Posted by: nedpelger | February 22, 2010

A Thoughtful Response about Working with Engineers

I came into work today and found this response about the engineer who flew into the IRS building in TX.

Good Morning Mr. Pelger,

After taking off early Friday and a weekend away from e-mail I’m just catching up on your blog. Which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoy. Your post last Friday had special meaning for those of us living here in Austin. We saw a tragedy unfold that impacted, not only the lives of those in the Echelon Building, but each of us who calls Austin home. We now walk with slightly less confidence in our security and safety while looking slightly more closely at those we think we know as neighbors. It is truly a sad state of affairs. We will rebound; we’re Texans and Americans, we always do.

As a member of the construction community since the age of twelve, I turned sixty last July, a NICET certified Civil Engineering Technician and a holder of a AAS in Architectural and Engineering Computer Aided Drafting from Austin Community College your thoughts regarding the proper care and handing of the “engineering psyche”, were of particular interest. I am employed as a CAD Designer by a local engineering firm so a great deal of my time is spent working with members of the engineering community. If I read your thoughts correctly it sounds as if you are saying those of us who are not engineers should go out of our way to make special concessions to engineers and simply accept that they will not trust, like, or feel any kinship with those of us who are mere mortals.

Mr. Pelger, if in fact that is what your thoughts are, I am highly offended and distressed at your obvious belief that you and all other members of the engineering profession are some sort of God of all knowing and divine power. Engineers are people, Mr. Pelger just like the rest of us. Granted they may have a slightly more focused approach to problem solving and may more readily grasp the nuances of mathematics, still they are people who put their pants on one leg at a time.

Perhaps a more reasonable approach would be for the teachers who early on see the potential for some students to become engineers to immediately begin to stress to those students the importance of developing interpersonal skills. Perhaps those students should be encouraged to see their fellow students, and someday fellow workers and citizens striving to build a better world, as valuable members of a complete design and build team each of whom brings a special set of skills to every project. Perhaps from the EIT to the Registered Professional level the Continuing Education credits required to maintain professional standing should include classes aimed at reinforcing to every engineer that they are people too and must respect the value of their fellow humans.

Sir, as an engineer, you may be able to develop the necessary formulas and analysis to build the largest and most complex of structures yet until every engineer is brought back to earth and firmly grounded in the fact that they owe their very existence to the people around them who provide support and, yes even occasionally point out errors, tragic incidents akin to the one that has so impacted Austin, Texas will continue to occur.

Hopefully, you will see my comments not as “sour grapes” but as genuinely concerned thoughts from a fellow “Construction Professional”. Ours is a wonderful, challenging, rewarding, and yes, often times mind-bogglingly frustrating business/career. We need every construction professional, whether they hold a degree or not, to come together and stress the importance of each individual. As our Founding Fathers so beautifully made clear in our Declaration Of Independence and the most amazing document in the history of mankind, the United States Constitution, no person is above another: We are all equal.I was privileged to serve in our Armed Forces during the Viet Nam Conflict and am a Proud Viet Nam Veteran.

I feel certain that there are a significant number of engineers who read your blog. Perhaps you can start the ball rolling there. How about two new apps? One to help non-engineers relate to engineers and one to help engineers relate to non-engineers.

Heck, just make it one app that address both issues. Lets start taking down the barriers that cause any member of our profession to feel isolated or tossed aside.

I will close by saying how much I enjoy your blog and how often I refer to the CK website for advice and tools. I feel certain that you are the type of engineer who listens to those around him and sees the value of each member of his team. Thanks for providing a valuable service and so many good tools. Keep up the good work.

Regards,

Gary D. Evans

Austin, Texas

I responded with the following:

Gary,

I really appreciate your thoughts. I’m afraid I wasn’t clear in my writing, as I certainly don’t think any special concessions should be made to engineers. In fact I hate arrogance. I was trying to articulate why it seems so many engineers are jerks. I should have taken the opportunity to state, what I clearly believe, that this behavior is counter-productive to effective working relationships and should be modified when possible.

Instead, I jumped right to problem solving (as I have a tendency to do) and gave some pointers for dealing with someone of a certain personality type of which many engineers belong. The phone app does indeed give pointers for dealing with 4 different personality types, depending on your own personality type.

As Gary and I exchanged another round of emails, we both decided that we’d made a new friend today. I don’t know about you, but that makes it a good day for me.

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