To the Class of 2020: I know you face the worst job market in history, but rest assured that a crisis amplifies the need for problem solvers. Or, as I like to call them, engineers.
Don't let the headlines scare you. While the broader economy is trying to find a way out of the COVID-19 crisis, that doesn’t mean you – as a student or young professional in engineering – should lose focus.
A recession doesn’t eliminate the need for competent professionals; in fact, it amplifies their role and provides unique opportunities for talented people to shine.
Companies always value high-quality and dedicated professionals and look for candidates who can add to their competitive advantage. The crisis will pass, and the career opportunities that await the ones who are prepared will be there for the taking.
The world of mobility engineering (worth over $5 trillion globally), or even engineering in general, is undergoing a major revolution. You can perhaps say we haven’t seen such a cultural shift in our approach to mobility for more than a century.
Back then, people left their horses in the stables for brand-new automobiles, and airplanes were just taking flight. Today, technological advancements, like they were back in the early 20th century, are driving advancement – from self-driving cars and unmanned systems to alternative fuel sources.
While technology has made expectations of engineering increasingly complex, it also has created countless opportunities. The world is shifting toward an experience economy, where utility and access are gaining more importance than ownership.
It is likely pandemics such as COVID-19 will change how that utility and access get consumed by end users, but the arguments still apply.
It’s important to remember your career is like a nonlinear process that you studied in engineering. Seek diverse experiences and focus on learning even when a particular project or job in your early career isn’t exactly what you have in mind.
You never know how these experiences correlate to drive your future career success. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backward. Knowledge and success compound in no particular order. As engineers, you understand nonlinear growth quite well; you would have modeled it in many assignments!
The new decade has started with unexpected economic turbulence. But like other crises before this, the world will get past COVID-19. The world of mobility continues to evolve and present both opportunities and challenges.
Together, we will meet those challenges and create more opportunities to learn, grow and flourish. To the graduating class of 2020 engineers: The world is your oyster, even if it sometimes feels like you are inside a clamshell.
Stay focused. You have a bright future ahead.
Ranan Venkatesh is executive vice president and chief operating officer at SAE International.