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Re: Use of foreign engineers

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Bill Polhemus wrote:
> I have to say that in my experience, the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and indeed
> that majority of the English-speaking world, are similar in this regard. Indeed,
> what little experience I have with Europe seems to correlate with this as well.

While being an engineer in France, Germany, and the rest of Europe is
regarded far more than it is here, I haven't had a problem dealing with
engineers from there (or Japan, once they got their units straight--kept
using "ft-lbs" and "in-lbs" interchangeably).  A few do seem to take
themselves rather seriously....but that can be true of any profession. 
Geez...look at doctors and lawyers.  The language barriers can be
problematic, but I've found it easier to bridge the gap in engineering
than almost any other endevour in my experience--at least we have math
and formulae as a Rosetta Stone.

I also agree that a lot of young engineers need to be taken down a
notch, especially the ones with advance degrees but no experience.  I'm
sure we're all tired of someone who went straight from BS to PhD arguing
he should be able to just take the PE test and be done with it.  

> That said, I think it is ONLY fair to point out that at least here in the U.S.,
> I've seen more and more evidence that the U.S.-born graduate engineers--at least
> those with advanced degrees--have similar attitudes.

I also agree that a lot of young engineers need to be taken down a
notch, especially the ones with advance degrees but no experience.  I'm
sure we're all tired of someone who went straight from BS to PhD arguing
he should be able to just take the PE test and be done with it.  

In fact, it's my contention that a PhD is counter to the typical
experience required by engineers....learning more and more about a
narrower and narrower field/application does NOT teach you how to use it
in the real world.  Once you're out of school, you find the challenges
you run into don't stay in simple compartments labeled with course
numbers or even majors...and you have to know enough whether you can
tackle it (and how to do so) or go get help.  Breadth as well as depth
is what's needed for engineers...and if an engineer can continue to
develop this AS WELL AS pursue a specialization, then they will be
someone to reckon with.  Less than 10% of the PhD Engineers I know are
truely fit for jobs outside of research or academia...but those 10% are amazing!

I've only been out of school 8 years (spent 6 years in the Army before
going for my degree), so I'm not terribly far removed from those first
few years of "paying dues."  Maybe my military background helped me keep
it in perspective, that I had to learn the ropes and demonstrate
knowledge before being responsible for the lives/money of others.  I
have seen my contemporaries with far better grades than myself (and
starting salaries) burn in due to arrogance (excessive even for
engineers): refusing to listen to designers or technicians, refusing to
say they don't know, refusing to get help.  However, a lot of them
change companies and track into management--the Dilbert Principle at

Experience and problem solving coupled with technical training is what
makes an engineer.... just technical training is either an application
technician or a scientist.  I do agree too many people of all
nationalities consider their many degrees an automatic indicator of
their relative skill and worth in the real world, but it's hardly a
"foreign engineer" issue.

My only beef with foreign engineers is 1)do they have sufficient
language skills to do the job safely (which would be an issue for an
American working overseas, too), and 2)is there adequate supervision of
the job to ensure the letter AND SPIRIT of the registration laws are met
(hence my reticence to send it out of my shop, let alone out of country.)

However, a foreign trained or foreign born engineer is no better or
worse than a US born one.  It's what that person does and how they do it
that makes the difference.

> This by reason of pointing out that I am not attributing the problem to being
> foreign-born, but to the copping of an attitude, which I believe is cultural in
> many of the societies I mentioned earlier, and "market-driven" (to coin a
> phrase) in many new graduates here in the states whatever their cultural origin.

I completely agree.  And I retract my previous comment about your
grumpiness, Bill...I just kept getting these one-line ascerbic comments
that didn't say much.  Good points on this one.

> Peter McCormack wrote:
> >
> > Bill
> > I am a non US born engineer.....spending a long time doing the
> > 'grunt work' in the trenches.........In Australia...and I assume other
> > 1st world ex british 'colonies'....when you get your first are
> > treated as a interin..and told.'You may have a degree...but you
> > know sh*t, and now your going to' and experience is
> > the main goal of most young engineers need to remember.

I'm also foreign born (Germany--of US parents), and I'm illiterate in 4
languages, English being two of them.  Its hard to maintain a
perspective what it's like to live and work in other countries,
including the UK, but here in the US is we can easily avoid contact with
other countries and their priorities.  People in other countries often
have little comprehension how large our country is and how little we
have to deal with other countries unless we actively decide to do
so....and its mistaken for arrogance.  There are differences about
working here rather than elsewhere, but that's true of any country.  A
foreign engineer can overcome these differences and many have.  Being a
"foreign engineer" shouldn't be a disqualifier...but you shouldn't be
viewed as a "racist" or "xenophobe" or any other aspersion just because
you question that person's qualifications as long as you DO evaluate
those qualifications and actively make a determination instead of
saying, "nope--foreign."

Bart Kemper, PE