Deep in a file drawer in my office on a couple of pieces of paper yellowed by time is an article that, written and published in 1954, is a literal snapshot of the notion and perceived traits of an engineer over 50 years ago – when I was only 9 years old. Every once in a while I come across this article and read it again trying to understand how the engineering profession has changed and if the “Engineer Personality” has been modified over the years as the article recommends.
Here is the article – –
Somehow, I don’t really feel that today’s engineers exhibit the characteristics the article implies and, yet, maybe they do. I think today’s engineering tools which are quite similar to those used by other professions including bankers and lawyers (namely the computer) have helped the engineer become less easily distinguished from other professions. Few engineers today wear “pocket protectors” which shouted “nerd” in my early engineering days. Likewise, knowledge of tools like drafting tables, T-Squares, plastic triangles with 45, 30 and 60 degree corners, french curves and slide rules no longer physically distinguish the engineer from other “normal” working people. And yet, there is something distinctly different about the person who has chosen the engineering profession – – even today. I would like to hear from those of you who are or work with engineers to regarding the relevancy of this article concerning the “Engineer Personality.” Are we making progress? Are the same traits still present and do these traits truly differentiate the engineer? Can we hold our heads high or are we still social misfits as the article implies? How do you feel?
One thing I DO know is that an engineer never stops being an engineer – something I’ve found both troubling and useful as I’ve grown older. There is always some new theory to test or some new concept to try to understand. There must be something about being an engineer . . .
– FJF –