I need to make a decision, soon. Between electrical engineering and computer engineering. I have roughly two months to make my decision, and as of right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
It’s the same conundrum I faced two years ago. the same one I wrote about at that time. Though at that time, it was a slightly larger problem, because I didn’t know what branch of engineering to do at all. I guess now my choice is limited to two, but the repercussions feel much larger.
The last time I faced the problem, I didn’t really make the decision. I knew I wanted to study engineering at the University of Waterloo, but I didn’t know which one. UW is the one school which forces you to choose your branch right from the get go, which is something I really didn’t want to do – I would have much rather done first year general like just about every other engineering school. It’d give me the chance to try a bit of everything, and find out where my interests lay. I didn’t know what to choose, so I didn’t.
Someone, let’s say Bob, told me that ECE is good at Waterloo. So I applied. I got in, and two years later, I’m writing this post. Most people I tell this story to find it a little shocking, but it worked out really well for me. Despite being immensely challenging, I love what I study, and am genuinely passionate about the material I’m learning. That might sound as phony as Hillary Clinton, but I’m not lying when I say that the material that we learn in class is incredibly interesting to me. I, or Bob, couldn’t have made a better choice on which branch of engineering to do.
So if it was up to me, I’d just keep doing what I’m doing now, and not change or make any more decisions on what to study. But alas, that’s never the way of life. It so happens that I now need to choose which of the two disciplines I will pursue: electrical engineering or computer engineering.
If I had to give an answer right now, it would be computer engineering. I don’t mind programming, and even enjoy it at times. That sounds bad, but it’s an accurate rendition of how I feel towards it. I guess it really depends on the project I’m working on, though, to be honest. If I really dig the project, I can be very passionate about programming. But that’s obvious.
My reasons for picking computer engineering aren’t great though. In fact, the major reason I can give is because I’ve only done software related coops, and have more experience with it than I do with hardware and electrical engineering. It’s not easy to get a hardware coop. I never chose the software industry, but rather fell into it as a result of the structure of Waterloo’s coop program, where easily 80% of the posted jobs are in the software industry. Like the decision that landed me in ECE, it wasn’t actually my decision, but one that hasn’t worked out too shabbily, fortunately. That being said, there are times when I feel I don’t want to pursue a software career.
The primary reason is self-awareness; I’m not a great coder, and I know that. I also know that it’s a skill that can be honed over time, and I don’t doubt that with enough work, I could be half decent someday. But I don’t really want to work a job at which I’m objectively bad at the work. If I end up in the software industry, my honest gut feeling is that I’ll suffice for whoever hires me, and do nothing more than that. I’ll get by, but I won’t be anything special. I won’t be bad at my job, but I won’t be very good either. And though I don’t know yet what I want my career to be, I know that I don’t want to be able to describe it like that.
There’s also the pressure knowing the fact that if I choose to do software, Bob will be very disappointed in me. As he’s told me previously, anyone can write code. I don’t know if I can live with that kind of disappointment hanging over my head for the rest of my life.
But computer engineering isn’t just software. It’s also hardware, design of all sorts, management. All of those sound intriguing to me, but the fact of the matter is that I have zero experience with all of them. I’ll definitely try to pursue them, but what if I don’t like them? What if I’m as mediocre at those trades that I am with regards to programming? What if I can’t even find a way to get a foot in the industry? Those are just some of the questions that concern me.
That leaves the other option, electrical engineering. And all the previously listed questions also apply to this field. Additionally, I have even less practical experience with electrical engineering than I do with aspects of computer engineering that aren’t programming, which I have zero experience with. I’m going to try really hard to get a hardware job for my next coop, but I’m not that optimistic, and I don’t think you could blame me, given everything I’ve just written. I have a few other concerns with the field, too.
I actually think the stuff we learn about computers in class, be it code or hardware, is interesting. I can’t say the same about the stuff we learn about electrical engineering. The fact that I had to end that sentence with “electrical engineering” goes to show how little I know about what exactly it is that pertains to the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I love our circuits courses. But when I think about it, I only liked circuits because I was able to understand it reasonably quickly, and was pretty good at solving those problems. I struggled, and continue to struggle, with programming much more, but I find that way more rewarding than I do circuits. When I strip everything down to the core, I’d much rather design a class for a program than I would a high pass filter for a circuit. And I think that speaks volumes about the decision I’m going to make.
I also hate the labs we have to do for circuits, with a passion. To be fair, I also hate the computer labs, but I hate the former way more. I am completely inept at that kind of thing, and if I have to do it for a job, well, I wouldn’t have the job for long.
It still leaves me woefully ignorant of electrical engineering. But that being said, I don’t know what I can do to rectify the problem. It’s a massive decision, one that will literally define the course of my life. And I have absolutely no idea what to do.
So I’ll probably ponder on it a lot, then make the damn switch to computer engineering, and pray to god that it works out.