HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
  |  REGISTER  |  LOGIN  |  HELP
Blogs
Guest Blogs

How Do You Define an Engineer?

NO RATINGS
Page 1 / 2 Next >
View Comments: Oldest First|Newest First|Threaded View
Page 1/5  >  >>
Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
What tools constitute today's engineering "Swiss Army Knife?"
Beth Stackpole   3/5/2012 6:39:01 AM
NO RATINGS
I like the Swiss Army knife analogy, TJ. And I think today's engineers have an ever-expanded palette of disciplines, methodologies, and specialty areas that they are expected to be versed in for problem solving. That said, what specific skill areas do you think are ever more critical to have in the engineer's so-called knife repetoire?

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Good summary
Dave Palmer   3/5/2012 12:42:48 PM
NO RATINGS
T.J., this is a great concise summary of what engineers do.  I might add "negotiator" (working with manufacturing, purchasing, etc. in order to balance their needs without sacrificing product performance), and sometimes "policeman" (making sure that everything is being done according to the design specification).

For those of us who work with legacy designs, you could also add "historian" -- reviewing design history to see why a particular decision was made, or how a particular problem was tackled in the past. (Depending on how far back the legacy designs go, "archaeologist" might be a better term for this).

The common theme underlying all of the roles you mentioned is problem solving.  It's worth nothing that, even though the problems we are tasked with solving are technical in nature, it takes more than just technical skills to solve them.  In spite of the stereotype of the antisocial engineer, it actually takes a lot of people skills, too.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
An engineer is a writer
Rob Spiegel   3/5/2012 1:10:59 PM
NO RATINGS

Hi TJ, I'm delighted you included "a writer" in your list of the disciplines required of an engineer. As a journalist covering engineering, I've long been impressed by the writing skills of engineers. Of course that may be engineers who took their high school and college education at a time when writing was emphasized for all disciplines.


naperlou
User Rank
Blogger
Re: An engineer is a writer
naperlou   3/5/2012 1:51:32 PM
NO RATINGS
Rob, you are so right on with that comment.  My father was a designer at a government electronics lab.  He always stressed the ability to write for engineers.  He saw too many of the engineers he worked with getting little or no credit for their ideas because someone else had to be brought in to write them up. 

naperlou
User Rank
Blogger
Creativity
naperlou   3/5/2012 2:03:34 PM
NO RATINGS

Another way to look at engineering that I like is that engineering is creative.  I know there are engineers that are mostly involved in operations and maintenance, but those activities can require creativity at times. 

 

I have had the wonderful opportunity to work in design in the spacecraft and many other industries where what you are doing has never been done before.  This really brings out creativity in engineering.  On one project we had a group of PhD Physicists whose job title was phenomenologist.  They were there to answer a specific question about what the system we were designing was meant to deal with.  Their role, as with many scientists doing science, was to describe nature.  That can be very challenging.  Often though, to do that they have to design instruments, etc.  That is really engineering, not pure science. 

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: An engineer is a writer
Dave Palmer   3/5/2012 3:20:52 PM
NO RATINGS
Good writing skills are absolutely essential as an engineer.  Well-written reports, specifications, and other documents are indispensible.  It's important to be able to communicate technical ideas effectively to both technical and non-technical audiences.  And "effective communication" means more than PowerPoint slides.

apresher
User Rank
Blogger
Engineer as Manager
apresher   3/5/2012 3:30:34 PM
NO RATINGS
More and more, engineers are also managers coordinating a wide range of activities and specialists to get specific projects done. While it may take some away from hands-on work they do themselves, engineering leadership and oversight is an important role. Engineers in management may seem to be an oxymoron to some, especially those who have taken Dilbert too seriously over the years.

David12345
User Rank
Platinum
Re: What tools constitute today's engineering "Swiss Army Knife?"
David12345   3/5/2012 4:25:13 PM
NO RATINGS
With patent law and regulatory needs, writing continues to be even more important to the engineer.  The regulatory needs is becoming incresingly important in medical, aerospace, and civil engineering fields.

The "hands-on" stuff is the most fun, but the project management, financial, computer skills, and good communication continues to be a greater part of the job. I think PLC programming knowledge continues to become a more valuable skill.

The higher math has largely been replaced by less intuitively-elegant computer numeric methods.  Thankfully some of the newer representations provide graphical outputs that again provide more intuitive insight.

It seems more common that you work collaboratively on all projects.  If you have other engineers in the facility, it pays to network and know the specialized skills and knowledge of each.  Then you can pull in the right consultant for advice that corresponds to their in-depth knowledge.

Ozark Sage
User Rank
Silver
Re: TEACHER
Ozark Sage   3/5/2012 4:46:39 PM
NO RATINGS
T.J., Beth, Dave, Lou, apersher

Hopefully I got everone, but, the prize for vocabulary must go to LOU!  That is the first time Ihave ever seen the word  phenomenologist used correctly in my life!  You all may want to consult (a new) Webster's to select exactly what part of the defination you prefer. 

In the any case the single most appreciated definition of a good  engineer, I believe, has to be TEACHER.  Only when one is proficent in ones own discipline can one teach, in depth to others, the multiplcity of talents needed to be proficent as a multifacited engineer; as I also believe most DN readers are.   

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Hairball detective
Charles Murray   3/5/2012 6:52:35 PM
NO RATINGS
I really like the Swiss Army Knife definition and agree with the commenters who've said that engineers must be writers, which is especially true for those engineers who must write specifications. As for the detective, that has been proven over and over again in our Sherlock Ohms columns, and never better-evidenced than by today's story about hairballs.  No definition other than "detective" could amply describe the engineer who solved that problem.

Page 1/5  >  >>
Partner Zone
More Blogs from Guest Blogs
Perhaps you didn't know that there are a variety of classes, both live and archived, offered via the Design News Continuing Education Center (CEC) sponsored by Digi-Key? The best part – they are free!
The complexity of diesel engines means optimizing their performance requires a large amount of experimentation. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is a very useful and intuitive tool in this, and cold flow analysis using CFD is an ideal approach to study the flow characteristics without going into the details of chemical reactions occurring during the combustion.
We Have FPGAs with On-chip MCUs, but How About MCUs with On-chip FPGAs?
Programmable logic has come a long way from the simple devices we started out with. Remember Programmable Array Logic, or PALs? But where will we be in the next five to 10 years?
As industrial applications increasingly use process control systems utilizing sensor feedbacks to monitor various operating parameters, energy sources and consumption are becoming major factors of a system.
Design News Webinar Series
12/11/2014 8:00 a.m. California / 11:00 a.m. New York
12/10/2014 8:00 a.m. California / 11:00 a.m. New York
11/19/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
11/6/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Jan 12 - 16, Programmable Logic - How do they do that?
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  67


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service