Blog post from MEng ’12 Alumnus Chun Ming Chin
Prospective students often face a challenge when deciding to apply to graduate programs. I’ve had many friends ask: “Is it worth the investment? Is this really the direction I want should take?”
I’ll offer my thoughts on how to navigate the decision and remove the external pressures of family, friends or mass media. What helped me was a question I asked myself: Who do I admire? Why do I admire this person?
You do not need to admire engineering celebrities like UC Berkeley’s Steve Wozniak to figure out if the MEng program is right for you. It can be anyone—dead or alive, real or imagined. For example, a person I admire is Bruce Lee. I admire how he created a new martial arts culture and community around his own style, Jeet Kune Do. I also admire how he planned his career such that when he worked on one aspect of his life, every other part of his life benefited. The more he built his body and martial arts discipline, the more awesome he looked in his movies. As more people started talking about his movies, the more publicity he gained for his new martial arts…
Similar to Bruce Lee’s story, I like to be involved in building new cultures around products and services that fundamentally improve the way things are done. A unique facet of the Masters of Engineering program that allowed me to do this was the capstone project. It gave me the opportunity to apply my engineering skills on a real world project to explore new processes in healthcare technology. The core challenge of my project was to make the healthcare ecosystem of hospitals, insurance companies, doctors and patients more cost effective by using technology. Specifically, my team investigated how to use mobile phones to help diabetics better manage their glucose fluctuations. The intent was to replace expensive treatment with more cost effective, preventive glucose monitoring.
The capstone project also exposed me to the importance of understanding the human aspect. I found myself building relationships and seeing the power of the human network. I met entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives around Silicon Valley, like the Vice President of Qualcomm Wireless Health and the Chief Technical Officer of a healthcare IT start up called Happtique. As important was experiencing and better understanding the life challenges that so many people face.
A big takeaway I didn’t expect was the broadening of my horizons from the rich diversity of cultures, interests and skills not only in my capstone team and MEng cohort, but also in the doctorate students in my other classes. I took a machine learning course and worked with math and industrial engineering & operations research PhD students on a financial engineering project. As much as I learned in the classroom, I learned so much though my friends, like the finance lingo I was exposed to in our conversations, or how their Apple stock was performing, or simply learning about their varied interests that were different from my own. I found that it was all connected: like an algorithm I used to analyze diabetes-related data on my capstone project was similar to those used to analyze stock price movements for my machine learning class. Indeed I really found that working hard on one aspect of my life benefited all the other parts of my life, like it did for Bruce Lee.
I am currently working as a program manager with the Windows Phone division. Specifically, I work on the Windows Phone Development Center team (http://www.dev.windowsphone-int.com/en-us) designing features to attract developers to build apps on the Windows Phone platform. Was it worth it? For me it made all the difference.