"Find your passion: It is not enough to say “I want to be an engineer” or even “I want to be a Mechanical Engineering that focuses on cars.” You need a singular driving passion of SPECIFICALLY what you want to do. Identifying what job you want makes it easier to apply and tailor your skills."
A jenga playing robot that has a computer interface to input moves and uses a gripper with a force sensor to manipulate blocks. This allows the robot to rate the difficulty of pushing out blocks and have an AI that plays the game with someone https://scoutheid.com/project/jenga-playing-robot/.
My career roadmap has been somewhat defined.
Being a part of FIRST Robotics Team 691 for 3 years led me down the path of studying some sort of engineering, although I did not yet know what, I chose Mechanical because I like to make things with my own hands.
Even though my counselors told me not to push myself to take difficult college coursework and college advisors said I had very little chance of getting into top tier schools I gave it my all and applied to them anyway. I proved them wrong and ended up attending UC Berkeley studying Mechanical Engineering.
I joined a robotics club called Pioneers in Engineering where we host a robotics competition for high school students that we design ourselves. The game, the electrical components, the kits and mentoring are all done by UC Berkeley students. By my 3rd year I became Technical Director for all engineering projects and this taught me the amazing things a group of engineers can do. Yet I did not know what kind of mechanical engineer I wanted to be.
My first internship was at Curtis Instruments that made control systems for golf carts. Although I enjoyed my time there, I realized that M.E is broad and I did not want to do controls or basic mechanical technician work.
My second internship at Apple was where I discovered my love for product design. Owning tangible parts of a shipping product used by millions of people was exhilarating and we were also managers of the project we worked on. Most people take years to be in a place to make product defining decisions, but I was a Senior in college telling EE and Software engineers what to do who had been in the field for years.
I decided to still get a Master’s and did it in Controls because I know I want to do robotics and have a hard technical skill to leverage, but I still took product design courses and excelled since I had found my passion. I went from a B average to student to a straight A student.
My third internship at Amazon was where I found a positive community of coworkers and a project that I was very passionate about. This led me to outperform expectations and get a job offer straight after my internship.
I decided to go back to Amazon because of the positive experience and great team I had that allowed me to work on life-changing products, but still maintain a healthy work life balance. All in all, I did not know what I wanted to even do as a career until I graduated from my undergrad at the age of 22, and the specifics of what type of product design changed once I went to Amazon at the age of 23. Even if it takes a few years, it is important to find your love and passion because there is no right “timeline.”
Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway
DURING MY HIGH SCHOOL CAREER
FIRST Robotics - Technical Director
NHS - President
Chess and Strategic Games club - Founder and President
Yearbook - Designer
DURING MY COLLEGE CAREER
Technical Director @ Pioneers in Engineering
Undergraduate Researcher @ Biomimetics Millisystems Lab
Reader and Lab assistant for EE16A (EE Fundamentals) and EE106A (Intro to Robotics)
Mentor and Speaker for Engineering and Robotics
AFX and [M]ovement
What I'm currently doing/hope to do
I currently work at Amazon Lab126 as Product Design Engineer where I work on existing and future products related to Alexa. Unfortunately I can not discuss the specifics of what I work on, but it challenges every aspect of my wide spectrum of skills: Mechanical, Electrical, Software and Design. I get to own and directly influence components and subsystems in products that millions of people may use.
How to maximize my time in high school?
Advice #1: Become the Best: president and/or founder of 1 or 2 extra curricular organizations as this shows you are at the top of what you do and do it outside of regular school. Depth in what you want and applying for is more important than showing breadth.
Advice #2: Make Something: Document a project where you make a complex mechanical system. You can follow a tutorial or get help, but the importance is you understand everything about it, so you can impress interviewers with answers.
Advice #3: Find your passion: It is not enough to say “I want to be an engineer” or even “I want to be a Mechanical Engineering that focuses on cars.” You need a singular driving passion of SPECIFICALLY what you want to do. Identifying what job you want makes it easier to apply and tailor your skills. When you look for opportunities you need at least this: “I want to work as a car designer that focuses on the latest electric vehicle charging technology because I have always had a love for cars, even modifying my own, and wanted my career to be in something I enjoy. I think electric cars are the future and there is a lot of progress that can be made on battery charging speed, efficiency and storage” This shows that you have actually researched what you want to do and that you are applying to things that meet this goal. If you do not know you need to find opportunities that help you find your passion.
Advice #4: Be open: Opportunities can come from anyone and anywhere. My first internship came from a project partner who saw that I was the only other project member who did any work and thought I would be a great candidate for an internship offer he was planning to turn down, which he referred to me instead. I also met amazing people in the dance community I joined who were in my field and in different social skills. As long as you find people who enjoy what you enjoy, it will lead to opportunities in life and your career.
Advice #5: Find a mentor: Arguably, the most important thing is to find someone who has done something similar to what you have done that you can go to for advice. Start ups have a whole board of people whose sole purpose is to offer advice on how to run a successful startup and have done it themselves before. You need to find someone doing what you want, and genuinely be their friend, it never hurts to ask for advice and most people are willing to give it.