by Dan Wagner '17, rising junior studying engineering at the University of Colorado-Boulder
As I write this reflection, I am hours away from flying to Oyugis, Kenya, to work on rainwater collection technology that I helped create as CTO of Current Solutions NPC. After a week in Kenya, I return to Boulder to continue developing a vector magnetometer, an extremely sensitive device for measuring magnetic field direction and strength. And finally, I am helping develop a cold gas thruster for the SpaceX Hyperloop competition that will hopefully be test fired at NASA Whitesands Test Facility this summer. My summer is full of opportunities for experience in technical leadership.
This past semester I took a class called Leadership, Fame and Failure. My professor outlined an idea that made sense but one I had never heard before. Experience is not enough to develop technical leadership. Careful study is required. Political, business and intellectual leaders study Caesar, Carnegie and Socrates, but for some reason engineers do not often seriously consider the great leaders of tech. Do not misunderstand. We worship Musk, Zuckerberg, and Jobs, but we do not always consider the reasons behind their success, failure, and ways to improve upon their model.
This is why engineers need to read more. Vicariously, we can live a thousand lives by reading about warriors and prophets, adventurers and poets, presidents and peasants. I used to look down on “the humanities,” but every single engineer, scientist, and entrepreneur deals with the human struggles that "the humanities" tackle, and these struggles can stump us something fierce.
While at SLUH, I sat through Mr. Missey’s discussions, I watched Dr. Callon’s gesticulations, and I remember Dr. Osburg’s quizzes. I was not completely inactive in my high school English classes. I enjoyed our books and discussions, but I did not appreciate how important those classes were until now. All leaders need to read, and some aspiring tech leaders need to catch up. This semester I have tried to always have a book on my nightstand even if I only opened it once a week. Right now, James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty sits on that nightstand. Engineers – we need to read, and learn, more.