In my past two weeks in Korea, there have been many interesting experiences—some that I thought I never would have experienced, such as taking a tour of the Hyundai vehicle plant. All of the companies that my group had gone to visit shared some similar qualities. Primarily, they all valued ethics in their field. As an engineer, I’ve learned my fair share about ethics in college and also throughout living life in noticing what is right and what is wrong. However, there are always issues with ethics regarding engineering. It’s typically not a clear answer whether or not something is ethical, which is why there are so many guidelines towards something being ethical. An example that is somewhat relevant would be how companies back in the day were against air bags because they were too pricey and not effective enough to warrant the cost of implementing them in every new car. However, shouldn’t the safety of the user be put first no matter what? Of course, we all know how this debate ended, and thankfully it did end in the more ethical side of the debate. However, there are issues like this going on all the time in the modern world where it is up to a group or a company to decide, ethically, what the future of their product will look like and how it betters the user.
As far as a company’s team goes, there is definitely a wide breadth of education among peers and also among oneself. Of course, there are those that are specialized in a company. But more often than not, I believe, is that a single person has a general knowledge of many things. In my experience in college, even though I am a computer engineer, I had to take Chemistry I and Chemistry II just to ensure that I was a well-rounded individual that knew my way around the world and the workplace in terms of needed chemistry knowledge. What I mean by a wide breadth among peers in a company is that even though there may be many specialized people in a company, they all form together to form a wide array of knowledge that can be applied to many problems.
I’ve also learned that learning is not just something that is for high school and college only. If one really wants to be in the top of their field, then they must be constantly learning and updating their knowledge to keep up with the research of the times. For example, as a computer engineer, there are constantly new developments in this field. So as I proceed with my life and as I, hopefully, proceed with a job in my major I will have to constantly be updating my knowledge of the new computers and their processes. I would have to be on top of the new graphics card, CPU, and memory technology. Though my trip made this professional development topic a certainty, it was definitely something that I had thought of being a necessity beforehand.
On the topic of professionalism, I’ve learned quite a bit about the social environment in professional life. Of course there are opportune times to be social and chat with your fellow workers, but most of the time one would be doing more work than chatting. In some companies, it is encouraged to work in teams and freely communicate among each other, but sometimes there are limitations to what one may be able to say. Even though teams are present, there may be factors, such as a cultural hierarchy, that limits what one is able to say to another or how they say it. This was definitely the case in South Korea. There is a very prevalent cultural hierarchy that limits what one is able to say to their superiors. It also changes expectations. On one company visit, a CEO who was American was leading a team of South Koreans. They had wanted him to settle a debate that they were having being whether or not the workers should show up at 8 AM or 9 AM due to traffic. The CEO then said that they can come in at whichever time best suits them and that they would just stay an hour later if they came in an hour later. The workers were baffled that they had this type of authority and were slightly confused. If this debate were in America, then there would be no confusion.
Lastly, as said previously, in professional life there are always teams that are formed to better accomplish a task, whether this be because it is more efficient to have more people on a single task or that a single task requires multiple minds in order to solve. More often than not, these teams are multidisciplinary, being that there are many different specializations needed to solve whatever problem the team may be working on. I’ve learned a slight bit on this topic through working in my group to complete a final presentation. The presentation combined aspects of both business and engineering to create a product that could be marketed to the South Korean people. As far as working in multidisciplinary teams goes, it wasn’t too different than working in teams with those that are trying to specialize in similar topics as myself. I think that the key to a functioning team, whether it be multidisciplinary or not, is proper communication. In the professional world, without proper communication we would get nowhere.