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Mechanical Engineering Overview - PowerPoint - Podcast

Norris Allman, P.E.

Senior Supervising Test Engineer
Public Service Electric & Gas
Union, NJ


 
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Cooper Union
Engineering manager in charge of testing functions for a large northeastern power utility.
Norris worked on Wall Street before going on to complete his engineering degree. He finds that his business experience is helpful, for as an engineer he often deals with the business side of projects.
"I think an engineer should be flexible enough to go from one field to the next. I think the lines of just being a mechanical engineer or civil engineer or electrical engineer, a computer engineer, are fuzzy nowadays. You have to have the ability to go from field to field almost."


Allman: "I would highly recommend that people learn how to get along with others because it's a lot of teamwork. Unfortunately, some people cannot work as part of a team, and they're not going to be successful. But yes, all of your engineering classes, all of your technical skills are important. But being able to work with people -- that's paramount as far as I'm concerned."

Allman: "I think one of the reasons that you will find that you have more foreign students or more minorities getting into engineering is that people are judged by what they know, more so than by their friendships or what school they went to. It's a technical business, and industry and business are looking for people who know things. And if you're technically competent, I think you'll do very well."

Allman: "I think the opportunities are different, not necessarily more, not necessarily less. I think that they are different. A person cannot put themselves in the box of saying that I'm a thermo-engineer or I'm a mechanical engineer who's just going to specialize in HPAC. You have to be more flexible. You have to be able to adapt more so today than perhaps 15 or 20 years ago."

Q: Right. Tell me a little bit about your experience in college and how you first became interested in mechanical engineering, and then how that interest progressed?
Allman: Right. Well, initially, I started off as a business major. The reason I got involved with business is I had a summer job working at a company on Wall Street, and the fellow there tried to get me to major in business, and I tried it for one semester, and after taking some of the business classes I found that really wasn't me. My interest was really in engineering. So, I decided to switch after the first semester. I had originally started going to NYU, and I transferred to Polytechnic Institute of New York and switched to engineering.

Q: Do you remember what it was, the course you took, that really took your interest and when you first decided to become a professional?
Allman: Well, probably the "Thermo" classes. They're probably one of the tougher classes to take. But, engineering was something that I always enjoyed in high school. I was always a very good math and science student. So, it was natural for me to continue in the engineering field.

Q: Let me ask you, Norris, the things that you looked at coming into the profession that you felt were offered to you and the opportunities that made themselves obvious to you, in your career path thus far; have you been disappointed, or have you been more than happy about where you've gone? And tell me a little bit about how your expectations have been fulfilled, in specific.
Allman: Well, it is different than what I thought it would be. When I first started, I was thinking that engineering would be nothing but sitting at a desk, doing calculations all the time. As I got into the field, I gravitated more towards management. That's something that sort of evolved. When I first started with the public service, I used to do nothing but calculations. Accident analysis of nuclear power plants. But now my major responsibilities are really administrative. So, it has changed greatly over the years.

Q: And for young people looking at this career today, do you think the opportunities are as numerous and as diversified as they were, let's say, 20 years ago? Less so or more so?
Allman: Well, I think the opportunities are different, not necessarily more, not necessarily less. I think that they are different. A person cannot put themselves in the box of saying that I'm a thermo-engineer or I'm a mechanical engineer who's just going to specialize in HVAC. You have to be more flexible. You have to be able to adapt more so today than perhaps 15 or 20 years ago.

Q: What advice would you give for women and people of color and people from other minorities -- whatever they might be -- considering coming into this profession today?
Allman:
Well, I would highly recommend it. I think one of the reasons that you will find that you have more foreign students or more minorities getting into engineering is that people are judged by what they know, more so than by their friendships or what school they went to. It's a technical business, and industry and business are looking for people who know things. And if you're technically competent, I think you'll do very well.

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