Engineers with an Entrepreneurial Mindset
I want all of our SCU engineers to be entrepreneurial. By that, I don’t mean being a typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur, although that’s certainly fine. I’m using the term more broadly. I want them to have an entrepreneurial mindset.
I discuss this topic with all freshmen who come through the SCU School of Engineering. I tell them that over their four-year program they’ll learn a considerable amount about HOW to be an engineer—how to analyze, simulate, characterize, and build. Then we talk about WHY they want to be engineers. Answers often start with being good at science and math or loving technology. But we eventually converge on the desire to make things that help people.
like a doctor, a police officer, and social worker, we engineer in order to improve people’s lives
At some point, like a doctor, a police officer, and social worker, we engineer in order to improve people’s lives. We do this by creating value and by solving problems. And whether seeking a job in the traditional sense or creating one’s own job, engineers impact society through the development of new commercial products that help people in their everyday lives and through the creation of socially beneficial services to help those in need.
While this might seem obvious, it is dismaying to note that the link between engineering knowledge and creating value is not normally taught in a detailed or comprehensive manner. Indeed, it is absent from most undergraduate engineering programs, and it isn’t an explicit requirement for accreditation, which drives much of the content of an engineering curriculum. One reason for this is that fitting the required engineering content into a standard four-year undergraduate program is difficult, particularly at an institution like Santa Clara, which has a challenging liberal arts core curriculum.
creating value through the development of engineered systems is the point of the entire profession
In addition to teaching fundamental math and science, engineering topics, and conventional design synthesis, we must introduce students to the fundamentals of value creation. This includes developing deep empathy for the people you serve, learning to identify and assess new opportunities, understanding how products and services are created and delivered through engineering enterprises, and realizing how legal and regulatory issues protect people and assets, while also constraining the design and operation of systems.
While topics such as these aren’t a substantial part of our required curricula, in the School of Engineering we’re teaching them through a new wave of elective courses, “bite-sized” one-unit classes, and extracurricular opportunities. I’m happy to report that there is a healthy student appetite for these offerings. Furthermore, our industry partners are validating the need for students to have exposure to these topics.
Such skills will make our engineers more competitive in the workforce and more impactful in their careers, enabling them to develop innovations that create value for people and address the challenges that face our world.
We’re pleased to be part of the Kern Engineering Entrepreneurship Network, a group of universities across the country working to better align engineering education with the principles underlying an entrepreneurial mindset. Such skills will make our engineers more competitive in the workforce and more impactful in their careers, enabling them to develop innovations that create value for people and address the challenges that face our world.