June 2012

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Peer pressure: the real reason engineers don’t play well with others

Peer pressure: the real reason engineers don’t play well with others

Last week, I wrote about two engineering stereotypes – the thinker and the tinkerer.  When I was attempting to add a bit of data to the fluff, I came across an article in Science Daily about how engineering stereotypes drive counterproductive practices.  In particular, they encourage engineering students to engage in practices that are actually harmful in a career.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t applicable to last week’s piece, but I found it worth discussing nonetheless.  (If you’d like to read the original article, you can find it here.) The premise of the article is that engineering stereotypes are already prevalent in society and that students think about these when interacting with their coursework and classmates.  Specifically, “There’s a stereotype that engineers do things by themselves,” Leonardi says. “So when students are asked to work in teams, they think, am I going to be disadvantaged? When I go to the workplace am […]

Social Engineering (And Not the Kind In Your Spam Folder)

Social Engineering (And Not the Kind In Your Spam Folder)

Engineering is an inherently social activity. The pace and breadth of knowledge required to build useful things has become such that it’s no longer possible for one person to develop a product in a competitive environment. It requires a team. That’s actually one of the things I particularly enjoy about engineering; the discussion of ideas, intense lunch meetings, the sense of teamwork and relying on people who can do things that you can’t. I work in a very interdisciplinary group, and being around programmers, electrical engineers, and project managers gets me outside of my usual mechanical engineering bubble. I bring up the topic of engineering as a social activity because I’ve been through a bit of a lull lately. (As a consultant, things tend to shift between very high and very low gears). I believe it was the following Dilbert comic that expresses my mood the best: Being underloaded work […]