A Culture of Learning on the Job and in the Classroom
Mar 31, 2015 News Archive
How do you define learning? Is it the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience or study? Or is it something more? For the past two years, I had and continue to have the privilege of being a part of the ground floor of a start-up engineering company and a part-time faculty member at the University of Houston. Being uniquely part of these two opportunities has helped me reinforce my learning and grow more as a person.
Two years ago, I joined 3DENT as its first intern. It was here that I had my first experience to learn on the job. Being familiar with the software and knowing basic theory was not enough. I learned that you need to know how to apply your knowledge to produce solutions to complex problems quickly because of deadlines. This sometimes involved staying late at work to solve a piece of the puzzle. This was my first experience to learn and learn quickly because there was no other choice. There was no doubt that the workload was intense for the deadlines we had, but the environment was not. Jose Vazquez and Bart Grasso not only were open to questions but took the time to encourage me to ask questions. I felt like I was in a room with two professors trying to finish a senior design project in the span of one week. Not only were they interested in learning what I knew and how I performed, but they were also interested in what was going on in my life. This experience is the reason I joined 3DENT permanently soon after, and I am still glad I made that choice. Through the culture of collaboration, learning, integrity and hard work we’ve created here at 3DENT, we produce high quality work in a highly responsive manner.
I did not predict that another situation could mimic this intense learning experience and rewarding feeling of accomplishment until I started teaching.
I’ve often heard the phrase that “we learn more from teaching…” I did not truly believe this statement until I took a part-time faculty job. Two years ago, my former thesis chair, Dr. Pascali, asked me to take up a part-time teaching job in the University of Houston’s College of Technology. I had recently turned 26 and graduated with my Master’s Degree, so I felt reluctant to take on this task because it seemed intimidating at the time. I was not intimidated by public speaking, but I could not envision being seen as a “professor” by students who were near my age or older. I remember my first class when I walked to the front of the room, a student asked me if I was the TA or teaching assistant. Despite my initial apprehensions and with some encouragement from people I respect, I went for it! I soon understood that I gained the student’s respect when they realized I had knowledge they could benefit from.
I teach a class called Fundamentals of Pipeline Design. I do not know everything when it comes to subsea pipelines, but this is the reason why I push myself to learn – because my students are counting on me to give them the knowledge they paid for. Until you teach a class, you do not realize the preparation time that goes into each lecture. This learn-quickly experience reminded me of my full-time job at 3DENT. When you teach a class that you took the time to prepare for, you receive a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment because you are sharing your knowledge and making a positive impact on future young professionals. Sharing your knowledge not only gives you a feeling of accomplishment, but it also allows opportunities for you to learn.
In summary, I joined 3DENT and agreed to teach a class because I saw the potential to learn and grow, the intense learning situations on the job and teaching a class have helped me grow professionally and personally. To this day, nothing has matched the sense of fulfillment I receive when I submit the final version of a project or finish teaching a 3 to 4 hour lecture. For me, a culture of learning is essential for success in the classroom or in industry.