So you are about to graduate or already have an engineering degree, and you would like to call yourself an engineer? Oh boy, buckle up and let’s go for a ride, because in this day and age being an engineer might not mean what you thought it does.
My name is Ali Mokayes, and I am an IT graduate, currently in Melbourne Australia undertaking a 3 month professional and cultural development placement at La Trobe Innovation and Entrepreneurship Foundry (LIEF Lab). I wrote the article below as a part of my development and reflection on learning outcomes. I hope that you will find it useful as I certainly had a few revelations in the last few weeks.
The origins for the word “engineer” come from the Latin word ingeniare (create, generate, contrive, devise), keep that in mind for a moment, and let’s move on.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Regional Victoria, and take part in attending a series of lectures and meetings with the general public, students, engineers, company directors and many other interesting figures. It started with a visit to Bendigo and attending a presentation at La Trobe University Art Institute, as a part of the Bendigo downtown lecture series. The lecture “Emerging Technology and the Impact on Regional Victoria“ was held by my mentor and professor Eddie Custovic, joined by professionals Tim Cara (CEO of GeoWAN) and Chris Stoltz (Former Mayor of Bendigo, President of Engineers Australia). The goal of the presentation was to address how science and technology could disrupt life in regional Victoria, but geographically it is relevant globally.
The audience demographic was extremely diverse, and it was really interesting to see with what enthusiasm people react to examples of how a simple sensor can be used to track the health of their vineyards, movement of cattle, or how unsure and skeptical they can be when technologies like blockchain or A.I. are mentioned. When people can directly see the benefit that technology can bring to them they are more open to it and open to ask more questions about it. The same thing happened with blockchain, a technology most of the audience was not very knowledgeable about. As the technology was explained I could sense a sign of relief from the audience and the uncertainty that may have existed slowly disappeared. I realized I had a key takeaway from the lecture. An engineer, talking about the technology in a non-technical way, demystifying it, breaks the barrier and aversion within the common populace and sparks their interest. That spark will live on long after that lecture and create a new generation of engineers, new technology adopters, and in turn new technology users. Most importantly it will ensure that the general population embraces technologies with confidence rather than monger fear and rejection.
Just by doing that a great deal of the social responsibility component is fulfilled, and while today a lot of engineers are working for entities/businesses who’s primary objective is profit, rather than benefit for humanity/society itself, fulfilling the social component in any way is a major step towards a healthier, happier and developed global community.
Being technically skilled, or solving technical issues is rewarding, but an engineer who works with other people, companies, or disciplines in helping them adapt and develop their ideas and businesses is in turn also helping develop the communities that the people and businesses will be serving. That means being able to take on and tackle issues or problems that in scale can be much larger than one person or a company.
As we traveled across Regional Victoria, one of the engineers we visited at Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) said: “An Engineers duty is to combine the scientific world with the capitalism of today”. Those words resonated with me. I then thought, everyone invests into real-estate without knowing anything about it, why wasn’t it so with technology, for example blockchain, A.I etc. or any other technology that is emerging? So when an engineer talks about a technology to the general public, gets them closer to it, and helps them make a more rational decision and act upon it, they may not be developing a new technological solution, but they are still definitely helping develop the community. After all, technology adoption isn’t about technology it is about people and how they perceive its value.
So let’s go back to the origins of engineering, the words: create, generate, contrive, devise. In my opinion and in today’s age, one more word/term would be quite fitting to the above mentioned: propagate.
An engineer who propagates the idea or technology, an engineer who is socially responsible, ethical and understands the importance of informing the general public is an engineer of, and for the future.