Early-Career Advice for Global Development Engineers


Megan Richardson is a mechanical engineer early in her career who maneuvered into the global development technology field right from the beginning. Before she began her Research Fellowship at Engineering for Change (E4C) in 2018, Richardson had deep experience in engineering for global development earned through the U.S. Peace Corps.

She had graduated from the Peace Corps Masters International program at Oregon State University, where she studied mechanical engineering and applied her education to work in Tanzania.

“During my graduate studies I had the opportunity to really dive into the field of global development by living and working abroad in a small village for over two years. This period was the ultimate learning experience; through immersion I better understood how to listen and collaborate directly with community members,” Richardson said.

Following completion of E4C’s Research Fellowship, Richardson now works within the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

“This group was created to help overcome complex, global humanitarian crises through deep problem understanding, quantitative analysis, and innovative technical solutions,” Richardson said. “Day-to-day, I work through iterative design processes to develop water and energy solutions for humanitarian relief, or I contribute to quantitative analyses to support organizations in their focusing and delivery of aid relief.”

This work as a Research Fellow helped prepare her for her current role, she said.

“The E4C fellowship was a great stepping stone as I transitioned from graduate research into the professional world of engineering for global development,” Richardson said. “Gaining both a broad understanding of technology for development along with a focused expertise of sanitation solutions prepared me for a role that tackles new and unexpected humanitarian engineering challenges daily.”

E4C’s Research Fellows investigate products that meet basic needs in emerging markets and other underserved regions. We call them ‘essential technologies.’ The research results in new entries in Engineering for Change’s Solutions Library, a database of products described in standardized format for side-by-side comparison.

The Solutions Library is designed as a tool for global development practitioners. Richardson continues to use the database in her work today.

“The Solutions Library has become a great tool for me to investigate innovation technology when I begin to brainstorm technology-driven solutions to emerging challenges,” she said. “In addition to having contributed to the library, I’m very aware of important features and technical aspects during product design to ensure that my prototypes are designed with the specific setting of use in mind.”

Experiences gained with the Research Fellowship remain relevant, Richardson said.

“The fellowship created an amazing network of people around the world who are all passionate about engineering for global development,” she said. “I continue to look forward to hearing about each of the fellows’ work and projects as they grow in their fields, and I love knowing I have a great support group as I move forward in my own career. I would strongly recommend this fellowship for those who are passionate about using their engineering backgrounds for global good.”

Rob Goodier is the news editor at Engineering for Change.
This article was first published at engineeringforchange.org. Read the original version here.