I consider myself average. I will never be the smartest person in the room. But I can be the most dedicated, and that will always make me be the best.
One of the biggest challenges I had during engineering school was thinking that I was not smart enough for engineering, and being a female only multiplied that fear. But with time I learned that it’s all about practice. That is the key to be successful. Just like any sport, practice, practice, practice.
It took me a while to understand this. Now, it is the very first piece of advice I give to anyone interested in engineering. I have seen students switch majors because of the same very thought. And I know others don’t even give it a try because they think courses such as physics, dynamics, or fluids, just sound intimidating. But the truth is, none of us knew any of this. We just stick through it.
Every semester, the same story would repeat. I would go in excited for the new semester. I would start learning new content. I would feel like I had it. I was going to do good. Then… the first exam would come by and destroy both my confidence and grades. My first semester at a 4-year university (junior year) was the worst. That’s when I began taking all my engineering courses. After the first wave of exams, I was destroyed. I thought I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready for this. I started making plans about changing majors, or just dropping out of school completely. I was so silly. Somehow, I pushed through (props to my fiancé for always talking me up). The low scores would push me to try harder for the rest of the semester. I couldn’t let anything distract me from my goals. Many times, I took it as a challenge: I had to prove, both myself and my professors, that those grades did not represent my intelligence.
What exactly did I do to get better? I practiced, practiced, and practiced. I would read the entire chapters. Word by word. I would read them again. Then I would write down notes. Then, I would rewrite the class notes. Then, I would move on into the homework. If I really couldn’t figure it out, I would ask for the answers to my classmates or online and work through it to make sense out of them. Then I would throw it away, and do all the problems again on my own, to prove I understood them. For exams, or quizzes, I would re-do all of the homework’s from the chapters covered. Then, I would go back to my textbook and do as many problems from the back of the chapter (sometimes all of them), until I understood everything and until I felt like I could solve every type of scenario. Sometimes I would also explain the content to fellow classmates. It was exhausting, but it worked from me.
Now, I am not saying you must do everything I did, but my point is, from practice and repetition, I was able to teach myself.
There were times where I would be doing my homework and would cry from frustration. I just got chills remembering how stressful it got sometimes. But later, I would look back and see how something that seemed so difficult made sense now. So no, if you think you are not smart enough, or someone questions your abilities to become an engineer don’t listen! Anybody can become an engineer. It is all in the passion and dedication that we put into it.