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.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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