Spencer Chang is a 2019 IPC Student Chapter scholarship winner and is currently in his 2nd year pursuing an electrical engineering degree at the University of California San Diego. He is from Los Angeles, California and when he was applying for college, he just knew that he wanted to pursue engineering because he liked applying what he learned in his coursework and making things that other people use. The summer before college, he worked on a personal project that included electronics design and that solidified his passion for electrical engineering.
Charlene asked Spencer about his favorite course, and he responded: “I love a lot of my engineering classes. I liked my active circuits course because it was interesting and a lot of it just made sense to me. I am enjoying my electromagnetism class because it provides an application for a lot of the mathematics I have previously learned. Also, through understanding transmission lines, electric fields, and magnetic fields, I finally understand the theory behind certain PCB design guidelines.”
Spencer’s highlight of his academic experience boils down to the opportunities he had. He really thinks that it does not matter what college you go to as long as you make the most of it. He explained this by saying “As soon as I started college, I was volunteering in a lab on campus, learning PCB design. Several months later, I was designing electronics for a variety of customers.”
This is just proof that one needs to be open and willing to identify the opportunities available, be willing to pursue it, and then give it everything you can to learn and grow.
Charlene: “What accomplishments are you most proud of?”
Spencer: “After a staff engineer retired from the lab where I was working, I took on the role of a full-time electrical engineer on an underwater robotic project. I talked to suppliers to get quotes on underwater cables and made decisions on the electrical system design. I was involved in meetings with other staff engineers and my input on issues was valuable. I think I was extremely lucky to be involved in such a large project and show off my skills and capabilities as an engineer.”
Charlene: “What advice do you have for students pursuing an internship?
Spencer: “For students looking to pursue an internship. If you don’t have any experience, you should really talk to your professors and get involved in labs on campus. From there, you can gain a lot of experience and be way more appealing to companies. Internships don’t just rain from the skies, but when you meet people and network, you will more presented with opportunities. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are, the best thing you can do is say yes, follow through, and do your best. A lot of my peers have been presented with opportunities like me and just let it pass them up. A person with a passion for engineering and is willing and capable to invest the time in themselves to learn is the best candidate for the job.”
Charlene: “What have you learned from professional work experiences?”
Spencer: “The most important thing I’ve learned from my work in prototyping designs is nothing ever works the way you expect the first time, so it is important to test early and test often. The second most important thing I have learned is that the specifications of a design are the bare minimum specifications and whoever you are working with is going to request more. It is best to design with expandability in mind.”
Charlene: “What suggestions do you have for students to consider when exploring different career paths?”
Spencer: “My advice to everyone regardless of their career path is to keep your doors open. Especially early on, when you aren’t sure of your career or even field, just say yes to any opportunities and dedicate the time to learn what you want to do.”
Charlene: “What attributes of an employer are attractive to you?”
Spencer: “The employee should always have something to gain by working for an employer. An employer should always offer interesting projects where employees can gain a lot of experience and of course financial incentives. Ultimately, an employer that treats an employee with value is an attractive employer.”
Charlene: “What do you believe some of the most pressing engineering problems are today?”
Spencer: “I think the future of electrical engineering is about efficiency and storage. As the world shifts to more renewables, it is increasingly important that we can store energy for when production is at a minimum. I think efficiency is important because devices will be mobile, and efficiency will extend battery life while maintaining reasonable performance.”
Charlene: “How would you describe the term “Engineering”?”
Spencer: “To me, engineering is not simply about designing a product and presenting it. It is about identifying a problem that exists and providing a solution to the problem. To me, there is nothing that makes me happier than to see someone using something that I worked on.”
Charlene: “Do you have short term goals?”
Spencer: “In the short term, I want to try out all aspects of the electrical engineering field to get an idea of what I like and what I want to do in the future.”
Charlene: “What would you tell high school or college students that are interested in pursuing engineering?
Spencer: “I would say to people interested in pursuing engineering is that it doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Success in engineering is achieved when you have a passion for what you are doing. It doesn’t matter what college you end up at, it is about the opportunities that you take advantage of.”
Charlene: “Thank you so much for your time, Spencer. I enjoyed it”.
Spencer: “Thank you, Charlene.”
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