I remember when I decided to go to school to become an engineer. My passion was to learn how to create things that could change the world and improve the quality of life of the people in my city. I lived in one of the smallest states in a developing country that is the 4th oil producer in the world. While several states were rich in resources and industries, our state had no resources at all. I was sure that becoming an engineer could give me the creativity that I required to create breakthrough technology that could make our state rich and famous. Somehow along the journey my passion for changing the world changed and I became a very good industrial engineer interested in productivity and maximization of profits while minimizing the use of resources in organization. I left my state to work in industry in one of the richest states in the country.
Several years after that I decided to do a MBA my initial plan was to understand as much as possible the business world in order to be able to promote more ethical practices in big organizations. Somehow also along the journey I ended up being a talent manager for one of the biggest multinational companies that by the way is not that good with its ethical practices (although is way better than most of its competitors).
I think there is a serious problem with higher education. Every time I ask my students why they want to be engineers, they all have very interesting reasons: Change the world, develop new sources of sustainable energy, improve water consumption, create technology that help people around the world to learn how to write and read. However, when I ask senior students their plans as future engineers the responses are always related to make money, have recognition, or just obtain a big job on a very well known company. Somehow we are changing our students passion for what we think is the reality of the job market.
The situation not only apply to engineering, it also applies to business, art, language, and as we have seen medicine.
I don’t think we can dehumanize students. No matter the profession or the reason we are humans we live with emotions and the most we try to repress the emotions the worst we can explote under pressure. With this I’m not saying that we should be bringing every single detail of our lives to our work environment, but for sure we need to recognize what we are and how we feel.
We need more professionals that have empathy and recognize the problems of the world and are able to be sensitive about the issues people can be facing under different circumstances.
One thing we can do to put our two cents is to talk with our students a lot about their feelings, about the different situations that they may face and about how can be ok to deal with the realities of others.
We need a world that is more human, we need more professionals with passion for changing the world!