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.
(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.
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"!
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...
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.
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.
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!
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