I recently had the privilege of attending an M&T Women’s Professional Dinner featuring alumna Puja G. (M&T ’07). I’d highly recommend checking out the alumni brown bag lunches and dinners hosted by the M&T Club each semester. Did I mention the meal was completely subsidized? 🙂 During this particular dinner, we discussed Puja’s time as a student at Penn, her rather nontraditional post-graduate route, and her current work at the World Bank (more information about her life and work can be found here). As she imparted her post-Penn wisdom onto us, I mentally scribbled down two key takeaways.
Lesson 1: The value of having both an engineering and business background extends beyond traditional applications of these two degrees (product management, finance, consulting, entrepreneurship, etc.). More than just gaining material knowledge, we are also being taught how to approach and solve problems from two very different perspectives. Applying this breadth of knowledge towards industries that require business and engineering concepts has direct applications; applying an engineering/business background to other industries may allow us to bring unique perspectives to the proverbial table.
Lesson 2: It is often possible to participate in a variety of interests. We don’t always have to pick and choose between seemingly incongruent interests. By actively working to incorporate her passion for international development and writing into her life, Puja found that she is able to divide her time between writing/publishing fiction and consulting in the international development field with the World Bank.
The central theme of both takeaways revolves around the notion that we shouldn’t let any stereotypes associated with a particular degree limit what we can do with our education and our life. We aren’t just being taught facts and procedures for the sole sake of a particular profession. Rather our education, when thought of as a supplement to our diverse set of interests and passions, can produce powerful and innovative outcomes.