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What would I be, if not an engineer?

Posted: 16 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:engineers? engineering challenges? creative engineering?

Vincent: Being an engineer at heart, I find that most other careers provide only portions of what I love about engineering.

I am an engineer. Period. I have always loved the adventure and challenge of creative problem solving, of finding a way to make something work and persuading others to let me do it.

If I were not an engineer, I suppose I would be an architect. Then again, maybe I would be an attorney, or a psychiatrist, an entrepreneur, a novelist, a performer.

Being an engineer at heart, I find that most other careers provide only portions of what I love about engineering. The truth is, I would probably find most other careers too limited in variety and challenge.

What attracts me to architecture is how it blends inspiration with utility. I once engineered a remote control for whole-house automation. It provided the utility of control of all in-house systems while being intuitive enough for a guest to be able to use. It had to fit into your hand, look perfectly in place next to the good china, and inspire "oohs" and "ahs" from visitors.

Being an attorney provides the opportunity for competitive persuasion. Engineering is full of competing ideas, trade-offs and pathways to end solutions. The pathway from idea to end product is greatly shaped by engineers' abilities to understand the requirements and persuade themselves and others of the best possible solutions.

Psychiatrists help people understand that what you get out of life is largely due to what you put in. Engineers have to deal with the laws of physics: You can't get more out of a system than you put into it. They have to balance target requirements with reality, time and effort. Engineers constantly deal with change. New designs have to strengthen output power, range, throughput, user interface and functionality while overcoming weaknesses in power consumption, size and noise susceptibility.

Entrepreneurs deal with creating strategy, organizing resources and generating plans of action to form new businesses. Entrepreneurs are evangelists for ideas and their potential to yield a return on investment. Every engineer requires the wherewithal for strategic planninga course of action for project completion. Engineering requires getting buy-in for budget, tools, talent, resources and schedule. Ideas have to be sold to those who need to contribute to making them reality.

Novelists are communication artists. They use words to create understanding in their readers' minds. Books create a reproducible standard that can be interpreted and delivered in many languages. For groups to work together effectively, they must be on the same page when it comes to project specifications, component specs, interface specs, performance requirements and intended operation. It is not good enough to write documents that you can understand; it is necessary to write documents that others will not misunderstand.

Performers are artists who make complicated actions look simple. A good and entertaining performance requires preparation, timing, coordination, the right materials, a lot of skill and a little luck. Engineering is like a good song and dance. It requires a lot of coordinationand a lot of failure in practice before the final presentation. The quality of the final product is directly related to the combined talent of the company. Engineering also requires good frequency control, noise reduction and contingency plans, and often improvises when things don't go as planned.

I guess I have always been destined to be an engineer. And in a way, choosing to be an engineer has enabled me to be much, much more.

Why would I choose to be any one other thing, when being an engineer has enabled me to be so many?

- Paul Vincent
Team Manager, Mixed-signal ASIC
Cirque Corp.

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