Reflecting on my Time Abroad

Ethical Issues in My Profession

I have seen some of the major ethical issues accompanying the engineering profession uncovered during this two week trip abroad. Perhaps the most important issue I have seen is the proper use of information, an issue concerning security and privacy boundaries. Ubiquitous in the smart phone and E-commerce industries is a lucrative data collection market involving the recording of user interests with cookies and similar devices, and the sale of that information to advertising companies. While this does have benefits to consumers, including tailored advertisements, a limit must be established at the point at which this data collection invades users’ privacy, especially because companies profit off of the sale of this data. In the future, I expect to see increasing usage of data like this to try and pinpoint exactly what the consumer wants. However, I think at the bare minimum, users should know that when they use free apps, the apps do in fact have a cost because you are paying with a detailed record of your interests that give advertisers and upper hand when targeting you.

 

Educational Breadth as Professional Development

Being able to study in a different country provided experiential learning that no textbook could ever give me. I developed a good basic understanding of another culture, and as China is undergoing considerable economic growth, it’s a culture that it helps to be familiar with moving forwards as I enter the professional world. Things like the scope of E-commerce, the reliance on mobile methods of payment, and the mannerisms of local professionals, I could have been given twenty lectures on, and it still would not have been the same as spending two weeks immersed in another country.

 

Lifelong Learning, Continuing Education as Professional Development

Much of the learning on this trip was in fact not found in a lecture hall or even company visit setting. Things as simple as trying new foods, visiting new places, learning about political history from guides, and talking to local students, though you might not expect them to teach you much upon first judgement, are in fact some of the best learning experiences. Because the culture in China is so different to the culture in the U.S., everyday activities such as these teach you an incredible amount about the culture which not only makes you a well-rounded individual, but also prepares you for international involvement in a future career. Being exposed to the Chinese culture at such a young age is a great opportunity to prepare for such a future by starting to immerse you in something new that causes you to think about these differences and how that may affect business in the future.

 

The Social Environment of Professional Life

I found that one of the defining characteristics of the social environment of the professionals we encountered in China was a level of seriousness that you don’t find as much in the U.S. Because there is such a large population in China, people have to set themselves apart from a very large crowd to be able to get jobs that let them exercise their skills.  As a result, you tend to see fewer jokes and more concentration on the goals to be met. The fact that university placement is solely determined by test score also contributes to this goal-oriented mindset, because in effect students applying to university don’t have the safety net of extracurriculars that student in the U.S. can use to supplement test scores.

 

Functioning on Multi-Disciplinary Teams

Though our trip was half business and half engineering students I found it very easy to bridge the gap between the two different majors when working together. Both business and engineering majors have specific strengths that allowed us to better complete certain parts of the presentations. For example, in my group we divided up the final presentation based on which subjects were best suited to the skills of a particular business or engineering student. The business majors in my group focused on analyzing the market shares of competing companies, and completing the PEST and SWOT to summarize both the environment in China and how our bargaining app would fit into the market. On the other hand, the engineering majors, myself included, focused on the supply chain of data in this app, the product overview, and the operations of the app. The most important part of working on a multi-disciplinary team is making sure that every individual has the opportunity to showcase their strengths and is not given work unfit for their skill set. In terms of interacting with the business majors in my group, I had no trouble at all, I just think that in a group such as this you have to be respectful of everyone’s abilities and recognize that other people can do things that you can’t and vice versa.

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