Many of us engineers are fortunate to work in a profession that is often quite enjoyable. Few outside our profession really know what we do during our days and would likely be surprised at how satisfying and rewarding design engineering can be as a career. Here are some of the things that make a career in engineering a great place to be:
1.) Creative Expression
When most people think of engineering, creativity is not often the thing that comes to mind. We are not painters or sculptors and we don't compose music. However, many of us do sketch out our ideas (on paper, whiteboards, sticky notes, napkins, ect.) even in this age of mature and ubiquitous CAD technology. As engineers, we often find ourselves lost in thought while sketching or ideating using manual or automated tools to help capture ideas. Furthermore, while as engineers we may not sculpt with clay, we are often working with our hands creating prototypes, models and tweaking things in the physical world.
2.) Mentally Challenging
A lot of us are seeing new problems to solve daily and the answers are not obvious. Engineers have to discover unique ways of solving problems in new product categories or create new technologies. Even when designing incremental improvements to existing products, it requires creativity to envision and realize new product features, cost reductions, and to figure out how to improve or implement corrective actions to those products. Each new project brings new challenges.
3.) Recognition and Rewards
For those of us fortunate enough to have worked in "enlightened" companies and under competent managers, there are many opportunities to be recognized for accomplishments. Many of us take pride in the work we do and enjoy the spotlight for a job well done. Even for those where the company or management recognition may be lacking, it is still possible to take pride in the work we create. Artists take for granted that they may not get the recognition they think they deserve but yet take pride in the work they do. Yet they continue to create, drawing satisfaction from the process and the result (even if nobody else notices). And, like artists, engineers often have an end product - software, hardware or both - to show off at the end of the process!
4.) Opportunities to Grow
Again, in well-organized and operated companies, it is common for the best engineers to advance within their field. In many companies, where there is a real dual career path, one does not need to give up the fascinating, challenging and creative work as an engineer in order to advance. Companies with a real dual career path allow for good engineers who like doing engineering work to move up within their function, and get rewarded with similar benefits and compensation as their peers in management roles at similar levels of responsibility.
Certainly, there are organizations where the operating environment is such that the peripheral issues suck the fun out of engineering. However, there are many places - especially those that are successful businesses - where engineering can be a most enjoyable and personally satisfying profession. Engineers can seek out places where their work is a key value proposition in the creation and support of the company's products and hence recognized as a driver for product differentiation and company profitability and top line revenue growth. In such places, the environment supports enabling engineers to enjoy their work. This being said, even in the worst of environments, engineers can often shut off the noise and just enjoy the creative process, and draw self-satisfaction and take pride in their work.
What is your favorite part of the engineering profession? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Mitch Maiman is the president and co-founder of Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS), building on a vision of delivering a new model for software and hardware product development that integrates the full spectrum of design and engineering disciplines as a single-source solution.
[Image source: Stuart Miles / Freedigitalphotos.net]