I’m a New Grad Who Chose Mechanical Engineering — Here’s Why

By Jillian Walin

My path towards a career in mechanical engineering began at home as a kid, in a family where I am the youngest of five. Five children tend to cause lots of problems that can be fixed — from hand-me-down bicycles to packing the car for a road trip — so I had numerous chances to cut my teeth as a problem-solver. Additionally, my father’s example paved the way.

Let’s set the scene: You are an airline pilot. Half of your month is spent living out of a suitcase, constantly packing and unpacking. You must dig through your bag to find your water bottle, phone charger, or eyeglasses. I have never been an airline pilot, but my father is one. I remember clearly his stories of leaving things behind at hotels or on airplanes around the dinner table when I was a young kid. He was frustrated by problems that plagued his day-to-day. So he began to fix those problems. I watched and offered a hand when needed. I, too, loved the feeling of fixing those problems.

This began as a way of life in a big family, but high school is when problem-solving turned into a hobby. I became my mom’s fixer, from a faucet that needed replacement to a light switch repair to installing a home audio system. At the same time, I was taking several classes that were exposing me to the world of engineering, such as:

  • Material Science 1 & 2
  • Intro to Engineering
  • Physics

My mother is a nurse, my father an Air Force veteran and commercial pilot. I could not have told you what engineers did before I attended high school. However, through classes and mentors, I learned that engineers are problem-solvers. So this seemed like the right fit — I could spend my life in a career solving problems. So, I began pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Boise State University. My dream was to make the things I loved to use: skis, tents, bikes, and any outdoor recreation equipment. So mechanical engineering was a natural fit for me.

I graduated on December 15th, 2018 and found the world of product development through various internships. These internships showed me that I didn’t have to design a new backpacking tent to enjoy what I do. I found that, as a mechanical engineer, I enjoy using this expertise to solve issues people face daily — just as I did when I was a kid.

Some of the problems I have solved in my own life have required design work and others have been solved by finding the right part for the job, such as designing ski binding covers that protect them from the grime and salt of an eight-hour road trip. I also got my dad to stop calling to ask me how to turn the TV on — by sourcing a universal remote that he found easy to understand.

While I have been solving my own problems for a long time, solving other people’s problems is more challenging. As I progress in my career in mechanical engineering, I am excited to become a world-class project designer and product manager in the product development field. It’s important for me to grow in these areas as I know they will enable me to make better products.

I hope to influence younger engineers in the importance of these roles. Personally, I believe the relationship between them gets lost in engineering education. But in my time working at internships and here at SGW Designworks it is clear how much they impact products.

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