Listen up, Corporate America

DN Staff

April 10, 2006

3 Min Read
Listen up, Corporate America

After reading my recent e-mail, I'm tempted to open my office window, cup my hand to my ear, and listen for the echoes of voices crying, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

I'm referring here to the e-mail responses we received after a column in this space invited readers to tell us about the state of the engineering profession (http://rbi.ims.ca/4919-531). We received scores of responses, and all but a paltry two declared that the profession is bad and getting worse. (For a peek at some of the letters, see our letters section at http://rbi.ims.ca/4919-532.)

Before continuing, we should note some letter writers tend to dash off notes when they're unhappy. It's human nature.

But in our earlier column, we specifically asked to hear from readers who were happy in their jobs. "In particular," we said, "if you're an engineer who's in a good job situation, tell us why it's good."

Still, we were deluged by e-mails telling us it's far worse than we described. Most touched on a few recurring themes: management doesn't value engineers; engineers' salaries are too low; engineers' tasks are being outsourced to India.

Summarizing those themes, however, doesn't begin to capture the emotion behind the e-mails. Many readers said they felt betrayed by their profession. After working hard to earn their degrees, and then toiling for years in their jobs, many recounted experiences in which they were discarded like used equipment after projects were completed. Others said they are being forced out as management casts its collective eye on the low-cost, Indian engineering environment.

The following are samples of letters from some of our readers (those of you who sent e-mail responses to us can unpack your bags. For obvious reasons, we're including your responses anonymously here).

  • "Engineering is not valued as something to be developed, but rather something to be contracted out as cheaply as possible."

  • "In spite of an advanced degree, I am at the bottom of the income pool amongst other professionals my age. It is my opinion that America and management in particular don't have a clue as to what an engineer brings to the table."

  • "I simply cannot compete with a labor rate one-third of my own."

  • "Companies large and small don't recognize or reward engineers for our contributions; we are considered more of a necessary evil . . . "

Lest we believe that such feelings are an inevitable aspect of corporate life, we did receive a letter from one engineer at a giant medical/pharmaceutical firm where engineers regularly meet with their company president in "town hall" meetings and where executives stress the importance of innovation. "(Our VP) has at least 200 engineers under him, and he knows all their names," the letter-writer said. "I believe that my job situation is very good."

In a future issue of Design News, we're going to examine this matter in a larger fashion. We invite readers who want to go on the record with their comments to contact us by e-mail.

For more input from readers on the state of the engineering profession and to submit your own ideas, join our forum at: http://rbi.ims.ca/4919-539.

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