What’s it really like to study engineering and computing at UQ? What does the day in the life of an engineering student look like? What are employers looking for in engineering graduates? And how will UQ give me the skills I need to face the future, when I don’t know what the future looks like?
Tierney is an engineering graduate and Dr Jiwon Kim is a lecturer in engineering. They’ve teamed up to answer some of your questions, and help you decide what’s right for you.
What's the most interesting thing you've learnt that's not part of your coursework?
Tierney: UQ was really wonderful in terms of the extracurricular things that we could do, and I was really fortunate to be able to take advantage of that and the Icarus Program. I also got to go overseas, and so I got to go to China and I got to go to Canada, and even Nepal. So I think one of the things that I really learnt is that it's a big world out there, but the experiences that you have at uni and studying new classes can also be relevant around the world no matter where you are, as long as you take it with you.
What opportunities do your students have to get hands-on experience in the industry?
Jiwon: I think that we are now living in the world where a lot of digital transformation is happening. One of the most important attributes that students are required to have is digital literacy. In our school, we have the various types of extracurricular programs, one of them was called the Icarus Program, which connects the group of students with academics to give opportunities for students to learn various projects, coming from real world contexts. So students have the opportunity to learn and work with the industry, the partners and mentors, and I think that those opportunities are really important and useful for students to get hands-on experience for industry.
What does a day in the life of an engineering students look like?
Tierney: Every day is different. But generally, as a student, you'll come and do a lecture in the mornings and then that will be followed up with the tutorials. Lectures, you'll be sitting in a rather big hall, learning materials directly from your lecturer.
Then in the tutorials it'll be a smaller class sort of more like school, and you will work through problems and ask questions to get a bit more personal feedback. You might do that a few times in the day or you might have a lab, which would be experiments and hands-on experience for what you're learning, and then generally people will get together and do study for exams.
Often there's a lot of things going around on campus so you might finish your day with a society event or just hanging out with friends. It's a pretty good day in the life to be honest.
If you were employing the next engineering graduate, who would you be looking for?
Jiwon: I'll be looking for students who have technical skills, because in the tech-driven world we live in, the students need skills, but at the same time I think that the softer skills like communication skills and also the ability to work with others are also very important.
What are the most valuable skills you've learned as part of your degree?
Tierney: Obviously a lot of really good technical learning happens here with our wonderful lecturers and tutors. That's really unparalleled when you walk into industry. It's really great to feel like you've got that behind you. But there are a lot of other things that I've learned here as well. Definitely networks, communicating with not only peers, but lecturers and other people in a professional kind of way, as well as in a social way. Being able to bring in the social side of things into those relationships to build them and make them a bit stronger.
How do you prepare students for the future, when we don't know what the future looks like?
Jiwon: As a researcher who is at the forefront of this research and technological advancement, I try to bring these emerging trends and advancement into my classroom by designing my lectures and tutorials to reflect on recent advancements and trends in the world we live in. And because this world is unknown, I also try to teach my students, that they can actually learn the ability to learn, whenever a problem happens, the ability to solve problems when they face challenges. And I think that the problem solving skills and ability to learn when necessary, is very important.
What do you think employers in your industry are looking for? How do you think UQ has equipped you with these skills?
Tierney: Engineering employers are looking for students who know what they're talking about, but I think above everything else they're really looking for people who are approachable, easy to talk to and are willing to learn and give it a go, and also willing to maybe fail but pick themselves up and keep learning and keep trying. And I think those sorts of resilience skills and ability to be really interested in what you're doing so that you can push yourself, that's something that UQ really teaches you. No one can tell you that it's easy but you get through and you really learn a lot by the way that you study here and learn here.
If you could give me one piece of advice that would set me apart as a job candidate, what would it be?
Jiwon: My advice would be to find what you really like and highlight what you are really good at. You think there will be a lot of things that you have to do well and there are a lot of skills that you have to learn, but the world is a very diverse place and there are a lot of jobs that really require specific skills. So, just focus on what you really like and highlight what you are really good at I think that you will certainly find a job that really fits you and your profile.
How does the way you learn at UQ teach you the skills you need to face an unknown future?
Tierney: Studying at UQ is really quite a good experience because although you will learn things directly from your lecturers and you are often faced with challenges and problems to solve that may not have an answer that's clear cut - and a lot of engineering is like that - it requires judgment, and no one can really sit there and say yes or no. So I did really find that in a lot of my courses that's what my lectures tried to teach me, that I could look at a problem, come up with a solution, and then have the judgment to say is that right? Is that reasonable? What's the justification for this? And that is a lot of what happens in industry because at the end of the day, there's no right or wrong answer.