Recently I read a journalist’s comment on a candidate for a high-ranking position’s response to a question. The reporter said that the replies “often sounded like the engineer he was earlier in his career, replying frequently that he would need more time to gather facts.” This seems to be a common perception that Engineers are evasive.

I am a Professional Engineer (my discipline is Civil Engineering) and spent a lot of my career working for municipal councils. They did not accept the “more time” comment very often. They wanted considered answers so it was pretty well my duty to have gathered the facts before attending Council. Early in my career, I assembled anything I could think of and read the information available and brought any possible supporting documentation so that a proper answer could be provided. As experience increased background knowledge, the background material taken to meetings diminished, but the preparation didn’t. Evasive wasn’t an option.

Dilbert is a cartoon of an engineering working in the bowels of a company and not exposed to the general public. When depicted socially, he is an uninteresting misfit There seems to be a common perception that Engineers are reclusive uninteresting techies.

At the school I attended, engineering students wore a very distinctive coloured jacket. One evening after attending a drama club play, I noticed quite a number of engineering jackets being donned as we left at play’s end. Techies with a cultural interest.

In work life I found the outside interests of my Engineering colleagues to be quite varied. There were choir members, sports coaches, local theatre group actors, sailors, hobby farmers, pilots, marching band members, civic promoters. Active interested citizens; not reclusive number wonks.
And continuing this line of thought, Engineers are just Techies.

This probably comes from our schooling (Maths, sciences, CAD/drafting, design, lab work). Did you know our classes also included humanities, legal issues, ethics?

In Canada, “Professional Engineers have a clearly defined duty to society, which is to regard the duty to public welfare as paramount” (from PEO website). I read somewhere that this duty is somewhat different from that of say Lawyers or Doctors. Their public is their clients. They protect the public by performing their best for their clients. Engineers are hired by developers and politicians. Our public is the third party and it is our duty to protect them from ill-advised decisions by our clients. An interesting and sometimes arduous task.

We (Engineers) don’t seem to have properly promoted this key fact. Although we work in technical fields, our duty is public protection.

The Plaidneck