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2012 Will Be Year of the Engineer

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Beth Stackpole
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Not lack of respect, lack of understanding
Beth Stackpole   1/4/2012 6:39:18 AM
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I think your point about people not fully understanding what exactly a engineer does contributes fully to any perception that there's a lack of respect. Riding on the heels of complex and beloved products like the iPad or an EV like the Chevy Volt, the role of engineering is becoming far more complex, necessitating a blending of skills that go far beyond what any traditional perception is of a back-room, tinkerer, fix-it guy. As mainstream folks begin to associate the fruits of engineers' and designers' labor with  cutting-edge and life-changing products, I agree their status is bound to rise.

It also doesn't hurt that there is a growing cry in Washington for programs and funding to nuture engineering and science skills in our children to help boost innovation and keep America's competitive edge. That has to help bolster the perception of engineering as a central cog in America's future.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Not lack of respect, lack of understanding
Alexander Wolfe   1/4/2012 11:50:47 AM
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The meme, or more correctly the reality, that engineers don't get enough respect has been with us for far longer than I've been associated with the profession. Truth be told, we have no one to blame for this but ourselves. Doctors and lawyers banded together for their own personal advantage. Working ngineers ceded that authority to employers and academics.

Semipro
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Re: Not lack of respect, lack of understanding
Semipro   1/5/2012 12:54:54 PM
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I agree.  Few people truly understand the talents needed to become an adroit designer.   Anyone who has called on 1 Infinite Loop in Cuppertino can tell you that their designs are more marketing driven than engineering.  Jobs may have not been an engineer but he was a marketing genius which propelled Apple to incredible levels even if they were not first in the market with cell phones, tablet computers or MP3 players.  In some case, there were better products on the market in these areas that were overcome my the Apple Marketing machine. 

I would however say to all enegineers, respect yourself and your abilities and forget the public perception.  We are not producing a lot of rocket scientists int his country...

Rob Spiegel
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Rising respect
Rob Spiegel   1/4/2012 11:48:53 AM
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Good points, Alex. I believe respect for engineers will rise as the need grows and the scarcity increases. They're fighting over engineering talent in Silicon Valley. In a recent interview Mark Zukerberg named "obtaining talent" as Facebook's greatest challenge. And while computer coding crosses a couple disciplines, engineering is one. Technological innovation globally is fought on the ground of engineering.

China is graduating ten times the engineers the U.S. is producing. Mexico has pulled even with the U.S. in the number of graduates. Some American engineers pooh-pooh these developments, saying that engineers in Mexico and China can't match U.S. engineers. Yet recently, engineers in Detroit have insisted that the engineers in Mexico have pulled even with U.S. engineers in expertise. We can thank Delphi for some of that.


Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Rising respect
Alexander Wolfe   1/4/2012 11:56:31 AM
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"Obtaining talent" is a code phrase employers use when what they really mean is "obtaining cheap engineering labor." Again, going back to my doctors/lawyers analogy, you don't hear the medical arena complain they can't "obtain talent," especially when you're talking surgeons. They do, when it comes to general practitioners, where the pay isn't so great. I would say that if the United States wants to stay on top technologically and wants to get kids into STEM and become engineers, the quick and easy way to do that is to make engineering a secure, respected, and high paying profession. It actually kinda is for new grads, but talk to a 40-year-old engineer and you will hear a different and perhaps more bitter take on the disposability of seasoned technical talent.

Charles Murray
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Re: Rising respect
Charles Murray   1/4/2012 9:18:11 PM
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Even as salaries for physicians drop -- especially for general practioners and internists -- the lure of medicine is still greater among American students. It's perplexing when you consider how much debt medical students build up. Many leave school with massive loans to repay and then have to struggle to pay for malpractice insurance, as well. Still, the prestige still lies with medicine and good American-born students continue to be drawn to it.  

TJ McDermott
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Re: Rising respect
TJ McDermott   1/4/2012 11:32:22 PM
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Alex, did you have this article spindled all year 2011, waiting for 2012?  I'm glad you didn't publish it in the year of the Monkey.

Salary surveys in recent years showed engineers wanted respect somewhat more than they wanted higher pay.

What in the heck is wrong with employers?  If a vital section of your company is willing to work for the same pay and just be appreciated, why is it so difficult to make them feel good?  It's an insanely inexpensive way to keep them happy.  AND YET, engineers continue to feel unloved.

I think we're a bunch of saps (and I include myself).  We have to be strongly self-motivated to continue where we are in such an atmosphere.

It costs the company nothing to say to an engineer, "The company is better with you than without you".

Maybe the employers are actually acting ethically, so they don't look like hypocrites when they can that engineer's @** to improve their bottom line.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Rising respect
Alexander Wolfe   1/5/2012 9:10:38 AM
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Thanks for your comment, TJ. I didn't have it queued up, but you're correct in putting out the inference that what I'm saying could be said anytime. Engineers just don't get enough respect, and I really like your suggestion of management just giving the staff some verbal love. If they can't come through with money or perks, there's no reason they can't tell engineers how valuable they are. I've always thought a lot of it stems from the broader scientific and mathematical illiteracy in the culture, where non-engineers not only don't understand what engineers do, but are also a little bit -- well, not exactly afraid of them but skittish. And so they just avoid interaction. Like we've both said, though, engineers have to be their own advocates or nothing will change.

TerryD
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Re: Rising respect
TerryD   1/5/2012 9:41:26 AM
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Interesting article.  I work with kids as an engineering mentor.  Whenever I am asked to define the difference between scientists and engineers, I always use the following:

Scientists observe the world around us to better understand how things work. 

Engineers use what scientists have learned to make things that make our lives better or easier.


The kids seem to understand this.  (And you'll note that I didn't use any circular references.)

 

Making life easier or better for others is a laudable thing and one that I believe we could use to improve the appeal of Engineering with our own kids.  But first we have to get them to want to do things for themselves.  I am afraid that the generation of helicopter parents have done a great deal of damage to the next generation's abilities in this area.

realengr
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Re: Rising respect
realengr   1/5/2012 9:32:36 AM
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I'm always amazed how the obvious just doesn't leap out to people discussing this subject.  Doctors and lawyers are respected in their fields because they do something that the engineering profession does not.  They demand and require professional licensure.  We have watered down the definition of engineer to be someone with an engineering degree.  Other professions police their ranks with the AMA and the Bar.  But because so many engineers don't want to go that extra step, they keep the 'profession' of engineering as a commodity.  As long as we see ourselves as technology mercenaries rather than professionals, employers will continue to see us as we apparently prefer to be seen.   By demanding licensure to have the title 'engineer' and policing the ranks and enforcing registration laws so that the title 'engineer' cannot be used without licensure we could have 'engineers' seen as a profession again within one generation.  Engineers are lazy in that way and many take offense to the very idea that they are not 'engineers' without that license.  It will never change until we change this.  Really.

Walt
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Re: Rising respect
Walt   1/5/2012 10:28:00 AM
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I disagree that engineers should be required to obtain licenses and other regulated hoopla to gain respect for us in the general public.  I've worked with numerous licensed and/or highly degreed engineers that were either useless or always out of touch with the reality of any given project.  I've also paid dearly for the services of doctors and lawyers that were incompetent or unmotivated.  I've seen levels of incompetence lack of performance in multiple doctors that would immediately get an engineer fired, yet their comparatively higher paid practices continue without interruption.

I put little stock in these bars, boards, and licenses.  Do we, as engineers, not become more competent by needing to compete against the skills of other engineers rather than getting some license?

realengr
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Re: Rising respect
realengr   1/5/2012 11:26:58 AM
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Walt, You missed the logic of my point.  The question had nothing to do with competence.  It had to do with respect in the world for our profession. I stated nothing about competence.  I am licensed and competent.  The guys I work with are not licensed and just as competent.  My point is that if we want to be seen as a profession we have to go that step.  Like it or not.  I think that a lot of engineers have cognitive dissonance going on when this subject is broached because it messes with their self image. Sorry. That's just the way it is and will be on this respect issue. Until the engineers in this world get over that we will be seen just as technology mercenaries.  I can tell you this.  When i go into an interview for a job and i'm up against other equally competent applicants....I know who will be coming out with the offer.  I have found (competent or not, like it or not) those two letters command more respect.  Let's get the emotion out of here and use a little logic.  From a purely logical standpoint, those professions that demand licensure command more respect.  They just do.  I always tell my kids not to operate in the world as if it is as they like.  You will always fail.  Accept the reality, then change it.

 

BTW, regardless of whether you put little stock in those bars, boards, and licensure, the general public does.  That is my point.

williamlweaver
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Re: Rising respect
williamlweaver   1/5/2012 11:41:02 AM
It's going to take quite a long, long time for popular respect for engineers and scientists to rise. We've had Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV, but they typically appealed to the technically gifted. The Professor from Gilligan's Island and MacGyver had pretty good on-screen relationships with their fellow characters, but MacGruber did a lot to detract.

Current Shows, The Big Bang Theory on CBS and Chuck on NBC have a great "nerd" and Comicon following, but still not mainstream. With our current cultural practice of all athletes get a trophy, the outlaw of dodge ball and tag on the playground, No Child Left Behind, "You Can Be Anything You Want To Be", and reality shows like Project Runway, American Idol, and Top Chef, the message is "Simply Choose Your Career and You are Guaranteed to Be Good At It".

Until the general public appreciates the natural talent and years of hard work and study that goes into science and engineering they will view Scientists and Engineers as nerds that chose to be techies because they couldn't sing.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Groupthink vs individuals
Ann R. Thryft   1/4/2012 1:28:21 PM
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Thanks Alex for a thoughtful and thorough piece. As an ex-anthropology student, I especially noticed your mentions of crowdsourcing and groupthink, both of which make it not only hard to say "No," as Jobs did, but also to take a stance or say anything you think the group may disagree with. Both of these are phenomena of mass behavior, which has increased enormously during my lifetime as the population of the planet has doubled and mass communications--an actual topic back when I was in college--have become the norm, fostered first by TV (my generation) and now the Internet (younger folks). Of course, to some people this is like telling fish that they live in water.


bronorb
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Good article
bronorb   1/5/2012 9:38:05 AM
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I like your thought on Jobs and public perception of him although you could take it a step further. The general public believes that Jobs invented AND engineered everything from the PC to the iPhone to Computer-generated animation! If you've ever worked in a design or engineering department, you know how this system works.

In the best scenario, designers and engineers work together to come up with a solution that is functional, looks appealing, and has the lowest cost possible. Those solutions are presented to a board of company people (enter Jobs) who add or subtract features and make suggestions. The process is repeated until a final decision is made.

The average person does not know this. They see Jobs face everywhere and make assumptions. It's up to us to educate young people about what an engineer really does. Pay a visit to your local high school or middle school on career days. Bring in an electroniuc device, take it apart, show them how it works and where the engineers and designers fit into the big picture.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Good article
Alexander Wolfe   1/5/2012 10:12:50 AM
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That is a SUPER point you make, Bronorb, about engineering being a collaborative process. (You write: "n the best scenario, designers and engineers work together to come up with a solution that is functional, looks appealing, and has the lowest cost possible. Those solutions are presented to a board of company people (enter Jobs) who add or subtract features and make suggestions. The process is repeated until a final decision is made.")

As you say, not only is it something the average person is unaware of, but I think even us engineers forget this. I always think in terms of my personal engineering heros, namely Armstrong (Edwin Howard) and Tesla. Those guys actually were lone wolves, but you could be that in the early days and still make a contribution. That's not how things work today, nor how the dev process is set up in companies.  I think the lionization of Jobs has done a lot of damage in terms of the general public's understanding of engineers and engineering. (Just as the idolization of Bill Gates did so in decade and a half ago.)

 

BillFZ1
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Re: Good article
BillFZ1   1/5/2012 11:57:33 AM
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There is one major difference between Gates and Jobs. Gates could actually write code. The organization he created is what made him rich but he could actually do some of the work himself. Jobs had a talent for attracting talent, and was lucky enough to have a very skilled friend in Woz when he started the business.

tnek
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Re: Good article
tnek   1/5/2012 12:52:15 PM
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"The engineer turns vision into reality"

ChasChas
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You missed one for engineers.
ChasChas   1/5/2012 9:41:12 AM
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When we engineers have no data from scientist, we get the job done anyway.

Ratsky
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Leftovers from Santa's mixed bag...
Ratsky   1/5/2012 11:30:39 AM
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Random comments on the blog and posts:

I've suggested it before, but it's particularly germane to this subject.  Google or Wiki "The Marching Morons" for a very prescient (as usual for good sci-fi) view of the logical conclusion to engineers being the hidden baclkbone of an increasingly technology-driven global society.

Walt, as a PE since 1973 I agree STRONGLY with what you have said! "real engr" doens't have a clue as to just how little effect the incredibly inept and bureaucratic PE power structure has on promoting the professional like of most engineers.  Charles and Alex: interesting to hear the comparisons with MDs.  I've heard this song for nearly 50 years!  I would suggest you actually talk yo your own doctors re job satisfaction, etc.  The accurate comparison would be doctors 50+ with engineers 40+ years old.   The VAST majority of doctors I know (both professionally and socially) are even more discouraged and depressed that the older engineers!  Most are either actively preparing for imminent retirement, or closing their private practices and going to work for large groups that relieve them of the burdens of dealing with insurance companies (both health insurance and malpractice) and the other nonsense that consumes 40% or more of their time without contributing one bit to the health of their patients.  In another comparison we USED to hear about, the lawyers I know are even more burned out!

Ann: given your background, have you read Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" and/or any of the other 8 books he wrote?  He focused not on mass communications, but the socialogy and pychology of mass movents throughout human history.  All mass communications has done is make these aberrations grow exponentially faster, and (hopefully) die out sooner!  Great Wikipedia article on him!

Beth: As one of the last of the "pre-boomers" I benefitted directly from both early US government attempts to promote STEM and private/industry-sponsored ones (that continue to this day, although with much less impact).  I was an early recipient of a industry-sponsored Merit scholarship to MIT, and later on had an NSF Traineeship for a "free ride" to grad school.  This was largely all put in place in response to the "Sputnik challenge" frequently mentioned in DN.  I also benefitted from defense spending (Vietnam-era, 1967-1971); my first post-MS job was in Military Electronics.  That said, I suspect the true impact of all these programs probably paled in significance to the GI Bill and ROTC in terms of helping produce so many well-educated engineers from the '50s through the late '70s.  The vast majority of these came from blue-collar, immigrant, or farm families, and were the first college graduates in their families! This was the ultimate flowering of the American promise of upward mobility.  However, today's American society is dramatically different.  That segment of the populace is much smaller relatively speaking; the typical "middle-class" teen doesn't see engineering as a big step up the socio-economic ladder, and definitely not a 'cool" career!

bronorb
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Re: Leftovers from Santa's mixed bag...
bronorb   1/5/2012 11:56:10 AM
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Ratsky,

Excellent comments.

In the late sixties, tuition was $300/year at most universities. The various programs (GI Bill, etc.) that helped you in your career are a thing of the past.

As today's teens decide on the career they want to pursue, they have this ominous dark cloud of student loan debt that will be hanging over their head someday. $50,000 or more for many of them.

One of the reasons why we turn out many more business majors than engineering grads.

jpelosi2002
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Re: Leftovers from Santa's mixed bag...
jpelosi2002   1/5/2012 4:23:19 PM
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I never had the luxury of attending college. Student Loans weren't quite as easy to get in my youth and I grew up a poor boy. Yet, here I am 20 years later designing complex machinery and most importantly, making my employer lots of money. My "Industrial Press" degree has done me and my family very well.

 

realengr
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Re: Leftovers from Santa's mixed bag...
realengr   1/5/2012 3:30:32 PM
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Ratsky, I have to agree with everything you have said, especially the ineffective structure of the NSPE.  However, that may be because it is very much geared towards one profession.  Let's face it.  Most of those guys are SE or CE.  If there were more of a cross section of the profession I believe it could be different.  As to registration...well, you know it's coming.  A lot of states are getting rid of their industrial exclusion laws so it may be a moot point. In those states, like here in Tennessee, you cannot have that title anymore even on a private or industrial business card without the PE.  And before those from Tennessee pipe up and say 'oh no, that's not the case...' well....you just haven't been turned in or spotted.  Before the haters get in here on me, i'm just stating what is, not what necessarily has to be.

RobLewis
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Defining "engineer"
RobLewis   1/5/2012 11:43:46 AM
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The best definition I ever heard said that an engineer is someone who creates artificial systems to achieve desired goals. 

Analog Bill
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Rising Respect for Engineers?
Analog Bill   1/5/2012 1:17:42 PM
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I agree with Terry about the basic definition of an "engineer" vs a "scientist". I often make it even more basic: scientists make observations and develop THEORIES, while engineers use this information to design and develop useful PRODUCTS.  I also believe one of the biggest problems with our public image is that the term "engineer" is so overused. A "software engineer"?  To my way of thinking, software is a mathematical field and the end result is more of a book than a product (yeah, my flame suit is on!). And it gets worse ... "sound engineers" that haven't a clue about either acoustics or electronics. I think many of these practitioners should be called "technicians" - those who use science and engineering in the performance of other duties, like repairing and maintaining products or assisting scientists or engineers. I started my career as an analog electronic circuit design engineer in 1970, when these basic definitions seemed pretty pervasive. As impressive as it might be, I'm in no hurry to add a P.E. after my name ... I've found zero correlation between it (or a college degree for that matter) and actual competence at engineering. The best hire I ever made was a Cal-Tech dropout who showed up for his job interview in bare feet and a t-shirt. It's too bad that professional organizations that "certify" their members don't make a bigger priority of weeding out the incompetent among their ranks (doctors, for example). Then having those letters after your name might command some "respect"! 

fiftyohm
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Engineers?
fiftyohm   1/5/2012 1:22:13 PM
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(Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak is an engineer, having returned to school and earned his degree in 1986.) 

Note the parenthesis in the parent post.  As if Woz didn't become an 'engineer' until 1986?  This is very reminiscent of the awards given the lion, tinman and scarecrow by the Wizard of Oz, isn't it?  Obviously without the medal, the testimonial or the diploma, the three heroes were in turn cowardly, heartless, and stupid right up to that moment of presentation, weren't they?  I'd add parenthetically that Woz won the National Medal of Technology and the Grace Murray Hopper award before he received his diploma from the Wizard of Higher Education.  He had also laid the groundwork for a company that would change the world.


Engineering schools are, without doubt, the most efficient path to acquiring the complex tools necessary to do engineering.  I said efficient - not only.  With all due respect, anyone who believes that an engineering degree is of necessity prerequisite to being an engineer has little notion of what the term 'engineer' really means.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Engineers?
Ann R. Thryft   1/5/2012 1:46:34 PM
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Woz is a good example of one aspect of this discussion, i.e., what makes an engineer an engineer. So is an engineer someone who does engineering, like Woz did before he got his degree, or is it someone with a degree, whether they are actively involved or not? Or is it someone who thinks like an engineer, even if that person doesn't have a degree or is not actively engaged with hands-on engineering?


Ratsky
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Re: Engineers?
Ratsky   1/5/2012 2:10:40 PM
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I would argue that Woz is definitely an engineer, always was.  I also will argue that Jobs is not and never was an engineer.  What he really was, was a VISIONARY.  He did come up with the CONCEPTS for many of his great products (although I'm not an Apple fan, I do respect the value of his contributions), in great detail BUT focusing on the product from the user standpoint, NOT the implementation (which after all, I think all would agree, is the role of the engineer).  Some have said he was a marketing genius; I think that is selling his ideas short.  Some of them were incredible flops in the marketplace (remember Lisa?), but they were true to his personal vision of what they should be.  He could be considered a systems architect (which IS an engineering role), but his primary motivation and goal was always the best possible product that HE would want!  He did understand that such products could command a premium price, but I suspect that wasn't his primary motivation.  He just strove for nothing short of perfection.  I suspect anyone who ever used the phrase "good enough for government work," even jokingly, while in his employ would instantly find themselves on the sidewalk outside!

 

This is not to say that engineers can't be visionaries; so many visionaries have been engineers!  Many of the giants of the profession were true visionaries, even if many were never widely recognized as such.  One example was Dan Noble, the engineering genius behind Motorola who convinced Paul Galvin (the businessman founder) to get into the semiconductor business pre-1950!

fiftyohm
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Re: Engineers?
fiftyohm   1/5/2012 2:19:30 PM
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Good questions, Ann.  In my opinion, an Engineer is one who does engineering.  S/he may be good at it, or lousy.  Either way, a degree has nothing to do with the definition.  Engineering graduates who do not qualify as 'engineers' by this simple definition are legion.  Woz is a sterling example of the opposite case.

 

So what is 'engineering'?  Anyone ever see the term 'diploma' wedged into the definition of that one?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Engineers?
Ann R. Thryft   1/5/2012 3:39:10 PM
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Thanks for the definition, fiftyohm. I tend to agree with you. I've known engineers with lots of different degrees--computer science, EE, ME, physics--and occasionally, no degrees at all. I think an engineer is someone who thinks like one and who practices engineering. I also think that there's an engineering mentality, in the sense of a way of looking at the world (like being annoyed at lousy designs for a huge range of things). In any case, I think Woz is a stellar example. I didn't realize some people thought Jobs was an engineer, in addition to being a visionary. That's sad although now I understand why.


realengr
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Everyone's Super
realengr   1/5/2012 4:11:49 PM
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Everybody on here has a different opinion about what even the 'profession' of engineering is.  On one hand you have people going on about how the diploma or licensure means nothing and on the other hand they lament how the definition of the word is watered down with "software/sound/etc. engineer" ad nauseam.

Words mean things. IF we keep redefining them to the lowest common denominator we deserve derision.  You guys sound like you want that lowest common denominator.  Let's just dispense with it altogether.  What about architects?  I know architects who are incensed everytime they see a computer programmer with the title 'architect'.  

If you want the lowest common denominator, why bother with the degrees, the licensure, etc.  An engineer is then just any manipulator of science to create technology on any level.  I have worked for British companies for years.  Every nut turner and circuit puller has the title 'engineer'. The title means NOTHING.  And it will here if you have your way.

Ever see 'The Incredibles'.  Remember the theme of the movie, what the villain said "When everyone's super....no one will be"

That's what you really want. And that is what we will have.

fiftyohm
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Re: Everyone's Super
fiftyohm   1/5/2012 4:42:18 PM
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realengr-  I think you are confusing a title with a profession or function.  To the extent that the machines we design don't care a whit whether or not their designer had a degree, your comment "means nothing" is absolutely correct.  If your sole criteria for 'deserving' the title is a diploma, you will number us amongst a great group of hacks and incompetents - many of whom have never practiced our craft.  I'd prefer you not do that.

 

Bottom line is just this:  If a profession - any profession - is qualified only by a diploma, (or medal, or testimonial), that profession will get the respect it deserves.

SparkyWatt
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Re: Everyone's Super
SparkyWatt   1/5/2012 6:02:13 PM
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As a degreed engineer, I say that the degree is not necessary to be a good engineer.  But the knowledge and understanding that the degree confers is.  That knowledge and understanding can be acquired in other ways, but let's not kid ourselves.  Getting the degree is the most efficient and thorough way to do it.  What's more, many of the people who don't have the knowledge and understanding can't even understand why it is needed.

The ability to come up with a solution to a problem is not all there is to it.  A good design needs not only to work, it needs to work under all reasonable conditions (unless you are in aerospace or military, then it needs to work under all conditions, reasonable or not).  It needs not only to work, it needs to be the best that is reasonably possible.  The only way you can determine that your design will always work and that it is optimal is to be able to analyze it!  You have to be able to move from the qualitative idea, to a quantitative assesment.

I used to work with a technician who described his work as "beating my head against a wall until I find a soft spot."  He was never clear whether the soft spot was in the wall or not.  He created some great designs by trying things until it worked.  Then he tried variants until he got a good one.  It took him dozens of tries.  I pointed out (a point that he felt was an affirmation of his ability, by the way) that "the difference between an engineer and a technician is that the engineer gets it right on the first or second try".  Ultimately, both get similar results (that is the affirmation part), but the engineer's ability to analyze and understand the consequences of the analysis allows him to get there faster and with more certainty.

That is what an engineer is.  He or she is a creative problem solver that is able to use analysis to develop a good solution and optimize it.

Walt
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Re: Everyone's Super
Walt   1/5/2012 8:45:44 PM
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Thank you Ratsky and other degreed PEs for recognizing that many engineers exist that do not hold such high credentials and are also quite effective and accomplished engineers.  That vote of recognition is much appreciated in an industry that often only looks at the piece of paper.


I acknowledge that most of those credentials were the result of a huge amount of hard work and I do respect those accomplishments.


I also agree with SparkyWatt in that some level of quality engineering education is almost always necessary to become a very effective engineer.  The problem I am seeing more and more of is that of "engineers" who have degrees (often multiple) and yet do not have the mentality of an engineer.  After all that education, they still have this mentality you described well of trying multiple solutions until they find one that works, rather than using good analysis and logical skills.  I've had a number of multi-degreed "engineers" end up doing technician work for me because I could not get them to analyze the problem or project themselves.  Sorry if I'm getting a bit off subject, but as with the "everyone's super" trend, many "engineers" with multiple engineering degrees simply do not have the engineering mindset.  I have observed this internationally – not just from engineers in the U.S.A.


I'm afraid I do call myself an audio engineer, though my primary career is electrical engineering (EE pays the bills, but I love both disciplines.)  In defense of "real" audio engineers, my EE knowledge and experience heavily influence, and are used in my audio engineering work.  Both EE and AE disciplines are a wonderful mix of creative art and science.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Everyone's Super
Alexander Wolfe   1/6/2012 5:38:40 PM
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There's an interesting dichotomy here. Yes, in the real world it's true that someone does not need to be an "engineer" -- have graduated from an accredited engineering school and/or passed the PE -- to do engineering. OTOH, I believe that it would be to the financial and respect benefit of engineers if we limited the use of that term solely to such folks.

I can dress a wound but I don't call myself a doctor. Should I be able to? How about calling myself an EMT because I can perform CPR? On the face of it, both are ludicrous, and the person in the street would laugh at the suggestion, because to be a doctor, nurse, or EMT, you need training.

Hey, guess what? To be an engineer, you need training, too. If you haven't got it, maybe you're someone who can design a circuit, or create Facebook, or make billions more than I ever will.

But you know what you're not? You're NOT an engineer.

Charles Murray
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Re: Everyone's Super
Charles Murray   1/9/2012 10:33:38 PM
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Your point raises a question, Alex. Why is virtually every doctor licensed, but not every engineer? Most of us wouldn't consider going to an unlicensed physician, but many great engineers never have a need for a PE. The engineer's situation is similar to that of the accountant: Many accountants haven't passed the CPA, but still serve as corporate accountants.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Everyone's Super
Alexander Wolfe   1/10/2012 5:58:09 PM
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I don't think the PE is necessarily the solution or what I'm talking about here. I think anyone who's passed through an accredited college engineering program should be able to call themselves an engineer. What gets under my skin is people who tinker and think that allows them to use the title, EVEN IF THEY DESIGN REAL STUFF. The fact of the matter is that the PC and the Internet erased the line between professional and amateur. Any idiot who's messed around with a PC thinks they know technology, and they don't.

jpelosi2002
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Re: Everyone's Super
jpelosi2002   1/12/2012 4:37:45 PM
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Some engineers rest on their accomplishments in the field, others rest on their education. Some write instead.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Engineers?
Beth Stackpole   1/6/2012 6:48:06 AM
Ann, I'd argue on the side of an engineer being someone who thinks like an engineer, solves solves problems like an engineer, and has the passion for all the disciplines surrounding engineering. It's not necessarily someone who has a degree in engineering. I know plenty of people with law degrees and teaching degrees who have never practiced law or taught in the classroom. They just have very expensive pieces of parchment to hang on their walls, but their heart and soul just was never into it.

Leo
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Lack of respect, lack of understanding
Leo   1/5/2012 1:43:17 PM
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I am curious to know if you think the lack of respect / understanding is our own fault because so many engineers are introverted and while we say we want respect / praise, so many of us are really uncomfortable receiving praise or being in the spotlight and do not seek out relationships with people on the operations side of the business. My experience is that we tend to rely on our managers to be the primary interdepartmental contact and the managers become uncomfortable with lower level interactions in the work place saying we need to be working and not socializing.

Charles Murray
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Importance of a degree
Charles Murray   1/5/2012 9:49:37 PM
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The input of PEs is important here. Yes, I've known some good engineers who were not degreed and one or two great ones. But to hang out a shingle, you need a PE, and to be a PE, you need a degree. I've even known one degreed engineer who was/is downright brilliant, and who even received a Presidential Medal of Honor for his work, and who had inventions on the Space Shuttle, and nevertheless ended up in court for doing engineering work when he didn't have a PE (he did have an engineering degree and never even claimed he was a PE). Degrees come in handy. So do PEs.

creativedesign
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Design, not designers
creativedesign   1/6/2012 2:39:01 AM
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Interesting reasoning, but I disagree that any year should be "the year of the __" [profession]. If your ideas are correct (which I think they are), then 2012 could be the Year of Engineering. Design and engineering are way too important to be left to the engineers or the designers alone.

William K.
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2012: the year of the Engineer?
William K.   1/6/2012 7:21:58 PM
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This explanation of engineering is not original with me, but it is a reasonable description, I think. Scientists work to understand the way things are and how they work, while engineers work to create solutions to problems and needs, and create new things that never existed before.

OF course, on some occasions things have been created by engineers, usually motivated by others, that we would all be much better without. "Progress" is NOT always an improvement.

durgasharan
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What does an enginner do?
durgasharan   1/7/2012 12:40:04 AM
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Good article. I enjoyed reading it and was reminded of what our Professor told us in our second year of college (electrical engineering faculty):

An artist creates

A scientist discovers

A mechanic repairs

An engineer designs

When somebody says that he/she engineered a system, what he means is that the person designed a system keeping in mind function, efficiency, reliablility and cost. Design is at the heart of engineering.

 

vimalkumarp
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Engineers make the world
vimalkumarp   1/9/2012 2:03:34 AM
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This is an excellent article which reminds me of dean kamen who said
you have teenagers thinking they're going to make millions as nba stars when that's not realistic for even 1percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is


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