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Engineers rule the world

In the early days of graduating, a lot of people were surprised why I went into banking from engineering. It was a huge move, and to a certain extent, looked suicidal as well given I had no prior knowledge to finance. I was far more handicapped than any fresh graduate today that was seeking entry into an investment bank. Today, after 14 years, no one saw this degree as an awkward handicap. In fact, most people that I meet today thought that the study of engineering gave me the necessary foundation to build my knowledge in the world of banking. I strongly believe so as well. Hard to imagine that I had went this far without receiving any formal education in accounting. And because of that, the way I look at financial statements is fundamentally very different. I understand most of the valuation theories but everything has to be very logical for me. Although I am admittedly a poor student when it came to grades, I credit a lot of the mindset that I have today a result of rigorous training and analytical skills acquired during those 4 years in engineering school.

I chanced upon this video I took way back in 2003 (about 17 years now). It was a project in year 3 of engineering whereby students had to get into groups to build a remote controlled car literally from scratch. You were being graded on not only the basic functionality of your car i.e. whether it moves according to how you programmed the remote, but also any additional functionalities. As demonstrated in the below, we added a module that would automatically turn on the headlights of the car under low light, using a light sensor chip.

The ironic part about the entire project was that: while we managed to program the direction pads correctly and even added some interesting features to the car, the live demonstration could only last no more than 5 minutes. The car ran on a single 9-Volt (6LR61) battery then. It was rechargeable, and every time we ran the tests and used up the cell, we had to go back to the lab to get it replaced. It costed $12 each time.

To make matters worse, we added a finishing touch before the final evaluation, constructing the entire chassis using steel scrap bought from the streets at Sungei road, effectively doubling the weight of the car. Within 30 seconds from switching it up, it gave it all just to be able to move forward-left, forward-right, flash its headlights once and then the battery gave out. The weight of the car was just too much. I think we must have easily replaced 4 to 5 batteries that day.

Engineers may not be the most commercial of people - not at first. But they try hard, learn fast and are resourceful. People give us too little credit for being practical people. When I started out my very first job (2 weeks after my last exam paper in the final year of university), I managed to snag a job working alongside the Chief Engineer at Philips Institutional TV. My main task at that point of time was to build a working prototype of how the software interface would look like on their TVs. As we were nearing completion, the Chief Engineer asked me, "Does it work?" and I replied, "Yes". And he would say, "We are engineers, if we say it work, it better work!".

We passed the module eventually with a B+.



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