My Thoughts Post-Plus3 China

Today’s featured image is a pink rose from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Ethical Issues in My Profession:

As an engineer, ethical issues are always a concern. The solutions that engineers develop touch the lives of millions of people, like the Microsoft Office package and TE Connectivity’s electronics components. People around the world incorporate specimens of technology and innovation into their everyday work and personal lives – I mean, we had a whole study abroad trip on smartphones – and the failure to act ethically as engineers and as businesspeople when developing solutions, when marketing products, and when directing a business can have a serious effect on ourselves, our colleagues, and our friends, family, and customers. During my time in China, I realized how prevalent the selling of consumer data is and the ambivalence of the issue; the data can help businesses to better direct their operations and to personalize for the consumer, but that data was still generated by someone and possibly used without their understanding or approval. Another curious issue I thought of was human quality checking of electronics parts. I imagine that the quality of the products is just fine, but I wondered how meticulous the human workers were in assessing the pieces; I contemplated whether their job is to check how the product looks or to fully analyze the suitability of each part. And if their role is to appearance check, then do the parts that they check get thoroughly assessed at all? Thus, ethical issues can arise in any context and any form and, controversial as they may be, have power to influence the overall success and contentment surrounding a business and a product.

Educational Breadth as Professional Development:

I believe that a solid foundation is necessary to build professionally. This doesn’t mean that a person has to know every detail about everything, but it means that the person ought to be well-rounded in their education and consequently in their thinking. In one context, it could imply that an engineer has a measure of proficiency in business and vice versa. In another context, this could be going to China, like we have with Plus3. This trip opened my eyes to the professional realm in a different country and enlightened me in the areas of both business and engineering, taking my education as an engineering student across borders and disciplines. Education is composed of what we learn in the classroom and what we learn from our careers, our time in the workplace, and our experiences in the world outside of school and work. To develop a cohesive business plan for our final projects, we had to string together knowledge gained as engineering students, as business students, as aspiring professionals peeling back industry in China, and as global citizens soaking up what we could of Chinese culture. Education for our personal and professional benefit expands through space literally and figuratively.

Lifelong Learning, Continuing Education as Professional Development:

Education also grows temporally. As we have witnessed in China, everything is changing rapidly – lifestyles, cities, industries, technology. To stay on par as people in a globalized society and as professionals living, working, and watching as innovation explodes, we need to continue to learn culturally and technologically. The key word here is “continue.” If our learning and education stops, we suddenly become unable to advance technology and to innovate, develop, and grow, and we begin to find that we can’t connect socially and professionally anymore with people around the world because we don’t and won’t understand their lives, their needs, and their problems, which are factors that inspire business ventures and human-centered engineering design

The Social Environment of Professional Life:

As professionals, we will exert a lot of energy and time in the places where we work and in networking with other professionals and with coworkers. In terms of places, the companies that we visited in China appeared all over the spectrum of work environment. Cheetah Mobile was a wondrous world of amenities, sun-drenched work spaces, and cozy corners to work and to rest. At the other end resides TE Connectivity with the hum and whir of machinery as the soundtrack of workers’ livelihoods as they operate machine after machine or spend the workday examining parts. In both places, the task at hand was completed. However, a comfortable and reasonably accommodating workplace is certainly conducive to maximizing workers’ potentials, enabling them to work productively with the promise of a fun, relaxing break. Coming to China, as I mentioned in one of my posts, I almost expected to see factory after factory extending into the horizon, but what I found instead were cities brimming with social and professional interaction, where an array of businesses and institutions served the needs and desires of the populace: produce shops, universities, marketplaces, R&D centers, manufacturers, and more. In terms of people, I was surprised by how many CEOs, heads of departments, and other company leaders offered their time to present their companies to us and to guide us through tours of the facilities. In the professional world, stamping a good impression of your company and of yourself as a representative of your company represents one of the crucial factors involved in networking and in piecing together an image of a company and its vision. An intricate but stable network can unlock professional opportunities. In the workplace, with our Plus3 group as a microcosm, the ability to work with peers and superiors leads to a cohesive business where objectives are achieved with healthy competition and cooperation.

Functioning on Multi-Disciplinary Teams:

Time and time again at company visits, I observed how employees had specialized in a specific area of a certain domain, but how it would be necessary for them to understand the other components – business, engineering, etc. – of the company. Even as an engineering student, I realized the prevalence of engineering and business in industry during my time in China and the importance of one to the other. Just as we live in a globalized society where interactions occur across cultures and account for the diversity of the people involved, so we work in industries where teams comprise people from a myriad of career paths winding through a variety of disciplines. Occasionally, it can be difficult to understand how a psychologist approached a problem as opposed to a statistician, but the range of perspectives brings new ideas, new approaches, and new knowledge that deepen the pool of opportunity for solving a problem. Multi-disciplinary teams aid in our social and professional development; as members of them, we learn to communicate and to think across disciplines, broadening our own and others’ skills and perspectives. In the process of cross-disciplinary teamwork, collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines enriches each team member and increases the chances for success on a project.

A Note from Me:

Thank you for reading through my blog posts from my two weeks on Plus3 China! I hope that my posts gave you a taste of China while taking you along my journey each day. I just want to say that if you’re presented with the opportunity to go to China, go. The culture shock may grip you at first, but the adventure is worth the wonder and outweighs the troubles. In only two weeks, I learned so much more about China culturally, professionally, economically, etc. than I had imagined I would. The world is an endlessly fascinating place, and I’m thrilled to have been able to join Pitt Plus3 on this year’s adventure to China!

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