Students attend S-PAC

March 20, 2008

by Heather Small

Engineering students were both entertained and informed last Tuesday in the Student Center as they attended the third annual Student Professional Awareness Conference.

Students turned their attention to three men who each addressed different topics.

The first of these speakers, Malcolm Smoak, an employee of American Electric Power and a Tech alumnus, spoke on the importance of managing an engineering career.

Smoak said getting an education is only half the battle.

“[Education] only gets you to the dance, but the job is where the learning starts,” Smoak said.

Smoak also told students good communication skills and risk-taking are important in the field of engineering.

“Volunteer for special projects, don’t hang back,” Smoak said. “Learn from everyone, degree or no degree.”

He assured students the only two things an engineer needs to know to be successful are that relationships drive everything, and one should always behave as if in a job interview.

Smoak said giving speeches is not the greatest part of his job.

“I like to see [students] grow,” he said. “Whenever students are motivated and want to learn, it is really fun to work with them and give them challenges.”

To speak to students about the “Tales of an Experienced Engineer” was Orin Laney, a self-employed engineer.
He talked to the students about allowing themselves to be a little stressed.

“Comfort is the enemy of progress,” he said. “Stress is how you grow.”

Laney told students stories about people who have succeeded and why they succeeded.

He also told students if they want to be successful they have to be willing to listen and learn.

“Willingness to learn makes a good engineer,” Laney said.

Laney said actually working as an engineer will teach students things that may not have made sense before.

“Get out in the field, and then equations in the classroom will suddenly come alive,” he said.

Laney told students not to be discouraged by those around them.

He said, “You are graduating from Tech, and you might ask if you can compete with MIT graduates and I say, ‘Absolutely.'”

The last speaker, Steve Lindsey, a department manager at Hunt Guillot & Associates and a Tech alumnus, told students about the importance of getting licensed as an engineer.

Steven Harris, a freshmen chemical engineering major, said he came to hear the opinions and career paths of the speakers.

“I was interested in a professional’s opinion on the topics they were speaking on and to hear someone who is out there now and what they see,” Harris said.

He said he learned something from each of the speeches.

“I am forming the opinion that there might be a job out there for me.”