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Public Perception of Engineers

Discussion in 'Off Topic Threads' started by GW22, Feb 19, 2010.

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  1. GW22

    GW22 Active Member

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    When I heard that the nut-job tax cheat who flew his plane into an IRS building was an engineer, I cringed. It reminded me of how public perception has changed regarding this profession. All the way back to childhood I remember engineers as being almost universally respected. They were the ones who gutted it out through the most difficult courses in college. Engineers were generally stable and level-headed people who designed all the important stuff from which the whole world benefitted. They devised the weapons systems that protected us and designed the cool cars everyone wanted to own. An engineering degree represented security for your family.

    But it seems like a couple decades ago common perceptions about engineers began to change. The title "engineer" started being applied generically -- sometimes to employees who had little formal technical education at all, much less a four year engineering degree. To a degree, engineers began to be perceived by the public as anti-social kooks who had difficulty coping with the world. I remember someone using the Michael Douglas movie "Falling Down" to mark the moment in time when the engineering profession's reputation began going downward. I love that movie, but it's implication about engineers is indeed sad.

    As a gun enthusiast I hate it when other gun owners act like idiots and hurt our collective reputation. As an engineer, I feel the same way. Am I the only one who feels like the engineering profession has lost some of it's prestige? If you feel that way too, why do you think it has happened? Is our dumbed-down, superficial society increasingly unable to respect the importance and contribution of those who worked hard in school in order to design quality products which benefit society? Is everything so disposable now that nobody even cares about designed-in quality? Have bling, fame and greed become more respectable than hard work, brains and contribution? Is the American culture now entirely about consumption and no longer about creation? What is it?

    -Gary
     
  2. Mapper

    Mapper Member

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    It may be because the two engineers who were President didn't have great success.
    Having gone from Purdue to USGS, I am used to eccentric folks and enjoy them. Maybe everyone does not. One of my HS friends is a retired NASA engineer and has a pet desert tortoise, for example. Jim buried a barrel so the tortoise could hibernate.
    MK
     
  3. wannaz

    wannaz Member

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    Having worked with mechanical engineers, and now with civil engineers, I've seen my share of engineering foul ups. Some, don't seem to have one of life's most important needs, common sense. With that said, I've also been around a couple who were very interesting, and "normal" type people. I can also say without adoubt, if I were to be an engineer, we'd all be in some serious trouble. lol
     
  4. GW22

    GW22 Active Member

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    Eccentric? Communication skills of a gerbil? LOL. I remember taking a calculus class taught by a brilliant older engineer who held numerous patents across multiple industries. He was literally a genius. During the second week of class he was a couple minutes into his lecture when we realized he was talking about a much more advanced course, which he also happened to teach. We interrupted and asked, "Are you sure you're lecturing about Calc I?" He froze for several seconds and then took off his horn-rimmed glasses to ponder the question, but he accidentally dropped them on the floor. As he bent over to pick them up he clumsily stumbled forward and completely crushed his glasses under his left foot. He calmy took a sheet of paper and, using it as a dustpan, scooped up the twisted pieces, dumped them into his brief case, closed it, and silently walked out of the classroom without uttering a single word. We all roared when the door shut, but we still respected the old guy's brilliant mind.

    -Gary
     
  5. 4N6PE

    4N6PE Member

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    I would like to think that as licensed professional engineers, we uphold a high standard.In my field of consulting in accident reconstruction,I constantly must confront opposing engineers with opposite opinions.Reputation, analytical skills and communication are everything, as we are ultimately evaluated by juries.
    As a group, I don't think that engineers have any more foul ups than other professions.And we do contribute our share to the economy.

    [Now, someone should be able to decipher my user name]

    Ned
     
  6. GW22

    GW22 Active Member

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    Forensic Professional Engineer? Cool.

    -Gary
     
  7. glenn mcleod

    glenn mcleod Member

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    Forensic Practicing Engineer? Glenn
     
  8. timb99

    timb99 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I think that guy in Austin was a "software engineer."

    I get a little critical of every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a 2-year tech degree or a computer science degree calling themselves engineers.

    I have a friend who works for a telecommunications company here who is ANYTHING but an engineer, but her job title is "engineer." She knows it drives me nuts, but we laugh about it.

    Another acquaintance who has a master's degree in math also works for the same telecommunications company. He "designs" office communications systems. Essentially, he does the kind of thing the Electrical Techs I work with, who have 2-year tech degrees, do. He got miffed when I told him I didn't think he was a "real" engineer.

    These people couldn't get past the Engineer in Training test if their lives depended on it.

    Anybody can call themselves engineers.

    Garbage men call themselves "sanitation engineers."

    But next time you flip on your light switch, and the light actually goes on, remember there's some REAL engineer who knows how coal from some coal mine turned into light to illuminate your kitchen.

    GW22, I hear you. But even if public perception is changed, we're still the "stable and level-headed people who design all the important stuff from which the world benefits."

    Tim Bruggeman<br>
    Registered Professional Engineer<br>
    Licensed in Kansas and Nebraska
     
  9. 4N6PE

    4N6PE Member

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    Gary got it right.

    Ned
     
  10. recurvyarcher

    recurvyarcher Well-Known Member

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    Gary has it right. I never went past the EIT...just no time to study for it cuz I had too many things going on. RF/Microwave systems engineer here. I also went to school for biomed engineering and computer hardware engineering.

    I am going to take a leap and say that this guy, I think, was a software engineer, at least that's what I got out of reading his diatribe. I'm sorry, but I just have never thought that the software guys were truly engineers. I'm probably going to get slammed here, but from what I can see I cannot really tell the difference between computer scientists and software engineers. Maybe someone can educate me.

    The software guys got REALLY used to being spoiled with inflated pay rates, cushy jobs, etc. Most bachelor's level software guys were making $75-80K the week after they graduated. Like real estate, the bubble had to burst.

    Not only did the bubble burst for this guy, but he also got caught up in trying to scam the tax system. While I am a conservative, and as such I like smaller government and less taxes, I don't believe that we should abolish taxes all together.

    BTW...the Geek image, as well as the Unstable image, is very '70-'80s era. Younger people don't really think like that anymore. That's reflected in the steady growth of freshman engineering students since the late 80s. It's cool to be an engineer now.

    This incidence isn't a reflection on engineers, but more a sign of the times. It is not just engineers that are getting the shaft these days. I'm afraid that we are going to see more of this as times get worse, and IMO this behavior will be exhibited more by adults who were priveleged as kids. They don't know how to deal with things like inconvenience, low income, loss of self esteem, joblessness, etc.
     
  11. markdenis

    markdenis TS Member

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    It is not about you, about your profession, or any profession. It is about "ME" and the hell with anyone or anything else which seems to be the standard American attitude now days. It is a loss of respect for all professions.

    Mark
     
  12. Bob Hawkes

    Bob Hawkes Well-Known Member

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    Devi, I wish I could dis-agree with you but I think you have a good sense of the pulse of todays work environment. I hope I'm wrong, but I believe there are a lot more people/business's out there in trouble, or struggling so hard to stay alive than the average person realizes. Our government doesn't have a clue. What a shame to where they've put us. Bob
     
  13. Hauxfan

    Hauxfan Well-Known Member

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    And here I thought engineer's drove trains. ;)

    Hauxfan!
     
  14. wireguy

    wireguy TS Member

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    "I'm afraid that we are going to see more of this as times get worse, and IMO this behavior will be exhibited more by adults who were priveleged as kids. They don't know how to deal with things like inconvenience, low income, loss of self esteem, joblessness, etc. "

    Devi echoes my belief. A lot of desperate people out there.
     
  15. DoubleAuto

    DoubleAuto Well-Known Member

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    Worked with a bunch of them at a government agency. Would like to buy them for what they were worth and sell them for what they think they were worth.

    DoubleAuto
     
  16. Setterman

    Setterman Well-Known Member

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    Domestic Engineer = Housewife. Sanitation Engineer = Garbage man. The word "Engineer" is being used and abused. I grew up in a family of Civil Engineers. My Son is one. And being a Construction Manager, I am exposed to a lot of Mechanical, Electrical, and Civil Engineers. In general, most have "thinking" personalities and appear "geekish", when actually they have a tendancy to over contemplate issues due to liability concerns. Some of the smartest people I know are P.E.s. Like Devi, I stopped at EIT as I ran out of time to go to college while raising a family. I was also grandfathered to take my Architect's examine, but passed assuming I would take it later. Never did.
    Couldn't stand to work in the office everyday.
     
  17. shrek

    shrek Active Member

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    Within any group or population we find a wide range of competence and abilities.

    In my world of helping improve the way we turn soil, sunlight and rain into food, energy and clothing I spend a fair amount of time working with a lot of folks with post baccalaureate degrees in hard science fields (I have one myself) including engineers. Some of them are outstanding and some of them make you wonder how they managed to get there. Being book smart might get you a piece of paper to hang on the wall, but may not get you much farther.

    It also seems that more and more good people skills are getting harder and harder to find. Good people skills and the desire and ability to learn go a lot farther than all kinds of God given talent and no people skills.

    Authority and position alone are not enough to command or earn respect.

    Each individual needs stand on their own merits.
     
  18. Setterman

    Setterman Well-Known Member

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    Communication skills and brains don't necessarily go together.
     
  19. EE

    EE Banned User Banned

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    I completely agree with Gary, Tim and Devi. And I also work with a lot of programmers who are allowed to called themselves engineers. I don't know why the company hires them, unless they pay them less. You won't find any of them on design teams, though.

    EE
     
  20. TOOLMAKER 251

    TOOLMAKER 251 Active Member

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    I wore engineer boots many years ago when I had a Harley, so I know how you feel.
     
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