To engineer with craft has been my path since childhood, yet it has only been upon reflection that I have hung my hat on the word craft and that sharing this “engineer ethos” with others might be helpful to others.
Growing up with two parents who possessed an analytical mindset greatly influenced my philosophy of work as an engineer. This manifested from the routines in the household, the trips to the library and the adventures in the outdoors. My father, Raymond, worked as an engineer and he still loves an illustrative quote or saying. My mother, Betty, worked in an industrial engineering capacity early in her career, yet spent most of her working life teaching math in the school system. She loved to make things- ski mittens, Halloween customs and cherry pies.
The sayings from the family culture that still resonate in my mind include “Finish the job” and “Ah the subtleties of life.” The values that lie within my soul include integrity, discipline, and curiosity. These all fuel my intention to engineer with craft.
My work as an engineer for the past thirty plus years has both honed my engineering philosophy as well as widen its perspective. Conversations with supervisors of my summer internships, mistakes made on an engineering project, observations about the engineers I consider my role models these all shaped my approach and humbled my arrogance. The attention to detail has enabled me to work through the intricate projects; this came easily to me. The openness to input from others took much longer to cultivate.
Craftsmanship results from seeing the larger picture so that you work on the right details to achieve the final solution. While a solution has room for improvement, its an effective solution if delivered on time within budget and meets the requirements. In my mind its no coincidence that there are three E’s in the word engineer. For me they stand for efficiency, efficacy and economy. To the task at hand all engineering solutions can be evaluated through these three lenses. I have yet to find a characteristic that can’t be mapped to one of these 3 E’s.
Engineering continues to be a team sport; no engineer is an island. An engineer relies on their teammates to provide some of the checks and balances during the pursuit of their solution. The thrill of working with engineers as fully engaged as you in pursuit of the solution. This can buoy you through the uncertainty.
The image of an engineer working alone by themselves has never been fully true. The aqueducts channeling water to Rome were neither built in a day or by one person; and it’s doubtful it began with out a design review. Yes the tendency for engineers to be introverted to need time by themselves to think and process before speaking up this is quite accurate. I find it quite necessary to have that alone time; at some point the time comes to engage with other engineers to address the challenge at hand.
To work well with others fundamentally requires an engineer to recognize that relationship building and communicating with others deserve their time to develop. Just as much time as it takes to become proficient with a new CAD tool or conversant about a new technology.
We live in a world with complicated problems to solve and engineering teams will be solving these problems. I invite you to invest in developing the technical and human skills to contribute.
Does my ethos of engineering strike a chord with you?