Alexandra Ditoro, a current journalism student at Loyola University in Chicago, builds on our last podcast about the academic-practice gap with her interview with Jack Ferguson, a recent graduate of Clemson University and a seal reliability engineer at SEPCO. Alexandra and Jack discuss Jack’s transition from a student to a practitioner, what he felt confident about and what he maybe didn’t feel so confident about as he started his career.
The following is an excerpt from the interview. Read the full transcript here.
Alexandra: So, what are you hoping to gain from your job? Is there a part of the field that you didn't learn in school that you've gained an interest in after graduating?
Jack: Yeah. So, mostly, what I'm looking for is just experience, you know, and just getting that work experience, getting out in the real world, and figuring out how things work outside of a classroom where everything's nice, and neat, and easy. And, really, one of the interesting things about this field is that we didn't learn any of it in school. You know, I never thought about the fact that pumps have seals in them. To us, a pump was a circle in a diagram that had, like, a flow rate going in and a flow rate going out. And so, coming into this industry where all, like, the specific stuff is new to me has been pretty interesting to kinda learn that side of things.
Alexandra: So, if this side of engineering and of manufacturing was something you were unfamiliar with, what made you interested in it? What made you pursue this job? Is there anything about it that made you want to go into this specific area?
Jack: Well, as I was kinda coming out of school, I knew I wanted to go into some sort of manufacturing area, something a little more hands-on. I found I didn't really like design work all that much. And, to be honest, this job was the first job that I was able to get a job offer for after college. And I was told by everybody that it was a great place to work, and that everyone was really nice, and it was interesting. So, that's why I chose to work here.
Alexandra: Great. And since graduating and since coming into this new position, what's the top lesson you've learned since entering the field?
Jack: That things in the field are a lot different than things in the classroom, you know? Where everything in the classroom, like I said before, is nice, and neat, and easy, and organized, in the field, it's just not, and there's so much variation that can go on and so many different things that can happen that if you're just going off of classroom experience, you're not gonna be prepared for it.