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can a major in engineering offer me indepedence?

goin' westgoin' west Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
edited January 2008 in Engineering Majors
hi, i'm a senior who is interested in electrical engineering and computer science. while i would not mind pursuing a profession in the field, i really want to have a job where i can be my own boss. i mean that in the sense that i can innovate without some uncompromising jerk on my neck about things. really, that's one of my top priorities. when i've told this to people, they've suggested that i go to school for engineering, then get an MBA and start from there. but IN GENERAL, coming from an undergrad institution w/ a degree in engineering, would i have a boss breathing down my neck? i like the sciences, and i'm deciding between engineering and medicine. i was thinking being a doctor would enable me to be independent, but the sacrifice is something that i'm still trying to weigh.


any insight would be very helpful.
Post edited by goin' west on

Replies to: can a major in engineering offer me indepedence?

  • westsidewolf1989westsidewolf1989 Registered User Posts: 1,251 Senior Member
    those people you talked to are right, but yeah it is hard to start a business right out of undergrad... so you probably will have a boss breathin down your neck... for a little while. you can eventually work for yourself with an engineering degree and MBA, i know many adults like this, including my uncle.
  • jessiehljessiehl Registered User Posts: 3,328 Senior Member
    In pretty much any profession, you are going to at least start with one or more bosses (note that not all bosses are bad or overbearing or breathe down your neck) unless you start your own company. As a doctor, you will have to go through a residency. As a junior engineer, you will have a manager. Being a professor in sci/eng offers a lot of independence, but you have to go through a PhD program and possibly one or more postdoc fellowships, where your PI is your boss.

    Even if you start your own business, while you may not have a boss, you will have the investors who are providing you funding breathing down your neck (and you will have those from whom you are trying to get funding critiquing your innovative plans). And even if you are a professor, you will be accountable to the people who are funding you. Being a medical doctor in private practice, which does have a high degree of independence once you make it there, is not normally very innovative, and if you work for a hospital or university, where there might be more chance for innovation, you don't get as much independence.

    My point, or one of them anyway, is that there will always be tradeoffs.
  • JapherJapher Registered User Posts: 1,349 Senior Member
    If you want to be your own boss than be your own boss. Else, you will have one. If you are your own boss than your clients are your boss', and depending on how many clients you have will determine how many boss' you have "breathing down your neck".
  • ken285ken285 Registered User Posts: 3,931 Senior Member
    You will always have a boss in everything you do as long as you need money, whether it's a formal boss or a client. Not all bosses will be "breathing down your neck" though, and some companies do encourage innovation.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    hi, i'm a senior who is interested in electrical engineering and computer science. while i would not mind pursuing a profession in the field, i really want to have a job where i can be my own boss. i mean that in the sense that i can innovate without some uncompromising jerk on my neck about things. really, that's one of my top priorities. when i've told this to people, they've suggested that i go to school for engineering, then get an MBA and start from there. but IN GENERAL, coming from an undergrad institution w/ a degree in engineering, would i have a boss breathing down my neck? i like the sciences, and i'm deciding between engineering and medicine. i was thinking being a doctor would enable me to be independent, but the sacrifice is something that i'm still trying to weigh.

    As some people here have already suggested, entrepreneurship may be the way to go for you. Granted, as others have said, while you'll have clients breathing down your neck, all they will care about is whether you are delivering the product/service they want at a price they are willing to pay, and they won't really care what you did or how you did it.

    As far as when you should try to start a business, I would suggest that you do so as quickly as feasible. Once you have an idea, you should probably run with it. You don't need an MBA - heck, you don't even really need a bachelor's. You can just withdraw from college and try to start your company. Even if the idea fails, so what? You just go back to school. But you will have had a very interesting experience and learned a lot along the way, and your resume will be far better for it. And then of course there is the chance that your business will succeed...

    Here's what Paul Graham had to say about entrepreneurship and Bill Gates:

    ...I can't imagine telling Bill Gates at 19 that he should wait till he graduated to start a company. He'd have told me to get lost. And could I have honestly claimed that he was harming his future-- that he was learning less by working at ground zero of the microcomputer revolution than he would have if he'd been taking classes back at Harvard? No, probably not.

    And yes, while it is probably true that you'll learn some valuable things by going to work for an existing company for a couple years before starting your own, you'd learn a thing or two running your own company during that time too.

    The advice about going to work for someone else would get an even colder reception from the 19 year old Bill Gates. So I'm supposed to finish college, then go work for another company for two years, and then I can start my own? I have to wait till I'm 23? That's four years. That's more than twenty percent of my life so far. Plus in four years it will be way too late to make money writing a Basic interpreter for the Altair.

    And he'd be right. The Apple II was launched just two years later. In fact, if Bill had finished college and gone to work for another company as we're suggesting, he might well have gone to work for Apple. And while that would probably have been better for all of us, it wouldn't have been better for him.


    http://www.paulgraham.com/hiring.html

    Now, obviously, there is only one Bill Gates. And in fact, most startups will fail. But like I said, so what? If you're 20 years old and you found a startup and it fails, then you're broke. Big deal. Almost all 20-year-olds are broke. If nothing else, you will have learned valuable lessons that will help you to later get a job or to start another company (i.e. Microsoft was not the first company that Gates founded).

    ...even if your startup does tank, you won't harm your prospects with employers. To make sure I asked some friends who work for big companies. I asked managers at Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Cisco and Microsoft how they'd feel about two candidates, both 24, with equal ability, one who'd tried to start a startup that tanked, and another who'd spent the two years since college working as a developer at a big company. Every one responded that they'd prefer the guy who'd tried to start his own company. Zod Nazem, who's in charge of engineering at Yahoo, said:

    I actually put more value on the guy with the failed startup. And you can quote me!

    So there you have it. Want to get hired by Yahoo? Start your own company.


    http://www.paulgraham.com/hiring.html
  • toronto_guytoronto_guy Registered User Posts: 261 Junior Member
    I would tend to agree with the others who posted. Self-employment for engineers is probably more difficult than say for doctors, lawyers or Chartered Accountants (Canada)/CPA (US).

    In Canada, it is very easy for a GP to set up shop. The government pays for the visits and the MD's have essentially limitless patients. A great many lawyers have their own solo practise as do accountants.

    For engineers, it usually involves some type of entrepeneurship. However, the US is an excellent place to start due to the access to Venture Capital for new business. And certainly, there are many models (MS, apple, Y!, google) that have become strong and succesful businesses.

    Actually, this issue is why I switched from chemical engineering to law. Too many of my colleagues were laid off and did not find work in engineering again. I am planning on launching my own practise shortly.
This discussion has been closed.