Engineers from across TE provide guidance to their younger selves, in letters detailing crucial moments on their path to achieving professional success and personal development.
Becoming an accomplished engineer requires determination, courage, confidence, and support. For engineers entering the field, the challenge of becoming an established professional can seem daunting. It is for this reason that new engineers need guidance from senior leaders. Through mentorings and encouragement, early-career engineers can better see their options in confronting the crucial moments that will shape who they become – as engineers and as individuals. In the passages below, TE engineers share stories about their path to becoming a professional. The insight they provide can help new engineers navigate some of the crucial moments which they will encounter during the early stages of their career.
I know you are a proactive and positive person following a difficult path into the world of engineering. I also know that you have faced many challenges throughout your life and that you always try to make the best out of even the most challenging situations, by focusing on learning from mistakes and triumphs. As you gain more professional experience, you will see that building a career in engineering is a bumpy path that can make the uncommitted throw in the towel. I am here to tell you that this is not you.
While at the university studying electrical and electronic engineering, you will face a discouraging and frustrating situation during your final project. You will focus on CMOS sensors and image analysis, an unknown field but one that will appeal to you. After completing some research for the project, you will see several different possibilities for designing the system for your project. You will discuss the pros and cons with your supervisor, who will tell you that this is also a new field for him. His lack of experience with these devices was the beginning of a difficult situation during following meetings, when you will also realize that the way you will work together clashes and the support you receive is unproductive and confusing. The result is that you will start reducing the frequency of the meetings with your supervisor and instead attempt to develop the system without any guidance, which you will see as an important step towards achieving a successful outcome. As a consequence of skipping these meetings, you will miss out on receiving support crucial to helping you, which will mean you will need to instead overcome many problems by yourself, rather than working with an experienced engineer who may have dealt with these in the past and could have provided valuable guidance to help you solve these challenges. Despite not having this guidance, you will submit your dissertation and present your project on time, but you will not receive the high mark you are expecting, due to the lack of guidelines and organization that you could have obtained by working with your supervisor.
Looking back today, from many years in the your future, I see that this situation has taught me that even if my supervisor was not an expert in the field I had chosen for my final project, he was an expert in developing new devices and project planning. His expertise could have shown me ways for testing that would have saved me a lot of time and he could have advised me on the different steps to take when developing a project. As you go forward in life, in your studies, and in your career as an engineer, please remember: You may not always get an exact answer to your questions, but you can get very good advice that will help you face the problems in your own way, which is always useful. This will eventually help you develop your own approaches – gained from your own experience – to solving complex problems.
Your Future Self
You may not always get an exact answer to your questions, but you can get very good advice that can help you face the problems in your own way.
Dear Young Jonathan,
You will soon have an opportunity to volunteer and step up to a leadership role that can benefit your customers, your company, your team, and your career. You will get this opportunity because the company recognizes your technical acumen and innovative approaches and wants you to become a manager who can lead and mentor others. When this opportunity was offered to me, I graciously declined because I was afraid of the risk involved and the unknown – because the opportunity was outside my formal training and experience. When the opportunity is offered to you, take it and keep in mind that the feelings you will have are not unique to you, that others have these feelings too when taking on new challenges. The company is offering this opportunity to help you succeed and thrive. Trust that your leaders will provide a support structure that will help you be successful. So, when the opportunity presents itself, remember these words, and accept the challenge, knowing that it will help you become an effective manager one day, and that the mentoring you receive will be very rewarding. Your team at TE Connectivity needs you to contribute as an individual and to teach and guide others. By fulfilling your potential, you will be exemplifying the company’s values and culture, and you will be helping TE and its customers achieve their business goals.
I know you will succeed!
Your Future Self
Dear Young Ishin,
During your early days at TE, you will take on a lead engineering role in sensors development. One day, you will encounter a customer (a major OEM) who is behind schedule for a vehicle launch and both TE (tier 2 in this case) and the tier 1 supplier must work quickly to finalize the sensor design. The initial sensor development will move forward perfectly. However, just when you think you are finished, your team will be introduced to an updated sensing range that was out of sensing parameters. This will result in the sensor becoming out of spec. The team will need to start an investigation to determine the limits of the sensor’s required capabilities. This will involve a week of brainstorming – but you will develop an alternative solution. A few months later, your team will encounter a similar situation; this time, the sensing range will need to be expanded even further. However, because the sensor is already operating at its maximum performance, your team will need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new design that supports using higher performance IC. This process will increase the development time by two weeks. But the delay will be worth the investment and the new ideas. Today as I write this letter to you, this sensor is still performing well on production vehicles. But keep this in mind: Your team will experience multiple instances of working too close to the deadline. Although it was the tier1’s decisions that will cause the sensor redesign, your team will need to react as fast as possible in order to keep up with OEM’s timeline. So my recommendation to you is to always have back up plans for every failure point you can think of. Not every design will perform as intended and it is important to react fast as possible when these issues surface. I have applied this strategy not just in engineering and work environments but also in everyday life situations. Not everything will go as planned in life and being prepared to change course will enable fast reaction and it will also increase confidence. This approach will help you succeed in any challenge you will face. The work you are doing now will bring you the success that you aspire to achieve.
Your Older Self
Not everything will go as planned in life and being prepared to change course will enable fast reaction and it will also increase confidence. This approach will help you succeed in any challenge you will face.
BUILD YOUR CAREER WITH TE CONNECTIVITY
Dear Young Bruce,
I want you to think back to when you were 10 years old and got your ham-radio license and how excited you were when you started designing and building your own antennas. Although it may seem risky now, you will soon have the opportunity to change your career path and pursue your passion. During the past twelve years, you have learned about microwave instrumentation, Fourier and modal analysis, laser interferometry, and automated tests. It has been a wonderful experience. But imagine going to work every day and doing something you truly love – and having the opportunity to use your imagination and vision to face new technical challenges daily and find new innovative solutions. It will not always be easy. But one day you will patent dozens of inventions and become the CEO of your own antenna company. Later you may have a new opportunity to again build your own antenna group on a global scale with TE Connectivity. You will broaden your experience by travelling worldwide, meeting new customers and colleagues and addressing the challenges and opportunities of a global organization. You will find the experience of working with a culturally diverse group of engineers exciting and satisfying. Over the next three decades, you will discover a significant reward: The experience of sharing your insights with young engineers, in ways that inspire them to follow their aspirations. As you go forward, trust your gut and follow your passion.
Your Future Self
Dear Young Usha,
From being shy and easily intimidated to graduating from college as one of two women with a mechanical engineering degree, you entered the corporate world anxious and eager to please. Today I am writing to you from nineteen years into your future. By now, you are working in the consumer market business, and I know it is a dream come true for you to serve as a key member of the web phone design team, which is one of the first of its kind in the US. You are probably now designing the hinge for the touch screen. I know this is a challenging project. But you will soon see that your design can handle the unbalanced torque for tilting, while also possessing swiveling capabilities, in an awkward confined space with intertwined cables and heat generating components. And rest assured, your design will pass the stringent qualification requirements! I know that this challenge was certainly a lot more than you had thought it would be, and I know, right now, you are thinking that your career is hinging on a hinge design! But it is not. And although your hinge seems perfect, because of all your diligent hand calculations and application of requisite theoretical skills, and your confidence in the design, it must still go through several iterations of expensive prototyping and testing before it will be deemed acceptable for production. So what went wrong? Nothing really. Just the limitation of sophisticated engineering tools coupled with minimal experience. Experience will teach you what I in the future now know, that had you used finite element analysis to simulate all the iterations instead of prototyping, and subsequently used rapid prototyping to do initial evaluation of the design, you could have realized an optimum solution with a lot less design turns and achieved substantial cost savings. Experience will give you opportunities to learn this for future projects. My advice to you is to simply stay flexible, continue to embrace change, be open to innovation, and success will follow you. While it may seem impossible to fathom now, one day, while working for a company called TE Connectivity, you will develop mechanical architectures for underwater repeaters that transmit fiber optic signals over transoceanic distances. Getting to where I am now from where you are is going to be both a challenging and rewarding journey - one I guarantee you will not want to trade for the world.
The best is yet to come,
Your Future Self
TE engineers inspire each other to design the solutions that are connecting the world.
It will be hard for you to believe now, but one day you will become an engineer. I know that in 9th grade you failed Algebra, French, and just barely passed English. And I know you quit band the first week of high school, was forced into taking Tech Ed/Industrials Arts classes, and considered dropping out of high school because every class and every day was a struggle for you. I am here to tell you that you must persevere. If you quit, your engineering career will never happen. Remember, you have always been mechanically inclined. Tech Ed is where for the first time you found yourself enjoying school and seeing your first success. You are already taking your first steps towards becoming an engineer, you just have not discovered it – yet. I am here to tell you to take every hands-on Tech Ed course you can while in high school – take computer-aided design, wood shop, and metal shop. Join stage crew, because you will have the chance to experiment with technology. These decisions will help you build the confidence you will need to thrive during the many challenges and changes you will experience through high school. It will be difficult, and traditional academics will prove challenging. But you have already started to develop the persistence and perseverance that will ultimately drive you toward earning in two Bachelor’s degrees – in Industrial Technology Education (Millersville University) and Mechanical Engineering (Penn State). Each experience will open doors and lead you on a path from being a summer intern at TE to – twenty-two years later – to achieving success in an engineering career with TE. During your career, you will develop 32 US Patents, work closely with industry heavy weights on next-generation technologies, and earn the title of Principal Engineer. Never doubt yourself and never doubt your capabilities – even when the task at hand seems daunting and you feel overwhelmed. Rely on your experience. Let your interests lead you into joining clubs, participating in activities that draw you in, and volunteering where your passion leads you.
And above all else – never give up.
Your Older Self
Never doubt yourself and never doubt your capabilities – even when the task at hand seems daunting and you feel overwhelmed.
The world is a huge, exciting, and perhaps even intimidating place but still largely unexplored! Cuddle your sense of wonder, cherish your playfulness, and take pride in being different. Listen to your parents, as difficult as this is to swallow, they do have your best interest at heart. In particular, on your long runs take time to ponder your mother’s mantra; “Life like science, will not always paint the picture you want to see.” Like long runs, complex problems are largely surmounted by stringing together small prudent steps guided by passion, drive, desire, and the support of seasoned veterans with a shared purpose. Learn from those who have gone before you and therefore amass your fair share of mistakes, tweaks, twists, and turns. Dwell not on your mistakes because they are the natural byproduct of experimentation. Temper your triumphs and your failures and move on to the next challenge. Ripped from the pages of a veteran correspondent, “keep a watchful eye on the foundation you are building.” This foundation should be rock-solid, to support decades of sustained and dynamic personal and professional contributions with potentially far reaching implications. Focus on building a legacy of passion, drive, integrity, innovation, teamwork, accountability, and a deep respect for individuals. But most of all enjoy yourself!
The Future Engineer You Will Become
EXPERIENCE INNOVATIVE TE TECHNOLOGY IN ACTION
Dear Young Jim,
Early in your career as a mechanical engineer you will be involved in a new design program for an Army Field Artillery Computer. You will be responsible for designing electronic packaging solutions. In order for a display module to meet the size, weight, and overall performance requirements, a critical new development project for an interconnect solution will be needed for the display to connect to the core electronics printed circuit board. As a young engineer with limited experience, you will be challenged in identifying proven solutions and mapping the risk and project timing to develop, test, and prototype new connectors that could be scoped to meet the design. Teaming with engineering, a key supplier, and mentoring with other mechanical engineers will help you define the project requirements. The challenge that you will face will be the risk of using unproven solutions to drive innovation versus prior solutions and whether the timeline could be supported. The timing for prototyping is limited based on the overall project timeline, but is also key to success of the project. You will ultimately make the decision to innovate and develop a new approach. Although there will be some hurdles with prototypes and pcb layouts, teaming with internal engineers with expertise in this display to pcb interconnection technologies and utilizing external supplier expertise will help provide your path to success. The lesson that you will learn through this project will be that innovation, although it certainly has challenges, will offer more advanced learning than defaulting to proven solutions. You will also learn that internal and external experts will prove to be valuable resources.
The lesson that you will learn through this project will be that innovation...will offer more advanced learning than defaulting to proven solutions.
Capstone Project Sponsor:
TE Connectivity/Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg
After graduation, your first major development project will start out as something which seems much more mundane. A senior engineer at your company will task you with designing a piece of software that can test the communication protocol for his new prototype. The assignment will be fairly open ended, and it will require you to learn a new programming language that you have never used before. Despite the uncertainty you will feel facing a new challenge, the expectations will be modest, the schedule generous, and the requirements achievable, even for a young engineer. At this point you will be faced with a decision: either check the requirements off one by one, doing the bare minimum that has been asked of you, or dive into the task with all your ability and the intent to do something extraordinary. I want you to dive in. Rather than cycling through a pre-defined set of commands, add a GUI that lets the user specify every aspect of the communication. Rather than simply saving packets to a file, build a live-streaming visualization of the data on the front panel. Do not just pass the information through, implement normal operational thresholds and add a function that will save alarm events to a different file when anomalies occur in the data. Without knowing it, and without being asked, you will be designing a solution that meets many of the functional interface requirements the project leader had planned to tackle later. As a result, your software will become the basis for the GUI that will eventually be delivered to the customer, and you will be named the primary design engineer for the interface. By treating a seemingly simple task as an opportunity to push yourself beyond your current ability, rather than a prescribed to-do list to be ticked, you will gain a new skill, contribute to the project, and increase your level of responsibility within the company. This experience will teach you something valuable: that you cannot expect your job as an engineer to be an exercise in what you already know. Every task is a new opportunity to learn and improve, and every project is a chance to show what you can do. Do not let any of these opportunities pass you by. These are your pathway to future success.
Your Future Self
Dear Young Peter,
Engineering is a noble profession and will offer you many opportunities for future success. Take advantage of each opportunity to experience new things. I know you tend to lose interest as you became more proficient in completing your tasks – but remember, your future career path and professional growth lies in your hands. Your engineering career will begin with positions in small enterprises. You will see that you need more opportunities for professional growth and advancement. Be humble and look to join a large company. TE Connectivity will offer you challenges and appreciate your resourcefulness; you will see that the company is committed to investing in your professional development. In addition, you will meet and network with seasoned engineers, many of them are ready, willing, and able to coach you through new experiences. Your role will expand to include project management. At first, you will struggle to coordinate activities with our off-shore operations. Look to others to help you succeed. Reach out to the Global Operations manager who will take you under his wing. He will share practices that will help you collaborate with colleagues outside of your business unit. This guidance from someone other than your immediate manager will show you how to bring future projects to closure with minimal logistic delays. From the beginning, build your career in the right way: Schedule regular meetings with your managers to ensure that you clearly understand their expectations. It is imperative that you establish and build these relationships. These will help grow and discover the unique value you bring to the organization – and to your internal and external customers. The future is in your hands, be sure to make the most of it!
Your Older Self
You will meet and network with seasoned engineers, many of them are ready, willing, and able to coach you through new experiences....Look to others to help you succeed.
Early in your engineering career you will be asked to make a drastic change in your personal life in order to grow your professional career. After some soul searching and support from your husband, you will accept this opportunity offered to you. You will move to Mexico to serve as project lead for a tech center built to support the engineering function for your company. They will rely on you to ensure that the physical building is built as expected. You will also serve as a part-time interior decorator and work with the architects to choose the paint, carpet, and interior elements. At the same time, you will develop skills while helping establish and grow the company’s engineering function. This will include selecting and hiring a lot of people. This experience will help you see your full potential. You will be amazed at the range and types of tasks you can accomplish. With each success you will demonstrate your capabilities, and your responsibilities will quickly increase, from managing eight people to managing more than 100. You will be asked to perform tasks that help you develop a diverse set of skills, and as a result, you will see that you can achieve far more than you ever thought possible – such as learning Spanish and your willingness to adopt the local culture, which will enable you to gain the respect of the workforce in Mexico. After six years, you will move back to the US possessing a well-rounded skillset. During your time in Mexico, you will be asked to take on challenges you feel you are not capable of. But as I just noted, you will succeed. Accept those challenges and try new things. The richest experiences you will have will come from going outside of your comfort zone. Do not let fear of failure get in your way and do not wait for it to come to you - go out there and grab it – experience things and break into new areas.
Each time you do, you will make yourself a little bit better.
The richest experiences you will have will come from going outside of your comfort zone...go out there and grab it....Each time you do, you will make yourself a little bit better.
Steering Committee Leader, Capstone Design Projects & Lecture Series in Connector Design Endowment:
TE Connectivity/Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg
Dear Young Brett,
Choose knowledge and experience over title and monetary reward. You may receive multiple great offers from well-known corporations that will give you a title and maybe even more money, but this will not be enough. Look for a company that offers the opportunity to rapidly develop your skill set through a well-planned engineering rotation program. The varied experiences and exposures will accelerate your development and create a long term partnership between yourself and the company making such an investment in you. TE Connectivity will provide this opportunity and they are demonstrating that they are invested and interested in helping you excel. This experience will become a true partnership. You will be exposed to the many elements of engineering: from product design and manufacturing to simulation, testing, and materials knowledge. To gain this experience would take you many years of working in multiple positions for several companies. Through this program, you will gain new knowledge, meet new people, receive mentoring from engineering leaders, and work on variety of projects. So when the offer from TE comes to you, follow your intuition, and once you commit stick with it. There is an amazing journey awaiting you, one filled with personal growth.
Enjoy the Journey,
In all you do, Be Bold! Everyone has been in a position during their life when they have been underestimated. What matters is how you respond to that kind of adversity. You graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in a year when the job market was tough and landed a job focused on mechanical testing, optimization, and data analysis. You are very good at it, but you want more, want the more demanding and creative role of design engineer. Soon a position within the company will open up, and when it does, apply for it. You will have to undergo a grueling technical interview but it will pay off. You will receive an offer for the position. At first, you will feel extremely disappointed about the offer, given that it will be for a lateral move with no increase in salary or engineering grade. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and negotiate the offer with the hiring manager. You know you are worth more. When the offer was made to me, I put up no argument and accepted it, spending several months in the new position wondering if I was good enough (despite the fact that I was exceeding everyone’s expectations). Looking back, I wish that someone had taken me aside and said “Be bold! Stand up for yourself. Trust yourself.” So now, I am telling you: You are absolutely qualified for this position and you have valuable experience in the company that makes you an asset. You deserve to receive an offer that reflects the value you bring to the company, so ask for it. Now as I write years later, I know that had I been bold, I could have negotiated a higher salary, pushed that self-doubt out of my head, and adjusted the impression that my peers had of me – to one of confidence, initiative, and know-how. Each time you interview, pursue a project opportunity, or negotiate with others remember that you know your capabilities better than anyone else. Communicate your value, explain why the opportunity should be yours, and above all, trust yourself. Because if you doubt yourself, so will those around you. Be bold!
Your Future Self, Who is Cheering for Your Success
Each time you interview, pursue a project opportunity, or negotiate with others remember that you know your capabilities better than anyone else. Communicate your value, explain why the opportunity should be yours, and above all, trust yourself.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENGINEERS
Capstone Project Sponsor and Endowment Committee Member:
TE Connectivity/Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg
Early in your career, you will have the experience of being admonished by a supervisor for providing too much detail to an internal customer about some test result on a material development project your team is working on for the customer. Despite the warnings from your boss, trust your gut that keeping knowledge from the business unit sponsor for the sake of “maintaining our technical superiority” is not good for the project and not good for the company as a whole. When you make the choice, know that you will do so because you believe it is best for the overall success of the company. And keep focused on the value you will provide: Instead of simply answering technical questions from my colleagues, you will explain the reasoning for the critical points that are made, which is information crucial to helping them understand the solution. Taking your supervisor’s advice of being selfish with your time and talents will prevent you from making the professional and personal connections that I enjoy today, twenty-one years later. As a young engineer now building your confidence, I encourage you to work with individuals that have different values, but do not accept those values that do not embody the company’s and your own personal ethics. When your expertise is called upon, look to provide more than a quick answer, and instead foster a collaborative spirit with those around you. Take a little extra time to pass on some of your knowledge to those who may not have your unique background. By providing the “why” in addition to the “what,” you will help your fellow colleagues be better at their jobs. This little bit of extra effort will not result in any immediate awards, but over time you will earn the reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable, and valued asset, and make many friends along the way.
The Engineer You Will One Day Become
Just before you start your college career as an engineering student, you will have the opportunity to study building construction during your senior year in high school. This class will introduce you to woodwork, building theory, and a project. At first, you will find the practical woodwork challenging, and your pals will joke that could not make a clean dove-tail joint! Then, one day during a careers event, you will hear a former student talk about the successful career he built in engineering. He will speak about the important attributes of great engineers, including problem solving, team work, and attention to detail. He will introduce you to this field through his inspiring talk about his early career as a designer and he will encourage you to try new things, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, and never be afraid to ask for help. When I first listened to him, I thought that I was too smart to make mistakes and I felt that I could take on the world all on my own. But be wary when you think this! In the weeks that followed his talk, I decided that I was going to be an engineer and that I needed to try something new. Seek out opportunities that will help you. Take advantage of an opportunity to trade help in woodwork with a pal who is very good at woodwork, for help with maths. And work on improving your attention to detail and planning. These skills will prove valuable during your final results: By working hard you will earn the rank of first in Ireland for building construction during the 1992 school year – and you will receive 100% in the practical and project. As an eager young engineer, you will learn that it is difficult to be an expert in every topic. There is often someone brighter right around the corner. The lesson here is to learn how to work with others and leverage their expertise to advance your personal development and the performance of your team. Your work will pay off. Over the next twenty-five years, you will become a manager with a global technology leader. And you will get here by setting challenges for yourself and encouraging teamwork and collaboration in others. Doing this will enable you to be successful in driving teams to achieve their best. Although attention to detail is important, it is crucial in engineering to learn from mistakes and establish a culture of continuous improvement within your team.
Success in the future is yours to achieve!
Your Future Self
Over the next twenty-five years, you will become a manager...by setting challenges for yourself and encouraging teamwork and collaboration in others. Doing this will enable you to be successful in driving teams to achieve their best.
I am writing from your future to help you understand the challenges and uncertainties that you will face in being an engineer. Let me provide a little insight that will not be obvious as you are living it. At this point in your life, you have just made a crucial decision to join another company called AMP [now part of TE Connectivity], which will require you to reestablish yourself in city called Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (USA). Right now, I know you are filled with lots of unknowns as you start your new job with AMP, as a development engineer. Fortunately for you, you have been assigned to work under a senior development engineer who will help you along and become your mentor. You will not realize it at the time, but you will gain a lot of wisdom and knowledge from your mentor’s guidance. During your first six months, you will experience a crash course in the technology behind the connectors. This will give an intricate understanding of new topics such as contact physics, and geometric tolerancing along with new manufacturing methods such as plating, injection molding, and progressive stamping. Further, it will be an experience that is unique; you will learn that new hires typically do not get the benefit of having a close mentor. The most important lesson you will get is your exposure to an incredibly broad network of contacts that your mentor cultivated over his twenty-five-year career. As you will often hear him mention, "You cannot possibly know everything so the key is to find those that do." The benefit of his mentorship will only come afterwards, when you realize that he has set you up with an incredible network of very knowledgeable people. These are individuals you will continue to interface with over the years and further develop relationships and friendships. It will reinforce the importance of establishing and cultivating professional relationships within and outside the company throughout your career. Make sure you thank him for taking a young engineer under his wing!
The Engineer You Will One Day Become
In looking back over my engineering career so far, the advice which I believe will be useful for you, as you are just now starting out on what will be an exciting path of discovery, is to pursue opportunities that offer placements which enable you to experience new things. Remember how – after high school – you contacted many companies with the idea of getting a summer placement during your first year at university? There were those two that offered you positions and recommended that you contact them closer to the time that you would start school. Remember what happened next? You went away to the university and you forgot about going back and taking those offers! In the end, you did take a gap year in your degree and worked for one year at Cummins as an engineer. This experience was invaluable for improving your career focus. After you returned to the university, you were able to get a good degree classification and position. While you were fortunate to obtain a position at Cummins, think of what you could have gained had you taken those offers you received during your first year! Either could have helped you improve your focus faster and would have enabled you to excel sooner. Gaining valuable work experience before graduation was an advantage during job interviews, since most recent graduates with similar degrees lacked my experience and the benefit of understanding their strengths. The lesson to carry forward is to pursue the opportunities that come to you. These will help you reach your destination faster.
Keep learning and gaining experience.
The lesson to carry forward is to pursue the opportunities that come to you. These will help you reach your destination faster.