Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the desk of the new guy … Tom Lee, Chief Education Officer

The Quanser office, on a good day, is a ninety minute drive, each way, from my home in Waterloo, Canada.

As recently as three weeks ago, I had a dream job working with a hundred and twenty talented professionals at the renowned software company, Maplesoft.

About two months ago, I told my wife Sharon that I had decided to leave my dream job (which I had held for over twenty years BTW) to join this other company that she had never heard of. Her response was understandably "So why are you doing this?".

I am 48 years old I have two wonderful children, Eric (fifteen) and Maddi™ (thirteen). My wife Sharon holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy. Her dissertation was on the topic of rights of children to education. At last count, I have visited 433 distinct places in the world. From this, it's easy to see how some of the bigger questions in life begin to haunt my day to day existence. "What is this world going to be like when my kids get older?", "Have I done enough on this planet?", and "If I care so much about the world, why do I keep voting center-right?".

I'm thrilled to have been a part of some pretty amazing journeys so far. In my previous job, I witnessed how a company and a technology fundamentally transformed how mathematics is done in the 21st Century. I am a member of the faculty of a university that was unknown not 70 years ago but today is one of the engines of engineering research innovation. I like to think that some of my past work has made some modest contributions in the global engineering context. And most importantly, I have seen my own passions for one thing or another positively influence my kids' lives and I think I am getting a little closer to answering the question, "Have I been a good father?".

I am thrilled that I have been invited to this next transformational journey. Engineering education has held a very special place in my consciousness, or maybe conscience, since my days as a struggling undergraduate student.

I have known Quanser founder, my friend Dr. Jacob Apkarian, for over a decade. I have always admired his unique combination of engineering bravado and a deeply rooted passion for improving the state of modern engineering education. And, he's a pretty funny guy. Earlier in April, I bumped into him at the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis and we chatted for a long, long, long time about life, the universe, and data acquisition.

So after a long pause, my wife asked me again, "So why are you doing this?". I answered, "You know? I think it'll be fun working with Jacob."

This is going to be one hell of a ride.


Sunny said...

Cool blog Tom! Looking forward to learning from and working with you buddy :)

So, what's your take on the state of global engineering education today? Broad question, I know, I couldn't think of anything else.

Tom 4 said...

... so I'm sitting in a meeting right now watching the world go by and suddenly a few phrases came to my mind that might answer your question ... "Connect the dots" ... "Knowledge in the Loop" ... "Innovation triggers Innovation" ... I'm going to run with this a bit ...