understand what they're doing and what they need, and then try to develop a solution for them. It's very creative and results oriented. 

Part of our business model is assessing the products and solutions we create to see whether there are uses for them outside the military, then spinning off companies that manufacture and sell those products.

How does being an engineer influence your work as a recruiter?

I think it's important how recruiters and practicing engineers explain what we are doing and give students an accurate picture of what this kind of work looks like every day. There are pros and cons to it. I don't believe in sugarcoating.  

What is valuable about Engineer Your Major?

It can make connections between any engineering pathway and this wide-open ocean of topics and industries you could explore. You can discover work that you’ve never even thought about that could better suit your skills and aspirations. 

There are so many industries and different kinds of jobs. What makes this event really valuable is that students get insight into the nearly limitless areas of work they could get into. 

What should students know about choosing a major?

When you get into the workforce, the silos that the division of majors in college seems to create completely disappear. 

For example, a broad range of disciplines are employed in aerospace. There are people that design new aircraft, of course. There are also people developing new materials to optimize aircraft performance, and people who work on the propulsion system, batteries, motors, flight control and all the electronic components. So, you might find electrical, mechanical, chemical and materials engineers and computer scientists working together. 

Could you share some tips for career exploration?

It's important to ask questions about what a day in the position would look like. What kind of tasks will you be doing? Will you work on a team or by yourself? What's the work environment like? What deliverables are you responsible for? 

When you’re on co-op, learn how the company works and how your job fits into the bigger picture. Engage in what's going on around you. You'll get more out of the work experience and it'll help set you up for determining what you might look for in your next position.   

Why do you participate in Engineer Your Major?

I'm passionate about the connection between education and the workforce. 

We want students to have these experiences so they see what kinds of jobs they could really have in the future – for co-op or post-graduation. It's a strong motivator to get through school, knowing there's a cool job out there that you’ll be passionate about.  

What is the best advice you have ever heard about pursuing a career in engineering?

An engineering degree is the golden ticket.

Student Perspective: Hamza Khairy

Hamza Khairy, a first-year computer engineering student, attended the 2020 event and shares his experience and the benefits to students.

How was this event valuable to you?

It helped me form an accurate and realistic idea about the type of work I could be doing in the future, during co-op and after graduation.  

It was a valuable chance to get any questions I had about engineering answered by professionals with relevant knowledge in the field. I liked that the advice and insights were coming from experienced engineers who went the same path I am going through.   

What was the most important takeaway for you?

Your interests and the skills are much more relevant to your future career than the certificates you have or the degree you are pursuing. Students majoring in chemistry could have skills to work alongside mechanical engineers in an engineering firm. Some engineers work in finance because they have the interest and trained themselves to use the tools they need.

What new opportunities did you find at Engineer your Major?

I learned about different interesting programs I might consider in the future, like international co-op or the University Honors Program.

Helping students discover career paths

Engineer Your Major proactively assist students in creating a personalized path to achieving success, aligning with UC's Bearcat Promise, a crucial pathway in Next Lives Here, the university's strategic direction.

Visit the Engineer Your Major page

Read more about Engineer Your Major on UC News

Featured image at top: sunset and crossroads sign. Photo/Javier Allegue Barros/Unsplash.