National Engineers Week: How to tell if you’re an engineer

In the United States, this is National Engineers Week. This annual event is aimed at raising awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] and the great contribution that workers in this area contribute to society. As a strong supporter and enthusiast for STEM subjects, even though I am not located in the US, I am very keen to participate in the activities this week.

With this in mind, I wanted to pose a question: Are you an engineer? …

It is quite likely that, since you are reading this blog, that on your business card or ID the word “engineer” makes an appearance. But that is not what I am asking. Are you really an engineer deep inside? Does this simple word define how you function on a daily basis?

OK. Consider these questions:

  • Are you dissatisfied by not knowing how something works?
  • Do you like taking things apart to see how they work [or did you do that as a child?]?
  • Do you regard a machine/device that does its job efficiently [and/or elegantly] as intrinsically beautiful?
  • Is the solving of a problem a source of true pleasure to you?
  • Do you often come up with ideas to make the world better?

If you can answer yes to at least three of these questions, then you were born to be an engineer [or perhaps a scientist, but that is nearly as good].

For me, I score on all five. Thankfully, I was raised to consider my future in terms of what I loved doing and, hence, pursued a science/engineering education, which eventually led to where I am today. When I was a kid, microprocessors did not exist and the term “embedded software” was not coined until I was in my early 30s, but I arrived in the right place. My gratitude for this guidance unbounded.

I am often asked by young people about choosing a job/career. All too often, they are simply focused on what pays best today. It does not seem to occur to many that a vast amount of one’s life is spent working. Anything that can make that time more satisfying and enjoyable is a boon. Not everyone can make a living following their passion, but it is a worthy aspiration.

Not everyone is an engineer at heart, but if you know a young person who is [by reviewing the questions above], please do your utmost to shepherd them in the right direction. You may have to wait for a few years, but they will thank you for the advice one day.

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