For any engineers out there experiencing a sudden change of heart, fear not: as Emily Hudson
explains, a degree in engineering is only the beginning.
Emily has one eye on a career in finance and the other on engineering. For her, university opens doors to many different industries. And her internships, in both the US and at Imperial in the UK, are proof that the theory is right.
Why should you be constrained to one career path?
Can you talk about how you first started moving towards finance from engineering? Was it a surprise to you?
Engineering classes teach students “how to learn”. As a Physics/Engineering major, I’ve learned how to problem solve and I realized that skill can be applied outside of heat transfer or thermodynamics.
Washington and Lee University has a very strong business school so I started taking business classes and joining finance organizations, and realized that I can apply my problem solving ability to finance.
I never thought I would be qualified to invest my university’s endowment with a Physics/Engineering background, but the transition was easier than I thought. I have now learned all about this world of finance, and because of my engineering background, I was able to jump into that world without much struggle.
Are you planning to leave engineering behind, or do you see yourself staying involved with the industry in some capacity throughout your career?
That will be decided soon! I am applying to jobs in both engineering and finance, because I know I would be happy with whichever. I do hope to have a career that incorporates science or engineering in some way.
Science fundamentally interests me and I love learning how the world works. But as long as I can apply my problem solving skills, I know I will enjoy what I am doing.
You’ve helped with political campaigns and participated in leadership development programs. How has this supported you while working in very technical roles?
I can bring soft skills and hard skills to the table due to my cold-calling experience and the social skills I gained from working with political campaigns.
The ability to communicate well and a technical background is an excellent and extremely useful combination.
Do you think finance majors should also be getting involved in some engineering classes?
I think engineering classes train the brain, and everyone can benefit from that. A variation of classes can train you to look at problems from multiple perspectives, and a variation of classes is always beneficial!
You’ve done a lot of varied internships; how do they compare and how have they helped you in different ways?
My innate curiosity compelled me to apply for internships throughout my collegiate career, including in financial services, manufacturing, non-profit, and university research; as well as a variety of functional responsibilities such as finance, sales, engineering, and research.
I had an internship with University of North Carolina in Charlotte in the Visualization Center in which I learned project management and product segmentation. This helped me with the experiment process and performance reporting as well as presenting a research project.
The next summer I had a research internship in London at Imperial College
in the Institute of Shock Physics. I learned how to design a product, and discovered that I want to work on a team rather than perform individual research.
The second half of that summer I was a Siemens Sales Development Program intern and learned about the world of sales. This helped me realize that I enjoy customer interfacing.
The next summer, I had an internship with an Asset Management firm in San Francisco and I learned an enormous amount about finance and about the power of Excel. This helped me realize I want to work in an environment that pushes me mentally.
These diverse experiences helped me discover what I like, dislike, and where my skills are, to choose a career and company at which I can contribute most. I am still discerning where that will be.
Have you found that employers appreciate a wide variety of skills and experiences?
Absolutely. I strongly believe that a diverse skill set is the best one to have. In my opinion, it is more beneficial to contribute in multiple areas of the job from communication to technical skills, than to be an expert at one thing, especially if the job requires teamwork.
The more experiences the better. The more you do, the more you develop opinions and gain/change perspectives.
You’ve studied at Imperial - how does engineering in the US differ from engineering in the UK?
I tried to learn as much as possible in the lab at Imperial College London and from my mentors there. I had a blast and enjoyed the experience immensely.
The thought process there seemed to be of a broader holistic perspective, and one from which I tried to absorb the big picture of developing an experimental procedure that could be scaled and replicated by PHD Physics students in the future. It was a valuable learning experience for me.
Do you have any advice for other engineers to help them explore their options?
Engineering is a great place to begin the educational process, and you have unlimited options from there! Once you have that foundation, you can enjoy applying the thinking process to lots of different situations and industries through which you can solidify your ideal job. Do as much as possible, talk to as many people as possible, so you can maximize your options!