I was speaking to a couple of friends who are currently employed as engineers. One thing that they told me was that one does not necessarily apply everything one has learnt from one’s engineering degree. To a large extent, a lot of skills are picked up on the job.
So here’s some advice to aspiring engineers (or maybe those pursuing other careers) – you always have to keep an open mind, not be picky, and strive to continuously pick up any skillset that comes along the way.
Another thing that cropped up during our conversation is the job of having to design and build interfaces between systems. So complex things such as infrastructure (e.g. railways) to vehicles (e.g. cars) are composed of many, many different parts. The only way to get the whole thing to work is to make sure that each part is able to do its work while complementing the work of other parts. This is the machine-to-machine interface. Apart from this, there is also the interface between machines and humans.
A real life example would be an airline system. Users would need to interact with a ticketing machine/computer (human-to-machine interface). The ticketing computer would then communicate with the planning computer that would calculate the required fuel for the plane (machine-to-machine interface). The fuel planning computer would then report to the operators who would fill up the plane with fuel (machine-to-human interface).
The point I am trying to carry across is that, yes, you may be able to design the best part or software that does its job brilliantly, but it can only be of any use if you think about how your part would work and communicate with other parts or the user. If I were to generalise this point, it would be, yes you might be the best engineer in the world, but you need to engage with your team and the stakeholders properly in order to realise the most value out of your skills.
So in summary: Open your mind, and connect the dots.