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 Ves structured his lecture to achieve several goals. Alongside hitting the points that Professor Nxi wanted him to address, he also snuck in another objective.

Right now, he was slowly building up to that point.

\"The market isn't fair and so isn't life.\" Ves continued his lecture. \"To become an independent is not the best solution for everyone. The risks are too high and so is the price. Becoming a dependent may not be the most prestigious direction you can take in your career, but plenty of Masters have emerged after building up their competences by working for the military or a great mech company.\"

Ves waved his hand, causing the statistics projected above him to disappear.

\"The reason why I hammer the need to assess your strengths and weaknesses is because only by knowing where you stand will you know what you need to stand on your own. If you blindly proceed to start your own business without knowing you are bad at mechanics for example, all of your mechs will be far too shoddily put together to be worth purchasing!\"

He had witnessed far too many marginal mech designers who barely eke out an existence from a single mech workshop. He did not want the students here to enter the market with hopeful ideas, only to end up as a zombie in the brutal mech industry.

\"Cherish your time at Rawlings. You only have a set amount of years to build up your foundation. The competences you acquire during your studies here determine the starting point of your career in the mech industry. Now, those of you who have done well and are capable of doing more won't have anything to worry about. As for those of you with average grades, I'm sorry, but you just won't cut it if you start off on your own. The difference between you and those with better results is that the latter is much more capable of differentiating their products!\"

When Ves tied the academic results of the students to the chances of succeeding in becoming an independent, he brought the lesson much closer to home!

While the academic workload of Rawlings was quite high compared to more standard mech universities, most students were able to keep up due to passing through the strict selection process.

Yet keeping up was not the same as excelling in their studies! Only a portion of them truly took to their courses like fish to water! For everyone else, achieving higher-than-average grades was already a win in their books!

However, in the majority of the cases, the level of determination and learning ability demonstrated by the average students simply didn't cut it! When they finally tried to make something of themselves in the mech market, they would probably wish they exhibited a lot more drive and urgency in making the best of their time at Rawlings!

As Ves kept painting a bleaker picture with his words, he finally offered a form of salvation.

\"This is not the end, though. Far from it. Mech designers are needed everywhere. Rawlings students such as you are unlikely to be demoted to fabricators, repairers or any of the other side professions related to mechs. The government, military and existing mech companies all have a need for diligent mech designers who can dutifully fill up their design teams.\"

Numerous Rawlings students definitely appeared to be considering their plans. Ves had managed to convince at least some of his audience to reconsider their ill-thought plans to start their own mech companies.

He smiled. \"Is becoming an independent the end of a mech designer's career path? Far from it! There is nothing wrong with borrowing the strength of a stronger employer to overcome your shortcomings. The only thing you need to take into account is that you only have so much time to progress and make something of yourself!\"

A mech designer could never have enough time!

\"From what I've found out, the employment prospects of Rawlings graduates is excellent. The reputation of your school is deservingly high and each of you who pass all of your courses are well-prepared to perform all kinds of starter work. As long as your academic record is decent, I'm sure you can choose between plenty of employers, all of which offer different conditions and incentives for you to join.\"

Ves paced around the podium. \"However, the question here is which employer is the best? The military is often seen as the best employer because they provide a lot of support. However, they only employ the best, so it is not that easy to enter their circle. It's easier to join one of the many mech companies looking to bolster their design teams, but this is where you need to set your priorities straight.\"

He stopped pacing and faced the center of the audience in a dramatic turn.

\"Do you cherish and continue to pursue your lofty ambitions, or do you just want a stable, well-paying job?\"

Silence stretched as Ves fell silent for a moment. Who would want to admit they counted among the latter? Many Rawlings students developed considerable egos due to the prestige of their school!

\"From my observation and experiences of other mech companies, they always drive a hard bargain.\" He grinned. \"Let me tell you about one of the unspoken rules of the mech industry. The lead designers, who are mostly the bosses to these companies, don't want their subordinate mech designers to get too uppity.\"

That sounded very odd!

\"In order for a subordinate to become useful, they have to develop a lot of skills and improve their overall design abilities. However, they don't want you to become too good, because you'll eventually quit and take away all of the skills that the mech company has invested in you! Sure, the contracts you sign will most likely compel you to pay your former employers a share of the profits of your new business ventures, but it is still a wasteful event in their eyes!\"

As a business owner, Ves had long grappled about this subject himself. From his standpoint, the most useful design team consisted of subordinates who worked for him long enough to be able to compliment his design style!

Such a good design team did not appear when Ves threw a bunch of random graduates together! It took years of training, guidance and indoctrination in order to mold a design team in his desired shape!

If Ves poured years of effort and investment in molding a subordinate mech designer into his ideal shape, only for the ungrateful fellow to submit his resignation in order to leverage his improved skills into starting his own business, then Ves would have egg on his face!

\"Nonetheless, even if mech designers don't want you to facilitate all of your learning and progression goals, this is incredibly important. Just because you have your school doesn't mean your learning has ended! In fact, it has just begun! The gap between a new entrant in the job market and the top mech designers in the industry is immense, and the most pivotal difference is the humongous gap in skills and knowledge!\"

He thought back on what he experienced when he'd been assigned to serve as a liaison between the Mech Corps and the Kadar-Neyvis Group. Witnessing the circumstances of the low-ranking mech designers that made up their design teams was a real eye-opener to him that continued to guide his own thoughts on the matter.

\"Forget the salary. Forget the vacation days. Forget the working hours. If you want to earn an easy living off the skills and knowledge you've acquired at Rawlings or enjoy a pleasant work-life balance, then go ahead and negotiate on those terms.\"

He chuckled.

\"As for the future mech designers among you who don't want to give up on your ambitions and are willing to work hard enough to realize them, then make sure you negotiate the right employment contract! Rather than maximize your present gains, instead focus your efforts on securing your future!\"

He noted that a lot of students became confused as they failed to follow his train of thought. Evidently, Rawlings hadn't provided them with sufficient career guidance.

Then again, he couldn't blame the school for doing so. Rawlings already had its hands full teaching more essential subjects. Career guidance always played second fiddle to more important priorities.

Both the schools and their students tended to treat career orientation as an afterthought!

\"Each of you possess value, though the exact amount varies according to your results and your competences. Regardless, employers of mech designers like myself are willing to pay you to borrow your abilities. We're even willing to invest in you so that you become more useful to us, and this is the key to reaching your ambitions. Negotiating additional training in the skills you need to become a mech designer to be reckoned with is your number one priority!\"

Every Rawlings student was already set for life when they graduated. But a comfortable life as a professional was not enough to those who possessed greater ambitions!

\"The learning doesn't end when you graduate.\" He repeated. \"Especially not in the cases of science and engineering-based professions such as ours. Not only do you have to keep up with current developments, you also have to go beyond and build up your skills and knowledge base! Only then will you be able to increase your value to the point where your future truly opens up!\"

Ves swept his arm across the entire audience as if he conjured a dream. \"Your future matters. Each of you wants to obtain the opportunity to design your own mechs. Don't deny it. It's what you are all here for. Reality and circumstances may prevent you from realizing this desire, but that does not mean you are forever deprived of the opportunity once you graduate. Keep learning. Keep improving. Keep accumulating experience. If you work hard enough, you will get there.\"

Another pause stretched on as Ves momentarily halted.

Someone eventually raised his hand. \"Which employers are the best?\"

Ah, the question that Ves had been waiting for! \"Great question! It depends on your value and your demands. Some employers are a bit more generous when it comes to training their subordinates than others. The higher your value, better the conditions. If you're not as good, I think you'll have to search harder to get what you need, but I don't think any graduate from Rawlings will encounter much hindrance on this end. This is an advantage you all share!\"

Just like Ansel back at the Bright Republic, the academic standard of Rawlings was a lot more rigorous than usual. Their graduates started off with a better footing than those who emerged from less prestigious institutions.

\"Some mech companies and lead designers are more accommodating than others in enabling you to pursue your ambitions. I've witnessed some scummy circumstances where the members of a design team are deprived of their opportunities to improve the abilities they need to transition to a better career track. Don't work for these employers if you want to reach the top of our profession. During your negotiations, be exacting on the terms related to your training. Be willing to give ground on other terms if necessary.\"

As Ves elaborated on the terms that mech designers ought to value more or less, the overall thread of his lesson became clear.

If mech designers wanted to pursue their ambition, then they had to be willing to sacrifice present gains for future benefits!

Ves did add a caveat to his advice. \"Make no mistake. There is always a price. Nothing comes for free. Relative to industry standards, your pay will suck. Your working hours will be long. Your employer will demand higher quality results from you. You'll have to abide by all kinds of burdensome conditions once you leave your employer. However, as long as these sacrifices bring you closer to fulfilling your ambitions, then it is worth it! Gaining the opportunity to advance to Senior in your lifetime is worth it even if you are contractually obliged to pay ten percent of your profits to your former employers!\"

The choices he put forward caused a lot of students to consider or reconsider their future careers.

Were they following the right trajectory?

No one who harbored ambitions settled for mediocrity. Each of these dreamers were willing to make sacrifices to obtain a chance to achieve greatness!

Ves grinned. He could sense the unwillingness within the troubled expressions of the audience. This was exactly what he wanted to see!

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