By: Saloni Garg
I still remember sitting in class as a young third grader, being handed a personality questionnaire on the first day of school. I sped through it, writing down my favorite color (mint green, of course), favorite food, favorite hobby etc. until I got to a question that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer: “What’s your Dream Job?” At the time, I thought back to my parents –a software engineer and business owner. Instead of writing down one of these, however, I chose to write “Ice Cream Truck Driver.” Now, that was a fair answer considering I was just a third grader at the time. Through the years, however, I began seeing and hearing this question everywhere in different forms –“What do you want to be when you grow up?”, “What are you thinking about majoring in?”, “Where do you want to work”, “Why are you passionate about this role at our company?”, the list goes on. As the wording of this question changed, so did my response -from ice cream truck driver to entrepreneur, business-owner, mechanical engineer, software developer, teacher, and finally computer engineer (for now).
I’ve found myself constantly in a state of overwhelm in regard to what career I plan to pursue and remain committed to for the rest of my life. My passions have shifted as I engage in different activities from joining engineering classes and business organizations in high school and teaching younger kids how to code in my free time, to becoming a member of different RSO’s and opportunities on campus. Although, while deciding on what major to pursue during the college application period, settling on computer engineering was not a tough decision. I enjoyed all of my technical classes during high school, loved to learn about new technology, and had a job I enjoyed that was related to all of this –all the necessary boxes were checked. In the back of my mind, however, I knew my true motives for choosing this path had to do with the feasibility and security of gaining success in the future, while still being somewhat passionate about the work I’d be doing. On paper, this seems like the ideal method of pursuing a lifelong career. At least, that’s what I believed until I reached college, and began to notice a slight pattern with the order in which I completed my assignments, the organizations I joined, and the sheer number of times I considered switching majors. Freshman year, along with the classes I was required to take as per my major, I chose to sign up for TE 100 -Introduction to Innovation, Leadership, and Engineering Entrepreneurship. In addition to this, I rushed and pledged a professional business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta(PCT). Although I enjoyed learning about assembly language, discrete structures, C++, etc. in my computer engineering classes, being able to apply my knowledge about these different forms of technology to my experiences in TE100 and PCT felt even more rewarding. It began to feel like I was finally able to cohesively piece the different passions I held together.
When I realized I didn’t have to stay boxed into one specific type of career that strictly correlated with the major I chose to study, that constant feeling of panic began to die down. I started looking further into different opportunities on campus that allowed me to continue combining my passions, and that’s when I stumbled upon the Hoeft Technology and Management Program. Until discovering the existence of this program and everything it offered to students across the University of Illinois campus, I didn’t realize so many students were in the same exact shoes as me. Learning about all the different ways that companies combine innovation, technology, and business into their projects through the T&M seminar opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of career choices. With that, I knew that even if I ended up pursuing a career that I didn’t feel satisfied with, I’d been spending my high school and college career building up my experiences to have the flexibility to change that at any point in my life. So, bringing it back to the question of what my “dream job” is, I’m still figuring that out and will most likely continue to for years into the future. I now know, however, that I do not need to feel restricted to a single “dream job” and have an endless number of opportunities available to me to shape my future in whichever way I wish to do.