We are continuing our multi-part interview series for Engineers Week with Mark Majka. Mark is a licensed electrical engineer with more than 35 years of experience in the high voltage power industry.
Q: What advice would you share with someone wanting to become an engineer, or what is a piece of advice that you received and found helpful?
Mark Majka: If you are still in college, either co-op or get into an internship program. If you can’t, try to get into some rotating work within the company you join. There is “book smart,” but I believe you need to have field experience if you really want to be a good engineer.
Q: What three traits do you think characterize an engineer?
MM: Leadership. Detailed person. Always formulating a plan and a backup plan.
Q: What phrase or word has never been the same since you became an engineer?
MM: “Would you bet your life on it?” My career was in the transmission group within this electric utility. I was surrounded by very high, deadly voltages in [the] KV range. 4.16kV seemed like it was no big deal. Well, it’s not!
I was once given a task to confirm nameplate information on a piece of electrical equipment…I almost attempted to confirm the nameplate information using a make-shift mirror to read this information that was mounted on the back.
I was discussing my idea with a field technician, and I kept saying, “I’ll be okay, no big deal.”
The technician gave me a look “that could kill” and said “Would You Bet Your Life on It?” That phrase stuck with me the rest of my career and still does to this day.
Q: Is there a person who inspired you to become an engineer, or was there a moment that was a turning point where you realized you wanted to become an engineer?
MM: I went to vocational school to become a “blue collar” electrician. I got a job in my senior year of high school from 3:30 – 1:00am re-winding small motors making $3.10/hour.
I lasted three weeks. I realized that I needed to go to college, but I liked doing electrical work with my hands.I thought about being an electrical technician, but a professor said to me that an “engineer can do [a] technician’s work,” but a “technician cannot do [an] engineer’s work.”
What Is Engineers Week?
Engineers Week is an annual event that the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) established in 1951 to promote interest in STEM careers and encourage the growth of a diverse, well-educated engineering workforce.