5 things I’ve learned studying engineering

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I’m not sure if I ever mentioned it, but I studied Civil Engineering. My husband will be graduating this week (also in Civil Engineering) and I am so incredibly proud of his achievement because I know just how hard he worked to get to this point. So in honour of his achievement, these are 5 things I/ we have learnt from studying Engineering:

1) How to keep cool under pressure

During first year I felt as if I was drowning in the work load that hit me from every direction and it was a challenge to adjust to university fresh out of high school. I thought if I got through first year then the rest would be much simpler. Boy, was I wrong! As the years rolled by it became increasingly harder, and looking back now it all seems like a blur. Studying engineering taught me how to keep calm under pressure. Sitting through the exam with your brain almost fried because you are struggling to find a way to balance your equation, blatantly aware of the seconds ticking away, you learn to keep calm. You realise very quickly that if you freak out and start panicking, you will mess everything up.

2) The purpose of mathematics

You know in school, when you are sitting in a math class and you ask the teacher, “Where are we EVER going to use this??”. I found my answer studying Engineering. Mathematics is a language used to understand the science that explains the world around us. It gave me an understanding of how elements of the Earth react in a certain way and how it can be used to our advantage, or how it needs to be changed in order to improve the specific design. I also developed an appreciation for a calculator! When I learned the function to solve integrals and matrices, I was so happy and excited; you would have thought someone invented time travel! (Yes, I’m a nerd; and I’m proud of it!)

3) ask questions

Engineering is a field that requires one to solve problems, scientifically. But in order for you to answer any question, you need to have an idea of what the question actually is. I learnt the importance of asking questions (perhaps unnervingly so) if something does not make sense. I learnt not to accept things at face value, but to keep searching for facts that can put things into perspective for me.

4) Time management

During preparation for exams it wasn’t only about knowing and understanding the work, it was also about working efficiently with the time given to complete the test. You see, it didn’t really matter how much you knew if you couldn’t apply that knowledge in the set time. I learnt how to work smart so that I could produce my best work and meet the deadline. And now, in the professional world, I am able to manage my time effectively and get the work done that I have set for myself to complete by the end of the day.

5) Don’t give up

It is ok to fail and it is ok to make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world if this happens. During my studies I met people from all walks of life. These people persevered and pushed through no matter what, because they simply wanted to qualify themselves and better their lives. I learnt the importance of working smart, being dedicated and to never give up on the goals you have set for yourself. I learnt that sometimes getting a second chance at something is better for you because you are able to correct your mistakes and see things more clearly.

What have you learned during your studies that helps you today?

– Nihaad

My 4 university tips

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I miss varsity. The ability to answer: “I am studying”, when people ask what you’re doing with your life, instead of having to explain what it is you do for a living. Taking personal days when you want to do nothing but lie in bed and watch reruns of your favourite TV shows. I miss the freedom!! And even though I am excited about moving forward as an adult with responsibilities, I think I could’ve done some things differently to help pave the way for the next step. So if you’re still in university and you’re looking for a few ways to enrich your experience, this is for you. If you’re not, well, then you can reminisce on the good old days when you could wear sloppy jeans and flip flops when you just feel lazy.

#1 Travel

I know this sounds crazy because while studying you’re usually broke. But I only realized later that there are so many amazing opportunities for students to travel. You could teach English as a foreign language, work on a cruise and tour the world by sea, you could volunteer to pick apples in Australia for crying out loud!!

#2 Network

I mentioned before how important it is to network because it can open doors to new opportunities. It is even better when you start early. University is the perfect place to start because you can build your contact list with people who know you better than passing acquaintances.

#3 Start a new hobby

When I was studying I always felt like I had no time. I could not have been more wrong! During your time on varsity is when you have all the time and opportunity to do what you want. Start a new hobby and try new things which could build your skills and broaden your field of interest. It will come in handy in the future and it can be something to add to your blank CV. Start a blog, take up photography or go surfing; the possibilities are endless.

#4 Build your skills

Don’t limit yourself to your curriculum. Try to find skills that will be useful in your career or develop new skills in areas outside your course. Your time on university is a great place to do this because like I said, you have all the time you need. Brush up on your computer skills, learn how to cook or try tutoring to improve your communication skills. Simple tasks that we tend to overlook can really serve as an opportunity to build the skills you may need in the near future.

What tips do you have for those looking to make the most of their days on University?

– Nihaad

A few things I’ve learnt since working

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I started my first “official” job some months ago, in the field for which I have studied – Civil Engineering. The reason for me writing this post is that I wanted to share what I have learnt during these last few months in industry. Maybe it would help anyone who is starting out, or it could give some insight as to what those who are still headed for this experience can expect.

#1 it’s all about the networking

These days the working world is extremely saturated. Having a good academic record and resume is not necessarily going to land you your dream job. This is why it is so important to network, as it gives you the opportunity to build your connections in the field you plan on starting a career in. Meeting new people and reconnecting with old acquaintances broadens your horizons with different opportunities that could be useful not only now, but in the future too.

#2 You are going to make mistakes, LOTS of them

The sooner you accept this, the better. It will shake your confidence in ways that you never thought possible, but it is the way you build experience. The only way to perfect your skills and improve in your work is to make mistakes so that you can learn from them. People might get frustrated with you and you may think you are useless at your job, but don’t give up. Your boss was in your position once too, and as long as you fix your mistakes and learn from it you should not be so hard on yourself.

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#3 Try to think of it as a stepping stone

Your first job may not be your dream job and you may feel frustrated about this. But you should remember that the experience you are gaining today will count in your favour for your future job application. It may help to think of your first job (or any job) as a stepping stone required to get you to the place you wish to be in your career. Make the most out of it so that you can slowly build the path for where you want to be one day.

#4 Always uphold your good reputation

Where ever you work, remember that you are leaving your mark at that company. It’s completely up to you what kind of mark you want to leave. Be someone that your team can depend on by simply showing up to work on time. Being late shows a complete lack of respect towards the people you’re working with – which is not a good impression you want people to have of you. Try to build a good reputation at your place of work because you always want your ex-employer to be a good reference for you when/if you decide to leave.

#5 Find a balance between work and play

Everyone needs to find this balance. Your life cannot revolve around your work, but at the same time you can’t allow your personal life to affect your job. People are depending on you in both aspects of your life. Try to produce your best work during working hours. If you can do this then there is no reason for you to sacrifice your free time.

#6 It doesn’t happen over night

You are not going to become an expert in your field over night. You have to be prepared to work hard and build yourself up so that you are an asset to your company, or so that the next person would want to hire you. Continue to educate yourself and develop the skills you need to stay up to date with the ever changing world out there.

#7 Be a sponge

Absorb every bit of information and every ounce of knowledge thrown your way. Ask questions when you’re unsure about something and don’t be afraid if you don’t know. Remember that whoever is giving you this information was once where you are. They too knew very little and had to ask questions in order to gain knowledge to become the professionals that they are today. Sometimes your boss or mentor expects you to know something, which is really unfair if you’ve never dealt with a certain situation before. Do research and try to soak up as much as you can, so that you can improve at your job.

What advice can you give based on what you’ve learnt in the working world?

– Nihaad

How I am (attempting to) handle this whole adult thing

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Since I started working I’ve been having these different questions about life, and what I want out of it. I have this yearning for more. Over the past few weeks it’s been getting worse, where I am constantly trying to find answers and solutions to this growing list of questions that I have about my new role as a working woman. It reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe through the anxiety brought on by this horrible feeling of confusion and frustration. I have always had a plan for my life which I’ve been following for so long, and now that I am where I wanted to be it just doesn’t seem to fulfil me the way I expected it would. I reached out to my husband, my mother and I have been reading blog posts by people all over the world who feels the exact way I do right now. It should comfort me, knowing that I am not alone. But I have reached an understanding – I must work this out for myself…

Now I am taking the much needed steps to find exactly what it is that has me feeling this way and try to change it a little bit every day. I thought I’d share some points that I am going to focus on for now, and as the list grows, I will keep sharing. Hopefully just writing this blog post will be the first step, and I am also hoping that I will be able to continue to draw inspiration and encouragement when I reflect on this in the future.

Here is the list of things I will attempt to remind myself every time I am feeling anxious or frustrated and when I need a little bit of encouragement to go on:

#1 YOU ARE HUMAN

It might sound silly to have to remind myself of this very obvious point, but it’s something I have to do. There are days when I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect and when things don’t work out the way I planned, I lose my sense of direction. I question everything about myself and I end up feeling despondent towards my work. Humans are imperfect. We make mistakes, we change our minds; we learn, we grow, we want more and we will always be searching for something else as our circumstances change. Embrace it instead of trying to fight against it. Don’t apologise if you are just having a bad day – it happens to the best of us – but remember that you can do better if you are willing to get up and push through.

#2 YOU ARE YOUR OWN PERSON

Don’t let other people’s ideas and life choices bounce off onto you. Your life is your own; you don’t owe any part of yourself to anyone that you don’t want to share. Don’t let other’s regrets and personal battles affect you, and don’t be weighed down by their expectations. If something is not what you want, then attempt to make the necessary changes to find what you’re looking for. We’re all trying to find ourselves, we are all on the journey, and we are each responsible for our own lives.

#3 BLOCK OUT NEGATIVITY

Negativity is such an awful thing. It drags you down without you even realizing it. And before you know it, you’re at the bottom of the ocean with the waves crashing over you and the surface seems just so damn far away. The point is that you can SWIM. If you are suffocating, do everything you can to reach for air. Take a huge breath and fill yourself with clean, fresh possibilities. But you can only achieve this by letting all the bad stuff go. After all, a drop of toxin spoils the whole water can (Haha I was trying to stick to the theme of the analogy).
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#4 YOU’RE ALLOWED TO CHANGE YOUR MIND

I have always had a certain plan for my life. To me it was set-in-stone. But now as I start realizing there’s so much more I want to learn, do and explore, I am changing my mind about certain things that has always been sure to me. And I think that’s ok. It means I am growing, that I am not on the right path at the moment but I can still get there. The beauty of life is that there is always hope.

#5 YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO BE GRATEFUL FOR

I know this. I thank my creator everyday for all that I am so fortunate to have. I have my faith and health; I have a loving husband for whom I’d move Heaven and Earth for. I have a fiercely supportive family of strong individuals who inspires me every day. The list can go on and on. But when we are in a slump and we go for days just feeling bleak about something in our lives, we tend to focus only on the things that are going wrong – instead of being grateful for all that’s going right. For me, when I am sitting at work thinking of all that which I’d rather be doing, I see my husband’s smiling face and just feel excited knowing I get to go home to him.

#6 ENJOY THE ROLLER COASTER

I don’t know why it is that on my bucket list of things to do, I want to go on the highest, longest, fastest roller coaster on the planet, but when it comes to the metaphorical roller coaster that is life, I feel nauseous. I am starting to realize that I am not a carefree soul. I can’t just throw caution to the wind and not care about people who are depending on me. But I want to be. I don’t want to have to worry about so many things. I want to be able to make a mistake, say “oops my bad” and move on without looking back. I want to throw my hands in the air, let out a scream and just enjoy life for what it is.

I’m sure there are so many more people who feel the way I do. Some are more open about it than others. But if you’re like me, who quietly wallows and think if you keep it in it will just disappear then stop right now. You owe yourself better than that! My sharing of this post is an attempt to make the little changes so that I can see a different outcome towards my goal of living a more satisfied life. What changes are you going to make? I can tell you now; the first step is the scariest. But you are human – which means at one point in your life you were a little lump who depended on someone for everything. And then you started to crawl, and then you took your first step, it became easier! You’ve done it before, what’s stopping you from doing it again?
After all, we’re on a path of self discovery, and this is but a journey!

– Nihaad