12 responses to “The invisible engineer and the telecom fairy”

  1. Chris Gammell

    Computational geophysicist, eh? So you like measure rocks or what? :-)

    I got into electrical engineering because I wanted to design cell phones. I had no clue what engineering was prior to that. I’ve given up the cell-phone endeavor but am glad it led me where it did.

  2. Stanley Ma

    And people in the public, even our families, often have no clue what it is we do

    I can certainly relate to that. I tell my family I design chips and they ask me what that means. I tell them they’re those little black squares on a circuit board. Silence…they’re not impressed. Then they ask me to fix their computers and when I said I can’t help, they wonder just what kind of engineer am I.

  3. Carmen

    This article hits home for me. I’ve lost count as to the number of times I have had some variant of this conversation:

    Person: What kind of engineering are you studying?
    Me: Electrical Engineering
    Person: Oh so you’re like an electrician.
    Me: Not in the slightest, I am in no way qualified to wire a house.
    Person: Huh, so computers then? Do you know why my computer won’t connect to the Internet?
    Me: Probably not, though I could potentially figure it out sooner than wire a house. I’m an analog circuit designer. I design the chips that go inside your computer to drive the display, or power everything.
    Person (now with blank look on their face): Sure, yeah, okay. So anyways…
    Me (sighing): You know what, let’s just say computers.

    After a few dozen repeats of this throughout the years I really don’t have the patience or desire to explain in depth what I really do anymore. Especially since most people don’t seem to care all that much anyway.

    1. Ron Amundson

      In MN, a BSEE waives the experience requirement for obtaining a Masters Electrician license. While it would not be prudent to hold oneself out to the public as an electrical contractor, such does serve to mitigate many no mans land conflicts between fed, state, and local regs. By the same token, having heard of the massive curricula shifts, it no longer seems wise, at least from a public safety point of view.

  4. FrauTech

    I think in mechanical it’s easier for my friends and family to understand what I do, but they still don’t understand what I really do. As in they’re familiar with the product that I help design but when they ask me what I actually do on a regular basis they don’t see how that is engineering or don’t see why I don’t understand every single element of the product I contribute to.

  5. Bill

    I spent a whole afternoon telling my dad what I do (industrial control) and later overheard him explaining to someone I design jacuzzis. I don’t even want to know what he told people when I was working in the semiconductor industry.

    I don’t have an elitist complex for being an engineer, but it does get on my nerves sometimes when people say things like “screw wasting money on a EE degree, I installed my new car CD player myself!”, like all I learned in school was how to twist color wires together.

    The “I didn’t study that model college” line is assume. I’ll have to remember that in the future.

  6. Karla

    Thanks so much for the laughs!!
    “…hadn’t studied that model in school…they wonder just what kind of engineer am I…design jacuzzis…” Too funny!

    You’re my kind of people! Glad to know you are out there.

    As an ECE and academic, explaining “what I do all day” to a family member becomes strained. The best I’ve found is to liken building/running a research lab to owning a small business. Explaining my husband’s work as an ME/EE design engineer is also cumbersome, but telling people he has patents often helps. The business angle and patent reference usually shuts them up in a good way, not a blank-stare sort of way, such that they respect what you do even if they can only explain it as computers. Did anyone see the “That 70s Show” episode where Kelso cannot understand his dad’s explanation of his specialized statistician career, so Kelso decides to say he is a farmer that plucks vegetables from trees every morning? Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8E-pqKdskM

    Cherish, I keep hearing about the idea of antennas to use RFID on livestock (I won’t use the non-technical term). I would love to know how far the work has progressed.

  7. Courtney

    I am by NO means an engineer; however I have a great understanding of why engineers are so vital to our society. Being a recruiter for engineers within the Telecom arena, I have the honor of speaking with engineers on various levels and I believe that there is not enough promotion or insight on what it takes to become an engineer and how one would go about getting there. Many engineers that I have spoken to have been in their field prior to the phenomenon of the cell phone and have grown since the transformation of the telecommunications industry, I have not met many that were recent college graduates.
    The job market is extremely competitive and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the “perfect” candidate for engineering roles. Bringing more awareness to Engineers would beneficial.