Engineers as Loner-Loser-Uncultured-Geeks - Not!
Remember being shunned at college (at least in England) for being an engineer (or scientist) by the oh so trendy arts and humanities crowd? I do. We geeks were characterized as uncultured loners and losers. Well I've been re-examining the evidence and I think we should have stood our ground and turned this whole loner-loser-uncultured-geek thing on its head and fired it right back at the arts and humanities posse.
NASAImage courtesy of
Engineers as loners is simply not true. The earliest days on my path to engineer-dom were characterized by team work - whether it was group lab activities or group design and build contests - it was always in a team. In industry too, teams are the domain of engineers - how else would you conceive, design, and build something of the magnitude of the Apollo Moon Missions? Contrast this with the lone author or lone artist working on their masterpieces - no mention of team work there. Seems to me we engineers were characterized as loners by those who more aptly fit the description and yet somehow it stuck to us.
Ok, maybe there's something here if you frame it in terms of a popularity contest amongst teenagers - where historically would-be engineers haven't faired too well. However, I prefer the idea that engineers are slow starters but persistent - life is not a sprint, it's a marathon. As we engineers mature we are classed as highly valued citizens - making something from nothing - a stretch for many of the arts and humanities set that became lawyers and politicians. Let's rerun those popularity contests now!
Why is it that culture seems to be defined in terms of the frivolous? Things like what you wear, how you look, your grasp of the classic writings of Shakespeare et al, or appreciation of paintings from bygone times. It's because engineers have better things to do. Culture is defined by those who have little grasp of everyday reality because they don't have to, so they levitate towards the frivolous. Whereas engineers are a different breed - from the people for the people - attempting to ever improve or provide new innovations for the human condition, whether it be a vacuum cleaner or a car.
Ok, I'll admit that I prefer numbers and equations to words and sentences, but so what? How is it that numbers and equations equals geek yet words and sentences equals a higher purpose? I'm willing to write reports and make presentations if it serves a practical purpose such as the communication of a new design or the findings from a series of tests. As an engineer it's a duty instilled in us from our first days at college to share insights with the team in whatever form helps get the message across.
On a daily basis we are surrounded by the works of engineers - you name it, from light bulbs to airplanes - we engineers are responsible for a lot of the world around us and on the whole it's for the better.
I know it's probably time I moved on, and now I can finally having let my thoughts loose. I'm proud to say I'm an engineer no matter what anyone else thinks - really I'm over it...