Have Luggage, Will Travel

My suitcase measures 30” x 24” x 12”.

When living out of a duffel bag for six weeks at a time in Asia and Europe, certain basic engineering principles such as void volume begin to have particular resonance when you’re just 0.5 kg away from being rewarded with an overweight luggage charge.

When I was invited to write the Young Engineer blog for the NSPE, I was thrilled at the chance to wax poetic (or at the very least, blog poetic) about the engineering life, locally and globally, from a Young Engineer’s perspective.

Let’s start with a handshake.

My name is Austin S. Lin and I am a 32 year old chemical engineer in the consumer goods industry where I manage quality and engineering projects for a global manufacturing base. This means mostly that I get to visit lots and lots of factories in different countries and that I spend more days falling asleep in airplanes and hotel rooms than on my own living room couch. On the same “day,” I have had breakfast in San Francisco, lunch in Seoul, dinner in Hong Kong.

It’s an exciting time to be a young engineer.

Walt Disney was right. We do live in a small world (and it’s getting smaller…or at least flattera laTom Friedman). Young engineers are more international than we have ever been. Functions such as programming, product design, artwork, and plant engineering that used to be down the hall from each other may now be literally thousands of miles away, strewn across cultures and geographies. These distances come with the costs of differences in language and exchange rates, differences in the application of technical standards, differences in environmental regulations. But despite the differences, there is a unifying element of young engineers and no, it’s not the high tolerance for sleep deprivation.

We are unified by a new promise of opportunity, of being fortunate to see the modern era of invention redefined in a world that is increasingly connected, of feeling like we have an endless supply of aspirations that we hope to tap in order to see science and innovation interact with technology in a way that is most beneficial to society.

Your professor was right—we still have to make sure we’re calculating using the correct units. The only difference is that the people working with you on your project aren’t sitting across from each other in the university library over a pizza anymore. We are living in different time zones. We are communicating internationally via instant messaging and email in the wee hours of the night. We are mastering all those cool new features in Skype. International teleconferencing: when else can you compare product specifications designed in the U.S. against production data generated in Frankfurt while eating a club sandwich in your pajamas in a Shanghai hotel room?

We have luggage, will travel, and have packed our experience and technological knowledge to bring along with us.

30” x 24” x 12”.

As real estate goes, my bag is not the most spacious, but the construction, the weather resistant material, and the hardened rubber wheels make for a good temporary home.

Hoping the property value increases soon.

Maybe I can at least upgrade to a larger suitcase.

Published August 31, 2009 by Austin Lin

Filed under: travel, international, Tom Freidman,

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributable to the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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