I heard a statement the other day that made me think about the way I view projects: “The final 20 % of the work usually takes 80% of the time”. That made me reflect on my first weeks in the DUT, because to me the initial 10% of the work also takes much time of thinking and setting your goals straight.
It is very difficult to start working on something from zero as part of a group of students, and it has always amazed me how there are these people who have the ability to find out what they have to do even in the most uncertain situations. “Build a car? Yeah sure, just let’s assemble this and that and then let’s try to improve that other thing.” Some people are just born with skills that let them analyze every task in a very critical way and adapt to situations that they have never been exposed to before.
I am the kind of person who feels more comfortable in situations where I know exactly what I have to do, what my task is. But this experience has made me wonder, “Is that the ideal profile for an engineer?” The answer may seem now, at the light of my reasoning, very obvious.
However, it takes time and struggle to realize that the reason why at the TU Delft they try to continuously challenge us so that we develop that sort of “survival instinct” that is so important as part of our skill set, or why the approach used at the DUT is not showing you the way beforehand, but giving you a certain freedom to start working in a way you find appropriate.
As I see it, it depends on the kind of professional you want to be.
Do you want to be working at the edge of what’s known, at the edge of your comfort zone and in the land of uncertainty? Because that’s where innovation is. Or do you want to press buttons and follow rules?
I would totally respect any of those answers.
But I am beginning to realize myself that working in something like this without being taken by the hand and guided can also be a great opportunity to explore how creative and how resourceful I actually am. During the review sessions we have had with the Technical Committee of the Team, I would ask questions like “But why did you not tell us these things right from the start?” and the answer was “Because that is not the way we do things here. We always let you try first, and then give you feedback on your ideas an initiatives.”
And you, what do you want to do? Do you want to be told what to do, or do you want to be an independent person who tries their own ideas?