Subject: Re: Will my engineering career be like this?
From: Bill Polhemus <bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net>
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 18:58:37 -0500
"Daley, John" wrote:
> I guess my point (if my rambling has one) is that if you like what you are
> doing, the road blocks, deadlines, nuisances and hassles seem to be
I guess that's the essential point:
LIFE is a huge hassle, and we have to choose our course with due regard to the risks, aggravations, AND REWARDS. If in the final
analysis the fruits of your labors taste good, then you can say it was all worth it.
The "10 oz. fuse" is a good case in point. Some might say "but hey, 'it all pays the same', right?" But others--fewer and fewer, it
seems to me, regretably--need to have MEANING attached to what they are doing, at least in their own minds.
I think for example, that at this point I'd feel EXHILIRATED to have to meet an "impossible" deadline, if it represented the first
fruits of a fledgling engineering practice. After a few years, though, I'm sure the "thrill" would be noticeably less. So much
depends on your attitude.
I remember back when I was pre-P.E., and working (straight out of school) with a tank fabrication/erection company, a specialty
engineer-constructor that did everything from water storage tanks to nuclear containment vessels.
Part of the Engineer Advancement Program, in which all new graduate engineers were enrolled, called for me to undertake a field
assignment. One day, I was asked to show up at the jobsite where they were erecting a large "mushroom type" elevated water storage
tank. Upon arrival, I was issued a hardhat, gloves, eye goggles, and a grinder.
My job for the next week, was to GRIND weld seams. They spent two minutes showing me how it was to be done, and from then on, eight
hours a day with a half hour for lunch, I operated that grinder. It was the middle of August, and Wilmington, Delaware was hot,
steamy and MIGHTY uncomfortable when you had on jeans, a full-sleeve workshirt, and all that protective gear. I remember thinking,
"what the h*ll am I doin' here? THIS is why I went through FOUR YEARS of college and a semester of grad school? This is what they
use their young engineers for?"
Of course, I didn't get it at that moment, did I? I'm sure my grinding made a small contribution to the job, but in the larger sense
it was an exercise in self-actualization, not to mention the foundation for a darn good war story.
Looking back on it now, I have to admit that I saw and learned a lot of "stuff" when I chanced to look up from the grinder. I saw
firsthand how such a complex structure went together, and gained an appreciation for the craft involved in erecting it. So I came
away with more than a pair of hands wracked with "pins and needles". It was a challenge and I overcame it, and I think I am better
for it (easy to say NOW of course).
So, when the tough task of meeting "impossible" demands lies before you, you have to ask youself "is this going to be worth it in
the long run? What besides a paycheck am I going to get out of this? What is this sacrifice of my time and emotional well-being
going to render in return?"
If the LONG TERM picture is brighter than the short term, you may have sufficient inspiration to keep on going.