10 responses to “The Inside Looking Out”

  1. Bill

    I agree with the idea that it is what someone is doing, not necessarily their title or degree.

    That being said, I tend to get worked up about government subsidized professions (like lawyers). If there is a legitimate need for a service that creates a market and opens opportunity to be taken advantage of, that’s fine with me, but when individuals or companies are forced to divert resources into an overlay large (at least in the US) legal system for little benefit to society, it just rubs me the wrong way.

    It seems most politicians being lawyers is a conflict of interest. They create law which in turn benefits their profession. The other aspect of law and government related to engineering is we get to see up front and center what type of impact overzealous regulations have on business and innovation. CE regulations, for example, absolutely crush little companies. Dropping tens of thousands of dollars on CE testing is no big deal when you’re selling millions of product, but when you’re selling 100 a year to other small industrial companies, it becomes a massive cost. And are European products really any safer than US products, which don’t have to confirm to any safety requirements (other than the fear of getting sued to hell and back)?

    Then don’t even get me started on patents…

    1. Cherish The Scientist

      are European products really any safer than US products, which don’t have to confirm to any safety requirements (other than the fear of getting sued to hell and back)?

      Short answer: yes. Episodes like people’s cell phones turning on the burners in their ovens (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/18/national/main5248949.shtml)don’t happen in the EU because there are standards for susceptibility there that don’t exist in the US.

      I don’t think that government oversight is inherently evil…we could have used a lot more of it before the last economic meltdown. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a serious overhaul.

      1. Bill

        LOL, are you sure that’s not an “Internet of Things” feature?

        I agree that government oversight is not inherently evil. Apparently, I must have come across as an anti-government wing nut. Smart regulation can be a good thing, but over-regulation can hurt innovation and smaller companies which drive a lot of new product innovation.

        1. Cherish The Scientist

          Nope…definitely EMI. :-)

          I think the reason over-regulation is occurring has more to do with lobbying by large corporations. Until corps lose their power over congress critters, I don’t see the situation changing.

  2. An old engineer

    For some reason, I’ve always got the feeling from other people that they are capable of being engineers, but choose other fields instead. The trouble is that because someone can change a spark plug on a lawnmower, that doesn’t make them technically competent to consider themselves as good as a mechanical engineer.

    I can’t tell you the number of times someone in accounting tell me that I’ve overestimated what it cost to design, document, build, and assemble a major piece of equipment. The same was true with physicists, CAD designers, and software programmers. They all thought they were as competent as a good mechanical project engineer.

    In the end, they were all wrong and came asking for help to bail them out of trouble.

    IMHO, I think the reason why engineers haven’t reached a more elevated status in society like lawyers and doctors is that we don’t have a strong central authority like the legal bar or medical board. If you’re not certified, you are not allowed to practice in either of these professions.

    As for engineers, the large majority of us are not licensed. Even though I have a Mechanical Engineer certification in my state, every employer if he doesn’t have to deal with safety related issues doesn’t need to hire a licensed professional engineer to sign off on designs and documentation.

    BTW, the term “engineer” has been bastardized for a long time. “Domestic Engineer” (home maker), “Sanitary Engineer” (garbage man). How many other “engineering professionals” can you think of?

    1. Cherish The Scientist

      When I started my degree in EE, I thought it would be easy because, hey! I had a degree in physics and this was just engineering. Didn’t take me long to realize it was a lot more difficult than I thought and that having a degree in physics meant that I was capable of picking up a lot of the theory involved.

      Also worked with a CAD designer who thought he was an RF engineer…that was fun. :-)

      Unfortunately, the licensure issue is hard to deal with since engineering is such a diverse field. In medicine and law, I think what you have to know is more narrow and easily defined.

      1. Stanley Ma

        Some jurisdictions license engineers based on their sub-field (electrical, civil, chemical, etc.). So it’s not hard at all to establish a baseline of competency. The professional code of ethics require licensed engineers to perform work in which they are competent. I’m sure the same goes for the medical field. I’d hate for my dentist to perform brain surgery on me.

  3. Stanley Ma

    Old engineer, I agree with you completely. If only certified engineers are allowed to practice any sort of engineering, the supply would shrink and the wages and prestige would go up. The cost of products to the general public would also rise along with it though.

    Here’s an anecdote about the title “engineer”. This title is protected in Canada and reserved for PEs only. When Microsoft starting passing out their MSCE (Microsoft Certified Engineer) designation to Canadians, they were challenged in court by various professional engineering societies. The compromise is that only the acronym MSCE is allowed to be used, but the expanded title that includes the word “engineer” is to be forbidden.

  4. FrauTech

    Bill speaks up with the most common kind of disdain I see from engineers: bitterness and anger over government regulation or involvement. It’s incredibly amusing to me since it tends to come the most adamantly from people whose paychecks come directly or indirectly from government funding. I’m not even sure what people think government is anymore.

    1. Bill

      I work for a small private (non-defense or government funded) company. But I find most engineers I know are not satisfied with current patent law and regulatory law, and I don’t necessarily think that some of them working for government subsidized industries makes them hypocrites. You have to take these things on an issue by issue basis (e.g. the mailman can be anti-war even if the government subsidizes both him and war).