“I wish I could do more”: A qualitative meta-analysis of early career engineers' perceptions of agency in their workplaces

Benjamin David Lutz, Nathan E. Canney, Samantha Ruth Brunhaver

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Engineering students graduate from their programs with a broad range of skills that are set by professional societies, industry recommendations, and other stakeholders in student success. But when those engineers enter their jobs, how are those skills utilized and nurtured by the organizations they enter? The purpose of this paper is to present a cross-sectional, secondary qualitative analysis of research exploring the experiences of recent engineering graduates as they move from student to professional. Of particular interest were the ways engineers describe their autonomy or sense of choice, the way engineers recognize and make sense of their organizations' values, and the alignment (or lack thereof) between personal values and those of their organization. To do so, qualitative data sets from three different studies of engineers' experiences at various stages in their professional trajectories were combined and thematically analyzed, producing four major themes that speak to the ways engineers perceive their sense of agency in their work experiences. Looking across data sets, themes emerged regarding empowerment, organizational fit, and workplace expectations. While these themes were common across the studies included in the analysis, the way the themes manifested across data sets raises interesting questions about the formation of engineers and the socialization experiences that contribute to that formation. As research on engineering practice continues to develop, it is important that researchers consider where engineers are within their career trajectory and how that influences their perceptions about the work they do and the agency they have within organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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