A Felon's Journey to Becoming an Engineer

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In summary, the ex-felon with an engineering degree is in high demand due to the need for more diversity in the work force. Getting good grades and not being racist should help overcome any barriers to getting a job.
  • #1
I've been to prison twice in my life, both times for robbery. The first time i did about 15 months, the last time i did 10 years! I was a drug abuser from a very young age.I started smoking pot at 14 or 15 and doing cocaine at 18. Iamb in my 30's now. going to prison for ten years has change my life. while behind bars i discovered that i love math and science. so while i was incarcerated i used that time to educate myself. i came from a ged level education to college. i learned a lot of math on my own. my family would send me textbooks and i would spend all the time i could studying. i was into books so much that the some of the other inmates used to tease me about it. i read voraciously too everything from Alexander Solzintsyn and George Polya to Noam Chompsky and Toni Morrison. i love intelectual things! Now I'm an undegrad (I was released on 10/1/03) studying engineering and possibly i'll double major in mathematics too. my question is who in the world is going to hire me as an engineer? I'm an african american and a convicted felon that's a double whammy! I excell in school and I'm always among the top students in any class that I've taken. but i can't help but envy the squeaky clean white guys that are barely passing but when it comes time for a job i'll be overlooked for them. I'm expecting to graduate with above a 3.5 average but with my record i don't think that that wil make much of a difference to most employers. what can i do to improve my chances of landing an engineering job? what i did was wrong but i paid for it. believe me I've paid dearly! now i just want to be a normal tax paying citizen like everyone else.
 
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  • #2
First of all, I'm going to smack you silly, shake you up like a ragged doll, and walk right up to your face and ask "under what rock have you been living?"

An african-american, with an engineering degree, and not only that, a GOOD engineering degree, is snapped up like nobody's business! The need of many businesses and companies to diversify the work environment, and the various incentives to hire minorities, have made someone like you unbelievably in demand! And not only that, with your grades, you could easily be hired without invoking any "preferential" hiring policies.

The fact that you are an ex-fellon who actually managed to turn your life around is not a disadavantage, but an advantage! It may not get you any Q-clearence jobs, but I will be very surprised if, given the situation and the explanation, many companies wouldn't find it highly desirable to hire someone like you.

There are many things you can't control. How you would be perceived when you apply for a job is one of them. I would suggest you let fate and the future take care of themselves. The ONLY thing you can control is what you do with your own life and the decision you make. Get your degree and then deal with whatever comes your way.

Zz.
 
  • #3
JimmI_Hendrix said:
I'm an african american and a convicted felon that's a double whammy! I excell in school and I'm always among the top students in any class that I've taken. but i can't help but envy the squeaky clean white guys that are barely passing but when it comes time for a job i'll be overlooked for them.

Getting good grades is going ot hugely make up for ex-felon status. Race is also not really an issue when it comes down to it, regardless of what some people want ot tell you. For 1, most people semi-intelligent people are over racism (and there the ones probably reviewing applications). And I am very sure you won't be overlooked by a bunch of slackers. I have a cousin who actually had an engineering degree and "barely passed" and he's a highly successful... wal-mart cashier lol. Couldn't get hired.
 
  • #4
thank you. as much as i used to hate to say it, maybe going to prison was the best thing that could have happened to me. I see a lot of people that i used to hang out with still doing drugs and going in and out of jail. I'm glad that I don't live like that anymore. maybe i'll be a testimony to someone else.
 
  • #5
Hi JimmI, welcome to PF and kudos to you for turning your life around!

I don't think you'll have much problem getting a job, if you let the positive attitude you have come through in your job interviews, you should be just fine. :smile:
 
  • #6
JimmI_Hendrix said:
I'm an african american and a convicted felon that's a double whammy!
You don't have to disclose the fact that you were in jail when applying. If they ask about your past in the interview you have the chance to convince them that you are the right person for the job, even though you did time.
 
  • #7
Monique said:
You don't have to disclose the fact that you were in jail when applying. If they ask about your past in the interview you have the chance to convince them that you are the right person for the job, even though you did time.


I think that i do have to tell them about my past. i have never applied for a "white collar" job but for the other jobs I've had one of the first questions on the application is "have you ever been convicted of a crime". Even when i applied to the university that i attend on the app they asked have i ever been convicted of a crime.
 
  • #8
JimmI_Hendrix said:
Even when i applied to the university that i attend on the app they asked have i ever been convicted of a crime.
I'm not sure, but are they allowed to ask for such information?
 
  • #9
Monique said:
You don't have to disclose the fact that you were in jail when applying. If they ask about your past in the interview you have the chance to convince them that you are the right person for the job, even though you did time.

In the US - you do need to disclose for most jobs. And some employers will make you take a drug test in order to finalize your hiring.
 
  • #11
Man, I seriously believe you could be the reincarnation of Malcolm X.. :)
 
  • #12
I know I've seen questions as such on fast-food job applications, but I think it'll make less of a difference if you were to get a professional engineering job; I think you can prove yourself to your employer..

Anyway, that was a pretty awesome story.. hope everything turns out well!
 
  • #13
Therse a lot of companies now offering on-line background checks on people so whether they ask or not, I am sure they would find out.
 
  • #14
I just have to say, I think it is so great that you've finally found something you're really interested in, and can steer your life in a constructive direction.

I wouldn't worry too much about future job prospects, though; practically all industry is screaming after qualified technical staff.

I wish you the very best in the future.
 
  • #15
JimmI_Hendrix said:
I think that i do have to tell them about my past. i have never applied for a "white collar" job but for the other jobs I've had one of the first questions on the application is "have you ever been convicted of a crime". Even when i applied to the university that i attend on the app they asked have i ever been convicted of a crime.
Here in the US I have never seen a job application that didn't ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. Answering no can result in immediate dismissal if you are hired and a background check shows you lied. Not answering the question will result in them asking you to answer and raising a red flag or tossing out your application without even giving you the chance to interview.

Better to be honest, and explain what happened.

My company posted some job adds in a few papers a few years ago when I worked in New Jersey, we received over 90,000 resumes for 5 positions of which around 8,000 were forwarded to our department for review by our employment office. I was asked to help weed through them and select which would be invited for an interview. We didn't even bother to read any which were on colored paper, had serrated edges, were more than 2 pages long, or had cutesy fonts or designs. We were actually pitching them into a corner of a room behind a large plant. The next killer was typographical and/or grammatical errors. We didn't even bother to read what the qualifications of the applicant were if they didn't have the brains to appear professional.

Take advantage of any professional resume writing and interviewing techniques your school may offer.
 
  • #16
Evo said:
We didn't even bother to read any which were on colored paper, had serrated edges, were more than 2 pages long, or had cutesy fonts or designs.

haha beautiful!

If i had that job, id have a bonfire and throw all the resumes that weren't plainly printed in black and white into the fire :D Any wrinkle would get the fire too... any even possible shade of color would get burnt too.
 
  • #17
I've met a lot of people in prison who given the chance could excel in the free world. the thing about prison is there really is no emphasis on getting the guys educated at least in florida. for example at the second prison camp i was at, this was in the mid 90's, i was a ged tutor and i was starting to learn algebra so i needed a calculator so that i could do the trigonometry and evaluate transcendtal functions etc... so when i talked to the administration about it they said that i could'nt get a calculator because it would be a security threat! but the softball bats and horseshoes down at the recreation area were not. i was very upset because i felt that they wanted to hold me back from learning as much as i could. but shortly after that i was trasferred to another camp and they let me get a ti-89. I was lucky. During the entire time that i was incarcerated i was the only person that had a calculator. they even had a rule that you could not receive any hard cover books in the mail but that one was changed in 98 i think.
 
  • #18
Evo said:
Here in the US I have never seen a job application that didn't ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony.
Really? I must be confused with something else then, maybe the regulations are different in Europe. For sure I know an interviewer can't ask a woman whether she is planning to get pregnant, same in the US?
 
  • #19
Evo said:
We didn't even bother to read any which were on colored paper, had serrated edges, were more than 2 pages long, or had cutesy fonts or designs. We were actually pitching them into a corner of a room behind a large plant.

You mean that if I have cute Mickey ears border on my resume, you would chuck them out? Evo, I'm hurt!

:)

Zz.
 
  • #20
Evo said:
My company posted some job adds in a few papers a few years ago when I worked in New Jersey, we received over 90,000 resumes for 5 positions of which around 8,000 were forwarded to our department for review by our employment office. I was asked to help weed through them and select which would be invited for an interview. We didn't even bother to read any which were on colored paper, had serrated edges, were more than 2 pages long, or had cutesy fonts or designs. We were actually pitching them into a corner of a room behind a large plant. The next killer was typographical and/or grammatical errors. We didn't even bother to read what the qualifications of the applicant were if they didn't have the brains to appear professional.

I like to perfume my resume. :wink:
 
  • #21
ZapperZ said:
You mean that if I have cute Mickey ears border on my resume, you would chuck them out? Evo, I'm hurt!

:)

Zz.
Those I tucked away and followed up on personally. :tongue2:

Monique said:
For sure I know an interviewer can't ask a woman whether she is planning to get pregnant, same in the US?
Yes, questions of that nature aren't allowed.
 
  • #22
JimmI_Hendrix said:
so when i talked to the administration about it they said that i could'nt get a calculator because it would be a security threat! but the softball bats and horseshoes down at the recreation area were not.
Sometimes they just don't think things through clearly, I'm glad that you got moved.
 
  • #23
Monique said:
Really? I must be confused with something else then, maybe the regulations are different in Europe. For sure I know an interviewer can't ask a woman whether she is planning to get pregnant, same in the US?

Is there some similarity between getting pregnant and being convicted of a felony? :eek:
 
  • #24
Yah, you've lost your freedom for a few years lol
 
  • #25
That is somewhat of a pity..

I think the prison systems have too much emphasis on punishment (which accomplishes nothing per se), rather than helping prisoners become functional members of society once again.
 
  • #26
Well unfortunately there's far too many people in the system that are there because they chose not to be functional members of society for re-form to ever be a practical idea.
 
  • #27
I'm not against punishing people when they break the law. There are definitely some people in prison who deserve to be there ( i was one of them) but once a person is making a change it seems that society is unwilling to help and allocate resources to make change possible. The funny thing about american society is that we glorify violence in some ways. 50 cent the rapper is more than welcome at Rebok's coporate offices because he sells millions of records and helps them sell shoes. His lyrics are violent and one of his most popular songs was "How to rob". But would Rebok be willing to hire a real life ex-con who's not famous? Are they investing in inner cities?
 
  • #28
I'm not against punishing people when they break the law. There are definitely some people in prison who deserve to be there ( i was one of them) but once a person is making a change it seems that society is unwilling to help and allocate resources to make change possible. The funny thing about american society is that we glorify violence in some ways. 50 cent the rapper is more than welcome at Rebok's coporate offices because he sells millions of records and helps them sell shoes. His lyrics are violent and one of his most popular songs was "How to rob". But would Rebok be willing to hire a real life ex-con who's not famous? Are they investing in inner cities?


I don't think that this could be any more true. In fact, under pressure, Reebok had to pull an ad in which 50 is shown jumproping and counting down the number of times he was shot. Gun control groups had a field day with the ad, and I'm personally glad it was never released, being nothing more than complete gratification of violence. I'm proud of you for turning your life around by the way, and find similarity in both of our stories, since I've actually done some time myself, and found it in me to turn it around as well, and am now attending a UC college. Keep your interest in science well fed, and you'll never look back...
 
  • #29
thanks Gza. I'm glad that I'm not an anamoly. How much time did you do?
 
  • #30
Yah but too bad you can't ban rap or restrict it. That'll be "Trampling free speech for an entire cultural experience!"
 
  • #31
Banning rap wouldn't accomplish anything. It would just piss off a lot of people and they'd find other ways to listen to it.

I'm glad to hear you skyrocketed like that JimmI. But your calculator problem actually shows that it's not that society doesn't want to help you out, it's just that they are too lazy to do it. Why go through the trouble of filling out paper work when they could just say "no" instead?

PL
 
  • #32
This reminds me of a book: Les Miserables. Read it. It kicks ass.
 
  • #33
gnome said:
Is there some similarity between getting pregnant and being convicted of a felony? :eek:
There is: privacy of information, some questions cannot be asked during an interview or on an application.

There was a controversy some time ago where it was questioned whether a person convicted of a felony, who has finished the sentence, needs to inform the surrounding community. The point was that when someone has done time, they have been punished and they should not continue to pay for it by stigmatization. The problem was with convicted child-molesters. The fact that the community could not be warned if such a person moved into their area, led to the controversy that children became victim of that molester. The community then demanded for the laws to be changed so that when a person had done time for child-molestation, they'd be warned of that fact.
 
  • #34
Child Molesters are a breed all their own. I was actually incarcerated right next to Florida's Jimmy Rice center where Florida houses the worst of the worst sexual offenders. No one likes child molesters, myself included. But i don't like the Jimmy Rice law that let's Florida "Detain" sexual offenders indefinitely until a psychiatrist deems them recovered from treatment. So a person sentenced to say 5 years can theoretically be held for life. I think the new law is a lot more fair. If a person is conviced of a sex crime involving a child the sentence is 25 years to life in prison, and if released on parole they will be monitered for the rest of their lives by G.P.S. At lest this new law let's them know up front what the punishmet is. Jimmy Rice is unfair in the way that it's used, the government can decide who needs to be detained in a piecemeal way which leads to prosicutorial misconduct. On the flip side of the sex crime issue is the 19 or 20 year old guy who slept with an underage girl he met in a club that was supposed to chech her ID and make sure that she was an adult. I know someone who that happened to and now he's a registered sex offender.
 
  • #35
What if you had a long-time girlfriend who is 1 year younger than you? When you reach 18, what happens?

Anyway I'm very glad you could turn your life around, JimmI, and I'm sure you will excel at your future endeavours.

On a curious note: if you were a convicted fellon and were in prison, are you eligible for professorship?
 

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