Purpose in Engineering

IMG_0265It’s all about the money.

One of my engineering co-workers received a survey from his alma mater. They were having an unusual problem with their engineering students: either while working on internships or in the first years of employment, they were becoming disillusioned with the profession. This statement– “it’s all about the money”– along with others like “nobody believes in the product” and “I want to help people” was being fed back to the university as students left for medical school and other professions perceived as being more service-oriented.

I couldn’t have been more surprised. So while I didn’t receive the survey (not my university), I’ll answer here, to engineering students and recent grads anywhere who feel like their purpose is diminished to just making money for a large corporation.

First, it is about the money. Part of your responsibility to your employer and its owners or shareholders is to make them money, whether that’s by finding efficiencies, designing a high-return product, or solving problems. Each one of those  tasks represent a puzzle, with economics as a scorecard.

But it is not ever only about the money. The real beauty in being an engineer — absolutely my favorite part — is that you have a responsibility to improve safety, protect the environment, and protect the public all while meeting financial objectives. Now, it’s a multidimensional puzzle. This is why we have professional licensure for engineers, and why we take a pledge that promises in part  “to place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other considerations”.

Any bozo can build a project; engineers optimize their solutions for all of those objectives. And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

 photo courtesy Bart McGuire, Flickr

What an Engineer Looks Like (on the inside)

IMG_0191The ILookLikeAnEngineer buzz this week has been amazing. If you’ve missed it, here’s the short version: An engineer (young; female; pretty) is featured in a job recruiting campaign in San Francisco. The local community reacts by saying she “doesn’t look like an engineer”. In response, engineers everywhere, of all gender, race, age and background, respond with selfies tagged #ilooklikeananengineer.

What I’ve noticed most of all, though, is not the pictures. It’s what the engineers choose to include on the signs they’re holding. As it turns out, not only do engineers all look different – we have different interests and personalities, too.

For me, the assumptions about who I am and what I should enjoy are potentially more damaging than the assumptions about what I should wear and how I should look. So in that spirit, here’s what I “look like”, as an engineer:

  •  I’m a runner,
  • a backpacker,
  • a volunteer,
  • a Christian,
  • and a writer.
  • I crochet. I like to crochet while waiting for economic models to converge.
  • I love shoes, but I don’t like wearing anything that makes me prance at work.
  • I don’t love makeup. My face melts if I have to go out in the plant.
  • I’m not really good at math, but I can do it.
  • I AM really good at patterns.
  • I get bored doing one sort of thing for too long.
  • I’m more productive in late afternoon / evening.
  • I’m an introvert.
  • I’m also the social planner in my group.
  • I love pedicures.
  • I hate manicures.
  • I do not wear dockers and polos to work.
  • I am still figuring out what I do wear to work.
  • I’m also an MBA. I’m good at economics.
  • I love being outside.
  • I’m an organizer and a coordinator.
  • I’m a collaborator and a teammate.
  • I’m creative.
  • I love projects: serious work ones and silly home ones.
  • My ideal place: a library with a coffee shop inside.
  • I love books. Physical books. Especially when they’re smelly.

Do yimage_medium2ou notice that the usual high school guidance counselor criteria, “loves science and math (and – subtext – star trek)” are not on my list? Yet I can’t imagine any career that would suit my personality better than engineering.

Readers: Any surprises in the above list? For my STEM readers — how do YOU look like an engineer?

What I Loved in Blogs This Week

imageI want to write about things I love in my everyday life. But I want to read about them, too, and connect with other bloggers who are writing about the same topics. Although my blog reading, like my posts, is currently heavily slanted towards books, I did enjoy some really good posts in several of my favorite categories this week.

Books

Adventures in Audio: Bookshelf Fantasies expressed her conversion to audiobook listener better than I ever did. Plus, there’s a great discussion going on in the comments section.

Career & Women in STEM

Barbie, Remixed: I (Really) Can be a Computer Engineer: A real life woman computer engineer rewrites a very demeaning Barbie book more to her liking. Oh, and Ken is a moron. (But we knew that already).

Yoga

Review of Yogis Anonymous: Broke-Ass Yogi tries out an online yoga class subscription service, and lets us know how she liked it. (Spoiler: it sounds like she had the same problem I do with yoga videos – wussing out in the middle of a long sequence I don’t like.)

Faith

The False Gospel of Gender Binaries: Rachel Held Evans asks, “If Jesus started with the outliers, why wouldn’t we?”

 

Readers: What was your favorite blog post (not your own) from this week?