The best characterization I ever heard of what we all do came from an old boss of mine, who said, "Engineering is not a job. It's a lifestyle." As one gets older, it's a learning experience to discover that this is not necessarily 100 percent for the good. But I digress from this month's question to the System & Product Design Engineering group on LinkedIn. We asked participants why they became engineers.
Most of our respondents used their youthful tinkering as an entrée into the profession.
"I was given a military textbook on basic electricity by my 7th grade teacher," says Robert Seay. "Up to then I had rewired a few defective light fixtures... but I knew nothing about electricity. When I read the book, my eyes were opened. I wanted to investigate everything in the book. An uncle heard of my interest and gave me several broken radios. I immediately dismantled them and discovered how every component was constructed. Then I learned how to take a couple of common 5 tube radios apart and convert them to transmitters."
"I still knew almost no theory beyond Ohm's law, but I had a lot of trial and error fun," Seay says. "When I finished high school, there was no doubt about what I was going to study in college. I have enjoyed a career which paid me for having fun. Even though I am retired, it is still fun now."
Rafael Lopez, an electrical design engineer, reports a similar scenario. "When I was 8, the TV set at home broke down, and the repair man came to fix it," he says. "I was so fascinated with what I was looking at, that from that moment I wanted to learn about electricity, and how things worked."
Dirk Brühl, a freelance embedded systems engineer, says that as a kid, he constantly heard people complaining about the hard work they had to do. "So I decided to become an engineer to build machines which do all the hard work so people are able to quit complaining and enjoy life," he says. "When I had my first job as an engineer, I discovered that the hard work is not the problem. The problem is how we deal with each other. If we help each other, the hardest work will be done without any desire to complain."