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To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?
19

To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

(OP)
Hi all

I've been binging a lot on documentaries lately, mostly on the grand old stuff that still amazes today, Concorde, SR-71, Apollo etc. Over the weekend me and some friends were catching up for some beers and inevitably it lead to the usual workplace whinge. We surmised that there are really no new problems, just new and innovative ways of F$&@ing something up, and every 5-7 years you just add another zero to the cost of the F$&@ up. Some of these folks were older than me (early 40's) so really still too young to be in the age of the grand stuff, who would be at least at retirement age and beyond by now. I think the majority of Engineers these days are pretty well acclimatised to the corporate buzzwords, sterile leadership, politics and smoke and mirrors that is the western corporate world (it seems to infect the anglo countries more than the europeans). As a young Engineer (29), I'm worried that we may never know what good leadership ever looked like and what professionalism and the craft of engineering really means.

So my question, whats changed? Has it changed? No doubt office politics and boondoggle's still happened, but I can only imagine the look on Kelly Johnson face at Lockheed or George Mueller when he was leading the Apollo program if you told them to "think outside the box", "innovate with blue sky thinking" or (I love this one) "leverage our technology stack". I'm sure the good stuff still exists, but I'm yet to see or hear about it.

What were the keys to success of those grand old projects?

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

To answer your question about what's changed, I think terminology has been re-branded. For example, many of the old quality terms within Six Sigma are now being focused and defined within CAPA. I don't think there is much to be worried about. There are advances in space travel. Innovation and breakthrough happen on a much smaller scale, nano-meters, so it is not as visible.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I was going to refer you to a "wiser (older)" folk that stated that the Patent Office had claimed, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." But, that turns out to be apocryphal.

You, who have grown up in the age of change, should see this sentiment applied today as bogus. We're ostensibly on the verge of getting fully autonomous cars, which has never happened in human history. I fail to see how these aren't your "grand ole days."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

In the early 80's I was peripherally involved in a multi-billion dollar CO2 flood in West Texas. It was clear from an outside observer that virtually all of the team members were dead weight and 2-3 engineers made all of the decisions and all of the innovations, the other 2-3 dozen just checked boxes and went to meetings. The project took so long that many of the (dead weight) team members got promoted off the team and by the time a post-appraisal was performed all of the "reviewing managers" had been on the team and the conclusion was that it was a stunning success in spite of huge cost overruns, terrible delays in start up, multiple changes in scope, and spotty well performance. This is a vivid example (at least to me) of how inept, political, and self-serving the "grand old days" really were.

I teach practical principles of engineering to recent graduates and I certainly do not see any diminishment of talent or ability compared to my class in 1980. I see more "I got one of the answers in the multiple-choice so it must be right" attitudes that say to me that instructors in engineering schools must be a bit lazier than they were in my time (where it was normal for the multiple-choice tests to have three answers calculated using the three most common mistakes the instructor sees), and actual resentment that I give a lot of irrelevant information in the problems and leave out critical information that they either need to assume or extract from the text (often significantly removed from the problem being considered)--just like actual engineering. The folks in my classes don't seem to be any different from previous generations, but it seems to me that the best-prepared among them got that way in spite of their engineering school instead of because of it.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

4
Were there ever any grand old days when we were free from jargon?
Or is the meaningless jargon just so easy to forget that we only remember the triumphs?
To put things in context:

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Ha-ha-ha, I love the closing sentence. I wonder if I can slip that into a couple of our policy documents? lol

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I'd say the main change from when I started in the early 1980s engineers wrote reports with cover memos to the time I quit where they mostly used bullet charts in PowerPoint and talking points.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

That's probably more a sign of the changes in computing and word processing than anything else. In 1987, "secretaries" had to know how to use Wang word processors, and no one type their own memos by hand. Secretaries were about 1 to 10 engineers or so, we currently have one "executive assistant" for about 100 people. In that meantime, engineers had to type their own memos, using Wordstar or Borland Sprint, and "viewgraphs" were non-trivial things to create. Today, no one writes memos, because no one really has time to read memos anyway, and PowerPoints are designed to maximum information transfer with a minimum of words and images.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

IRStuff,

That's just it; with PowerPoint there is no information transferred. It's just slight of hand for storytelling**. In the PTC conference they publish the 'presentations.' I have seen only one PTC Conference presentation from which anything meaningful can be extracted beyond the number of people and approximate gross sales for whatever company is shilling their excuse for a user exchange. That one presentation (by David Haigh) is because he backs it to the hilt with all the info.

**Death by PowerPoint http://www.zdnet.com/article/death-by-powerpoint/

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

yes, we've acquired a lot of "tech pubs" functions. We make very nice and pretty reports, and are word-smithed to death. And every so often Word has a fit and you spend days recovering the doc and trying to remember the changes. In the olde days we'd write our reports in pencil (easier to make changes) ... still got the information across.

and I too hate ppt reports. At best they summarise the analysis, but don't report it (completely, assumptions, etc).

These days an over-dependence on FEA and an under-use of FBDs and basic analysis. On the other hand FEA is a fantastic tool for complying extensive analysis results (way, Way, better than reams of output).

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I would have to say there have been two major revolutions since I began my career. The first is the advent of Cad. Somehow we went from placing typed "sticky back" notes (the original cut and paste) on drawings to 3D BIM. The second is the internet and electronic communication. The land line phone used to be the only instant method of communication. Now you can tweet, chat, Facebook, etc. Remember when there was no such thing as a "PDF" and if you wanted to send drawings to someone you had to fax them (or even worse, mail or hand deliver them)?

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

By the way, I have no reason to believe that the memo I posted is authentic. Just something that floats round on the internet like motivational posters and memes.
The fact that we all automatically REACT to it as authentic, is enough of a reminder that gobbledygook has been with us for a long time and doesn't promise to go away.

I started working professionally in the late 90's when the internet suddenly became a nearly universal source of information for products, government regulations, standards, and personal experiences. The office I started at had microfiche and CD-ROM's of all kinds of data that are useless now, because I can access all of that data in seconds through a web browser. And our hard drives have so much storage room that my old boss can put 20 years of work in a ZIP drive that fits in his pocket.

Nobody has any excuse, any more, for not having enough data at their fingertips.
We take this for granted now, because today's problem is that nobody knows how to deal with all of the information!
But this, too, will get marshalled as a next generation learns to weed through mountains of data in ways a guy like me would not think of.

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

"And our hard drives have so much storage room that my old boss can put 20 years of work in a ZIP drive that fits in his pocket."

He must not have done much; the standard Zip drive was only 100 MB winky smile

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

IRStuff - you got me on the details. dazed
I don't know if it was a "ZIP" drive or some other mass storage drive, but the event in question happened in 2014 and a Maxtor passport that fit in my pocket then held 250 GB.
I have a thumb drive that's 1/2 the size of my thumb that holds 128 GB, and it would hold his life's work just fine, too.

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Yeah, I figured that. I just thought it ironic, given that it's essentially impossible to get a 100MB non-volatile storage; MicroCenter was actually giving away 16GB SD cards a couple of weeks ago. I actually did use actual Zip drives, back in the day, and often carried about half a dozen or so between work and home. Wasn't so much my own work, but reference materials, since I'm sort of a pack rat.

That's one of the beautiful things about our current state of technology. I've increased the amount of stuff that I pack rat by a factor of no less than 16,000 times, and the volume increased by barely 2x (!!).

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

...and I just added a 250GB SSD to this computer - it's the size of a credit card. I wonder how much computing capability is on credit cards these days? It's not zero, I can tell you that. My latest Visa is semi-transparent, and I can see a spiderweb of little wires embedded in it.

Back to the OP:
Sorry for the little sidetrack. To your last question about seeing good leadership in an age that seems to have endless micro-managers, windbags, and incompetents:
I doubt that there are more (or less) of these than there used to be. The more you learn about the great leaders of the early 20th century (Edison, Ford, etc.) the more you learn they were total jerks and often a nightmare to work for. People just put up with it because complaining was less acceptable then.

And that's where I hope this thread ends off... I repeat: complaining was less acceptable back then.

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote:

We surmised that there are really no new problems, just new and innovative ways of F$&@ing something up, and every 5-7 years you just add another zero to the cost of the F$&@ up.....I think the majority of Engineers these days are pretty well acclimatised to the corporate buzzwords, sterile leadership, politics and smoke and mirrors that is the western corporate world (it seems to infect the anglo countries more than the europeans).

Unless you're generalizing "new problems" in the sense that autonomous vehicles are simply an improvement of automobiles, an improvement of carriages, chariots, sleds, etc which might be viewed as one singularly large transportation problem.....there's a huge number of new problems needing solved today, possibly more than ever. As mentioned previously, in the auto world we're going autonomous and moving away from gasoline, in aerospace we're ever moving away from the earth, and in IT there's all manner of new analytics being developed. The internet of things is interesting to me in many regards, 10 years ago companies rarely received feedback about their products whereas today products regularly provide feedback without the customer even knowing. One former employer has been receiving live data from every engine produced worldwide for a few years now and like many is struggling to analyze the incoming flood before data storage limits dictate unnecessary data's deletion. My work has led to seven patents in the last decade, my poor attention span struggles with the numerous challenges and opportunities I see in every niche and field today.

Being in my mid-30s I cannot comment on the office politics of yesteryear however my 79 year old father listens to my gripes and commiserates with many similar stories, so I tend to think little has changed in human nature. Having worked for European companies both stateside and in Europe, I am regularly thankful for our lean American engineering staffing practices. Far fewer engineers involved = fewer egos, fewer disagreements, and far fewer office politics to overcome. In a similar vein, while human nature hasn't changed I sometimes wonder if advancements in engineering tools like 3d modeling and analysis packages hasn't insulated individual engineers a bit from office politics that might've been more common when more folks (draftsmen, secretaries, etc) were involved in every process step and decision.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

At one point before the internet, and special software for internet service, most computers seemed faster, even though they were actually slower. The difference is that the software now is so inefficient that it takes so long to operate.

At one time there was a contest to see who could write the best program that would fit in 16KB. Now you would be lucky if modern coders could fit a program in 16GB.

On the other hand the new software has so many features that no one needs half of the functions offered.

Then again I did start doing calculations with paper and a hand calculator. It would take me two or three days to do what can now be done in a second, but I knew what happened and what to expect for a minor change in the conditions. Now I am about the only one that can predict the results before the simulation is run.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Bah, humbug; all of Turbo Pascal fit in 16 kB, including, the editor, compiler, linker, and assembler, with the remainder of my 64kB available for my program in 1982. This was running on CPM-80, which took only 4kB of memory for the entire OS.

However, less than 5 years after that point in time, I got a nice program (TECAP) from HP for extracting transistor parameters running on their 68010 processor-based computer that fit in the 1 MB of memory we bought for the computer. That computer was so bloated that the text editor would actually displace the operating system in order to run at all. TECAP v.2 arrived a few months later, and WTF! it required 2MB of RAM to run.

So, that was 1984, which just goes to show that software bloat is hardly a new invention, and certainly cannot be totally blamed on Microsoft.

Two years prior to that, our CFO got the first i386 computer in our division, so that he could run his monthly Excel financial reports faster than the hour it was taking him. He was jumping with joy that his spreadsheets were only taking 20 minutes to run. BUT, less than 3 weeks later, he was griping about how slow his spreadsheets were running, AFTER he added all the things he couldn't run before.

So, bloat occurs at the user level as well.

One thing that hasn't changed is schools still do a terrible job of training their students for public speaking and doing presentations, even as teachers down to 4th grade are using PowerPoint for teaching.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

2
Technology has given birth to the pseudo-profession of planning and scheduling, primarily built around software such as Primavera's P6.

Used by someone proficient with the software and who actually understands what they are planning, it's a very powerful tool which helps both planning the work and reporting on costs and progress.

Used by people who have adopted the title 'planner' - or worse 'senior planning engineer' - who frequently have no clue what they are planning, but can nonetheless produce a Gantt chart of important steps placed in the wrong sequence and with target dates which would require the use of a time machine, it spawns an ever-expanding bureaucracy hell-bent on bringing progress to a halt and sinking morale into the floor.


It's OK, I feel better now. curse

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

2
I keep thinking about the OP's questions.

If you're looking for changes to the ways people work, in engineering or otherwise, I really don't think looking back a generation or two will do it. Some things have changed (faster computers, for sure) but many many things are still the same. Businesses are still hierarchies, and responsibilities are divided among specialized people, and their specialties are very similar to the specialties that people had 100, even 150 years ago (owner, manager, engineer, technician, labourer, consultant, accountant, sales, and on and on). So expecting radical changes in the way people work, when we keep fulfilling the the same roles for 6 generations, is not realistic.

If I was to think about a business tycoon of the modern day, I'd quickly name someone like Elon Musk. Ask me about a similar famous tycoon of the past, I'd probably name Thomas Edison. Compare these two guys' biographies. Setting aside flags and such adornments, they are very similar. How could two people with so much in common each rise to success 130 years apart, unless the economy and social structure that encourages and builds such success haven't changed much in the meantime?

This thread got me thinking about a BBC television show from 1985. It was called The Day The Universe Changed, and it was an opinion/educational piece by a BBC journalist about science, technology, and how western culture has changed as science and tech have changed. The host, James Burke, spent the first 9 episodes looking back in time 2000 years. Then in the last episode, he looked forward and basically predicted all of the major social changes that everyone seems surprised about today. By giving us 2 millenia of perspective, they don't seem so major after all.

The show totally changed the way I see "progress". It comes in bursts, followed by periods of stability. Change and progress are not really continuous processes that we think they are. We undergo abrupt changes that upset our point of view, then we pick up a new way of seeing things, and then THAT becomes the new reality we live in. The so-called stability still gets technological change, but those changes don't fundamentally shake up our society. The printing press and industrial production were radical changes that upset almost everything. Today's automation of cars is just the combination of two technologies in a more complex way and will not likely upset much of anything, except my morning drive in my non-automated car. Mass communication has drastically changed our daily lives, but it's important to realize that the tipping point of that change came in the 1960's when everyone got a TV, not in the 90's when everybody got an internet account. Western society already had personal mass communication by then, and just turned it over to the internet when it became popular.

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I might argue that it was the radio that provided the first instant, mass communication, opportunity. War of the Worlds live broadcast in 1938, and FDR's "a date which will live in infamy" speech in 1941 are iconic and shared experiences by most of the US at the time.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I would argue that change is continuous, But it jumps between industries.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Outsourcing of drafting and engineering overseas on large projects. I saw a smaller company try this, it was a mess due to how slow it was and our in house drafters weren't "very motivated" to making it work.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

There have been many changes since the 1970's which have affected how engineers are implemented in the corporate structure. The 2 main outer changes that had impact were (a) the pc and (b) changing from pensions and long term ( lifetime) careers to portable 401K retirement funds and short term flexible careers.

Prior to 1980, a large manufacturing or design corp would keep a good engineer for 35 -40 yrs as a long term investment in knowledge or corporate memory. After retirement, a pension would carry the engineer thru retirement.It would take 20 yrs to be vested in a retirement plan. That changed with the Reagan administration ( 1980) with a 5 yr vesting date for pensions and the use of 401K's to allow flexible careers with multiple employers plus added tremendous wealth to the stock market. In concert with short time employment ( as opposed to lifelong career) there was made changes to financing laws which led to corporate takeovers and consequent "rationalizations" or downsizing of the workforce. This downsizing was a also a necessary result of the improvement in productivity due to the PC.

A little later , circa 1988, came the widespread use of the PC, which not only displaced the mainframe computer, typewriter, and manual draftsman, but also displaced the careers for most engineering and science PhD's. Prior to the PC, a large engineering corporation needed several PhD's in each specialty to solve detailed problems , but this need was later met , at low cost, by the widespread availability of commercially available computer programs that would solve the technical problems while only requiring a nominally educated technician or engineer to input the data.The combined reduction in PhD's and long term engineers led to a near complete loss in "corporate memory".

The latest changes to the profession are the shift of technical advances from the english speaking world to the east ( china + india) and a reduction in the need to understand thermal sciences and an increase in the need to address water shortages .

"...when logic, and proportion, have fallen, sloppy dead..." Grace Slick

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Only been in industry for 27 years.

One of the bigger changes I've seen, although I think it started before then, has been outsourcing.

Until this last company, I've always worked as an engineer directly with an operating company, not for an engineering firm.

It started shortly out of Uni, that first company started to make engineering redundant, got rid of them, then would hire engineers from engineering firms. It was mainly what I call the 'hard' engineers: Mechanical, civil, electrical...and not the 'soft' engineers: Process, Chemical, Process Control. Same thing happened to the next two companies I worked for.

In those first 15-20 years, the outsourced engineers were still national.

However, in the last 12-15 years, this has become international for low cost.

Customers are looking for minimum bids. In order to do that, we are sending the engineering overseas.

In one of my first overseas projects 14 years ago, we hired a company in China to perform engineering (project was in China). The project manager asked why were weren't going to India for engineering as it would be less expensive... sigh....

______________________________________________________________________________
This is normally the space where people post something insightful.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

3
I guess I qualify as an older folk; the good Lord willing retirement is less than 5 years away. flip

Software has dramatically changed how we do things. A few examples from back in the day when life was simple, before everything became a specialty

On a bridge project, we didn't need an electrical engineer to layout the lighting; we used charts. If there was some complicated wiring, then we'd call Sparky. Then someone invented illumination software. Bridge drainage was designed using a nomograph; then someone invented HEC-whatever. To determine lateral capacity of piles there was the Navy Manual; then someone invented L-Pile. Continuous bridges were designed using the AISC influence line book. Fortunately someone invented Merlin-Dash ( I wish I could say the same about MDX.) We designed a lot of things using charts, tables, similar projects etc. as a guide. Generally, software is a good thing but I observe that younger people rely too much on software. A few years ago, I needed one of my guys (and a very intelligent engineer at that ) to size up a girder for a preliminary estimate; his response "I'll create a STAAD model". I said, just use the geometric criteria in AASHTO or look at a similar project; in either case you'll be 95% right.

I also believe younger people don't appreciate historical information, which is especially important when looking at an older structure. Opening up an old book or catalog is unheard. Meanwhile, they're scratching their heads why something doesn't meet code but is still standing. I'm not being critical. Before the internet, offices had a library; there was a wealth of information available for research.

Codes were a lot simpler. The first AASHTO I used was 8 1/2" x 6"; probably less than 500 pages and no flow charts to explain the design processes. Current AASHTO Bridge Spec is 8 1/2" x 11" and about 2200 pages. AISC 7-95 was a thin publication; now they have a separate book that's larger than 7-95 just to explain the wind provisions. Granted, codes reflect the state of the art in research - nothing wrong with that - but some things are too much for me.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote (bridgebuster)

Codes were a lot simpler.

You said it. When I started working on old airplanes, I quickly learned that "grandfathering" is alive and well in the aviation industry. Necessary, in fact, to permit aircraft to continue flying and remaining serviceable. Learning the old codes, in order to engineer the work on an aircraft approved to those old codes, taught me where so many of these rules came from. They aren't arbitrary, but they sure look that way in the regulations, now.

STF

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

To add on outsourcing, I think I would add outsourced internally. There are places I have bumped into where visa employees outnumber citizens and green cards near 10 to 1. That probably has been common place in tech for awhile but it is happening in engineering.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

that's hardly new, even in however you are segmenting "tech" from "engineering." We had job postings that were tailored to our own H1B EEs back in 1983.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I'd say the paranoia of liability as evidenced by the ballooning codes, as mentioned, and outsourcing/offshoring. Your mention of the Concorde grabbed my attention. I don't particularly know about it's history through the design stages, but today certainly hoops would be jumped through to spread liability and risk.

Of course, as also mentioned above these are incremental changes, not paradigm. I find Bridgebusters remarks accurate and applicable. I fear the loss of working human expertise and intelligence; "check the app", "what does the app show".

.

(Me,,,wrong? ...aw, just fine-tuning my sarcasm!)

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

"I fear the loss of working human expertise and intelligence; "check the app", "what does the app show"."

That train left the station at least 40 years ago, which is when I started working and engineers lamented the advent of circuit simulators. Likewise, more than 20 years ago, I knew a programmer that scoffed at people using even command-line C compilers as being wusses who didn't know assembly language.

But, the reality is much more nuanced. There is essentially an impossibility of developing products today without some level of automation. Trying to program Windows, or even the simplest Windows program, in assembly is now a fool's errand. Trying to design any of Dubai's skyscrapers using paper and a calculator would be insane.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

The biggest changes that I have noticed are that people want higher levels of precision, even if the errors in the assumptions exceed the level of precision, and people want answers right away, which in my opinion doesn't leave enough time to sit back and think about some problems.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Technology and design keeps getting more advanced and complex because we keep getting dumber....?

We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I wonder if people lamented Newton's theories as a way for lazy people to just calculate stuff rather than forgo the much harder trial and error way of doing things.

Do we really believe that if engineers from the 1960's stepped out of a time machine to do the work we have to day that everything would be better? I don't think so. I think it would be about the same, technology learning curve withstanding.

Old people have been lamenting young people since the beginning of time. To me, this whole "engineering isn't what it used to be" stuff is no different than "kids today don't know what good music is" talk. Not productive and not correct.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I'm not going to read through all the above, so this may repeat some points. One common complaint is that the current crop of graduates don't understand the basics and/or don't know the stuff we learned at uni. Those two are often confused together. The first is serious. The basics are vital. Not being able to draw a free body diagram is a hanging offence, and always will be. The second, well yes, it is true but that's because without an ever expanding time at university there is simply more new stuff to learn, so something has to go. Frankly I don't see much point in teaching CAD at uni, still less in 'teaching' engineers to press the autoFEA button on the toolbar, but if that is what employers are stupid enough to ask for then it is hard to see why unis would say no.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Interesting comment as usual Greg. I too often distinguish the difference between design basics and what is taught in college today, but am struggling a bit to understand your distinction.

Most colleges IME do a decent job of teaching theory, a poor job of linking various theories together, a worse job of correlating theory to reality, and very little to actually teach common design practice/process. It seems popular today to require building something simple in intro to manufacturing/machine shop, model something simple and make a rough print in intro to solid modeling, and not much else in the way useful, practical skill. I'd like to see students have a final design project involving both design and manufacture of something for each core engineering class. Entry level MEs IMHO should have a couple hundred hours between 2-3 CAD modelers, be able to run basic FEA and CFD sims correctly and guesstimate the result (IOW know the theory), run a bolted joint analysis, be able to read GD&T, and have some decent manufacturing/fabrication experience before they graduate. I've interviewed far too many who could setup a 1st law problem, sketch FBDs, and knew the theory basics but who had no practical ability otherwise, some never even took CAD, print reading, or actually had to build anything in college. What use they would be if hired is beyond me, we'd spend months training them for both design and analysis roles. I'd actually rather promote willing draftsmen into engineering than hire the aforementioned degreed "engineer."

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

3
CBW1,

The problem with what you want is that your suite of desired training would leave the broad degree extremely short in other areas where someone else with the same degree might want to work. In civil, you could have students more trained in drafting, but then where is the time to teach them geotechnical, environmental or material sciences? Not all jobs need CAD. What a waste if I had to spend that much time learning CAD. I don't know how to answer the CAD training conundrum where it is needed, but there seems to be no shortage of engineers in CAD required jobs that didn't get CAD training at university. Actually, I do have the answer: companies should train their employees in company/industry specific tasks. It's called human capital. Companies invest their own blood, sweat and tears in physical capital without pause. Why shouldn't they be required to do the same with human capital?

What your saying is you'd rather train someone who had the wherewithal to go to trade school into being an engineer than provide training to an engineer for computer tasks. Totally inefficient trade-off IMO.

The purpose of college is to increase capacity (intellectual horse power), not skill. If you want to build skill, but not intellectual horsepower, go to trade school. Personally, I'd rather train my engineers to understand practical applications of soil mechanics and general industry specific writing skills than train my lab tech's to be engineers.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

It seems to me that so-called "practical" education is what technical schools are for, while universities are supposed to be teaching you the fundamental theory and applications thereof. So training a BSME to be fully proficient in Autocad ties them to Autocad, and shortchanges them on some amount of theory, while promoting a "draftsperson" leaves an even bigger technical gap. If all you want are draftspeople, that's fine, but that doesn't necessarily get your actual engineering accomplished.

And truth be told, not everyone is cut out to do drafting, or should be. As an engineer, they're a pretty darn expensive resource to be using for pushing pixels around on a screen, when they should be doing the engineering itself.

I get it, though, because I remember some fellow alumni getting shaded for not knowing how to use an oscilloscope when we graduated from college. As it turns out, a more thorough education in lab equipment would have been completely wasted, since I long ago left the lab for Mathcad. And, Mathcad didn't even exist when I graduated.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Mathcad 0.3 was around in 1987. It ran off a 5 1/4 floppy. I never looked back. But I love scopes.

Frankly in my entire career I might have fired up a CAD program 500 times. I did use it daily for 18 months. Guessing it takes 100 hours to get somewhat proficient at a particular package, if I'd learnt that at uni that is more time than I spent in lectures on dynamics, something I've used every day for 35 years. CAD is a very bad example of a skill to pick up at uni.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

well, obviously, I graduated waaay before MC 0.3 soapbox and Matlab [1984] as well. At my first job, we didn't even have our own computers; we had dialup to a timeshare.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

ManifestDestiny,

You mention Clarence Kelly Johnson. Look up the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. In 1944, the US Navy withdrew their contract to build much-needed Corsair fighter aircraft. Old things are memorable because we forget the stuff that was not memorable. Maybe Brewster's management blue skied ideas outside the box as they leveraged their technology stack. Nobody writes books about them. They would rather write about Clarence Kelly Johnson.

--
JHG

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

An introductory CAD/modeling class is already required in most every ME program. I'm not suggesting additional CAD classes are needed beyond that, simply that students be required to use it in other classes. Ideally, every major engineering course would have an individual design project instead of the usual theory-based final paper test. Like many other things in life, a big part of becoming proficient is learned by doing or in this case - using the software. Several of my other suggestions could potentially cut into the time for other courses (GD&T should be a few weeks alone) but IMHO are vital skills every ME needs and should displace some of the fluff. I cant speak to SE/CE or other worlds, but I'd imagine there are key skills in those as well not addressed in college as well as unnecessary content. Personally, if I could go back I'd gladly trade intro to HVAC and a few other niche courses for more DoE and other generally applicable analytical courses.

As for CAD's usage in industry, today's retirees will have a bit of a different experience than the rest of us due to using different technology but IME there's little room anymore for those who cannot use the software. Fundamental theorems are great sanity-checks, but many of us cannot live with their inaccuracy or the expensive testing necessary to correlate a paper model. I still have most of my college texts but to stay ahead of the competition I need to stand on others' proverbial shoulders, and most simulation tools today either tie into or are run in my model's window. To efficiently run a FEA, CFD, or even basic kinematics/dynamics sim, I need to be able to efficiently alter my original model - CAD. About the only folks not using it anymore that I encounter are the "non-engineering, engineering" roles - customer service, product definition, marketing, project management etc, but those jobs IME dont provide too great of job security and arent too desirable to fresh grads.

On the topic of OJT and promoting draftsmen, my quandary is that most college grads today need hundreds of hours of general design training in CAD, simulation basics, GD&T, DoE, etc before we can even get to company/role specific training. Working for good companies that've always put high priority on continuing education has been great for me, but we need to draw a realistic limit somewhere. IME most draftsmen have most of the general design training and some of the company/role specific training, and a select few are capable of handling a true engineering role given the necessary remainder of training. Simply stated, the select few are far more useful than a fresh grad. I even know one that's a PE. ;)

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Students can and should take the initiative to learn these trade skills outside of the classroom. This can be by taking extra classes and the community college or, better, doing paid internships during school. I don't care which one, but I don't support more than a single drafting class to be required as part of engineering curriculum. The technology changes and what if you get all trained up in Microstation just to find out that you need Civil3D? The interfaces and commands are totally different. Maybe some electives could be made - but without a doubt this should not be an onerous requirement in any class, in my opinion. My company doesn't even own a proper CAD program. CAD requirements, including the single class I did take, are a complete waste for what I do.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

For me, the most important skill I learned in school was how to teach myself. Quality professors were few and far between, and even the good ones didn't have nearly enough lecture time to cover the material in depth.

We covered a bit of CAD in the 1st or 2nd year of university, but the final couple years was CAD free. My first job out of university, I did all of my own drafting. Starting off was difficult due to the my lack of CAD experience, however, within a few weeks I was good enough to be productive on my own. There is no doubt that I cost my employer money in my first 6-12 months. But I stayed for years after and I know for a fact that I made that investment worth it for them.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote (today's retirees will have a bit of a different experience than the rest of us due to using different technology but IME there's little room anymore for those who cannot use the software)

I guess experience doesn't count. cry

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote:

...I don't support more than a single drafting class to be required as part of engineering curriculum. The technology changes...

This is mixing apples and oranges. Good drafting practices and techniques are independent of which CAD software is being used.

"Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively."
-Dalai Lama XIV

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote:

I guess experience doesn't count.

There's only so many slots outside of management for folks who cant actually check a simulation beyond rough hand calcs.

I concur with ewh but would extend his statement to design and modeling practice as well as drafting. Large assemblies and complex surfaces often each show how much or little experience someone has and can make/break your/your company's reputation when downstream users need to modify parts/assemblies. I took undergrad intro courses on Solidworks and Pro/E for modeling, Algor for FEA, and an oddball CFD program I cannot recall. The GUIs are all different but the methodology and background math applied is the same. Using those made switching modelers to Inventor, NX, then Catia easy, the same for mechanica and ANSYS for simulation. Had my alma mater not forced me to use them throughout my three years and become reasonably proficient I'd have been in the same boat as many new grads with fewer potential employers.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

2
The biggest differences I see are:

(1) The entrance of women into the engineering office. In the first five years, the only women were secretaries, clerks and a couple engineers and draftspersons. They knew we were all perverts full of dirty jokes but we were accepted for what we were and it was a fun environment. Now jokes are not heard in the office because too many guys got hauled into HR due to "female sensitivities".

(2) The layout and drafting work is migrating away from designers and draftsmen to the engineers. That's unfortunate for the designers and draftsmen since there are far fewer opportunities now as there were then. But I never thought that someone who didn't fully know the product design history and function was the best person to do the drafting anyway. Too much is lost going from one head to the other.

(3) To solve a physical problem it's hard to find people anymore who will first solve a problem manually with conservative assumptions before jumping on the FEA or CFD program. When I have a say in the matter, the manual calculation comes first because, if it doesn't completely rule out time-consuming, error-prone computer simulation, it at least serves as a "sanity check" for the simulation results.

(4) No one seems to care about good drawings anymore. Fast is everything. There is no discipline. I see horrendous drawings where the drafter was just never taught (or never cared to learn) standard drawing practices. Since so many drawings (and models) are started as a CAD copy from another drawing (and model), good drawings and models (and bad drawings and models) multiply like rabbits. The sad thing is, many "draftsmen" don't know that sufficiency and clarity are kings and that volumes of extraneous process detail (e.g. loads of notes) should be left out in order to focus on the end-item and its function!

(5) People do an analysis without first writing down a problem statement along with the objective, rationale and all the knowns and unknowns. So many people go off trying to solve problems without really knowing what they're trying to solve! They jump right on the machine and rush to the color contour plots. These beautiful plots put "rose colored glasses" on everyone but few sufficiently question the results. Junk is often disguised with pretty colors!


H. Bruce Jackson
ElectroMechanical Product Development
UMD 1984
UCF 1993

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

In the old days, no one ever said, "did you try Googling it?"



If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I can recall in the good old days actually programming computers with 1's and 0's, and sometimes we didn't even have 1's. Try telling that to a youngster today and he (or she) won't believe you.
GG

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

My first thought when opening this thread was, "well, nobody has to suck ammonia fumes running bluelines now, so that's an improvement."

Quote (OP)

Some of these folks were older than me (early 40's) so really still too young to be in the age of the grand stuff, who would be at least at retirement age and beyond by now. I think the majority of Engineers these days are pretty well acclimatised to the corporate buzzwords, sterile leadership, politics and smoke and mirrors that is the western corporate world (it seems to infect the anglo countries more than the europeans). As a young Engineer (29), I'm worried that we may never know what good leadership ever looked like and what professionalism and the craft of engineering really means.

"Corporate buzzwords, sterile leadership, politics and smoke and mirrors" have always been a feature of large engineering corporations, and often noticeably lacking in smaller operations. I worked for two very large firms out of college, had my Office Space moment, went back to get my masters, and then went to work for a smaller firm. (30 employees) My experience at the smaller firm was completely different, much more responsible, and completely devoid of corporate politics. It was very enjoyable. I also probably didn't make as much money as I could have at a bigger firm.

In my field, the 08 Crash saw many smaller and midsize firms either go out of business entirely, or get scooped up by the big firms which were better positioned to suck on the federal teet during ARRA as a lifeline. Now most entry level engineers are pretty much stuck working at larger firms. To my field's credit, though, anyone with a license can quit their job and start consulting out of their garage, and many are starting to do so.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote (ScottyUK)

Technology has given birth to the pseudo-profession of planning and scheduling, primarily built around software such as Primavera's P6.

Used by someone proficient with the software and who actually understands what they are planning, it's a very powerful tool which helps both planning the work and reporting on costs and progress.

Used by people who have adopted the title 'planner' - or worse 'senior planning engineer' - who frequently have no clue what they are planning, but can nonetheless produce a Gantt chart of important steps placed in the wrong sequence and with target dates which would require the use of a time machine, it spawns an ever-expanding bureaucracy hell-bent on bringing progress to a halt and sinking morale into the floor.

The principles of critical path scheduling are extremely important. I know far too many project managers who are simply ignorant of critical path methodology.

That said, I can do a critical path chart for a relatively complex civil engineering design project on a whiteboard with a marker in fifteen minutes, in the middle of a meeting, snap a picture of it with my cell phone, and email it to the project team. Reliance on software meant for complex construction projects not only wastes time, it dissociates the professional from understanding what he's actually doing.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote (bridgebuster)

I guess experience doesn't count. cry

There was a time when mailmen needed to know how to ride a horse.

If I were hiring a project manager in my field today, there is no conceivable way I would hire someone who didn't know how to at least negotiate an AutoCAD drawing. You can't properly manage the labor of a group if you don't understand what the group is doing. Engineering project management is not only about the engineering, it's also about the management. Managers in any field who lack a fundamental understanding of the tools their subordinance use are a huge liability. That goes for engineering project management, construction superintendent, or the dude who runs the TGI Fridays.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

beej67,

Many, many years ago, I worked for the planning and scheduling department of a very large engineering company. I drew CPM networks on a drafting board.

I returned to college and finished my diploma and landed a job doing mechanical design. On one occasion, I was asked to estimate time for a project, and I draw a CPM network of my tasks. The main thing I learned was to not do CPM networks for time estimates. The CPM network implied that I thoroughly understood all sorts of tiny details of the project which I actually did not understand yet. It also implied that I would break down the design into a set of discrete tasks, which is not the way I work. I did top-down design on drafting boards, long before I got anywhere near SolidWorks.

That is not to say that CPM is not a valid activity. I am sure it is valid on large projects with multiple people and discrete, well-defined tasks.

--
JHG

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

I began my career in 1978 at a large company for a couple years, and since have worked at eight smaller companies for one to ten years. This is what I have noticed as the major change over the years.

It used to be that engineering time and knowledge was valuable, so engineers had the near newest-equipment available to do their jobs, and support staff (technicians, drafters, drawing clerks, department secretary) available to make them more efficient. But today a company won't supply the equipment needed to do a job efficiently, and engineers do all of the drawings, revisions, and testing required for their projects (for a department of 20 there is a single technician and a single secretary).

The last three companies I worked at (1997 to present) had no new equipment available, and no capital-equipment budgets even though the companies operated financially in-the-black. A lot of engineering time is lost building-up simple circuits to provide proper stimulus to exercise designs rather buy the proper piece of equipment. The past two companies some equipment is bought used off eBay and frequently has to be refurbished or repaired to be usable, not to mention that such equipment is typically a couple decades old (nothing like using a power supply that was built when you were in high-school in 1972). Not to mention that frequently I can't get approval to obtain equipment needed, and in desperate frustration I buy it myself, because I am responsible for getting the new product to production rearguards of resources.

It seems today that accountants run businesses, and as long as they supply a desk with a computer with Microsoft Office and a single CAD program they have provided everything you need. Thank God for freely available LT Spice and similar free-download programs.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

The problem is in "the near newest-equipment available to do their jobs." Back when military budgets were overly generous, equipment would be bought on a whim, resulting in a massive pool of equipment that soon became test equipment crib ghosts. But, because of the whole notion of capital equipment is the longevity, the costs would be amortized over the lifetime of the equipment, resulting in depreciation costs long after the actual utility of the equipment ended.

Engineers tend to do poorly in justifying ROI, and most companies now demand some, pro-forma, justification of costs and benefits derived therefrom. Some of the changes in the tax law will help change that, since strict expensing of some capitalized equipment will mitigate the lingering cost problem from depreciation.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Sounds like a job search is in order, I'd recommend larger corporations for more resources. Personally I'd never put up with much of that crap. I honestly haven't had much of anything denied to me. Granted, I don't ask much I can't easily justify and have realistic expectations. One secretary is fine for me since she has few duties at that. Draftsmen and techs are readily available to start on projects within 2-3 days if necessary, I only do drafting in "emergency" situations - rarely. I get a new computer every 2-3 years and have access to more software than necessary, four solid modelers alone. JMO but one key to fixing a lousy culture is for folks to back up words with actions, if folks leave they'll either fix it or go out of business.

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

Quote (drawoh)

That is not to say that CPM is not a valid activity. I am sure it is valid on large projects with multiple people and discrete, well-defined tasks.

I would never do a CPM diagram for a job that a single individual is going to complete. In my eyes, they only begin to be useful when organizing a job that has multiple people doing tasks in parallel to each other, some of which must be done before others can begin. The point of them is not to discover the ultimate answer of every possible thing that goes into the schedule. The point is to give you a tool to know how far behind you are when you're only half done. And alternately, to know how far behind you are when a task takes longer than estimated. They are a planning tool.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

"I would never do a CPM diagram for a job that a single individual is going to complete. "

One might not do a formal CPM diagram, but I look at Master Chef examples where a single person is creating a dinner, and they have to run through a CPM analysis in their own minds to know that they've got to get the meat into the oven at T-30 minutes, the sauce has to be ready at T-10 minutes, etc.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

You know, I'd never considered that, IRstuff. And I cook a lot, and I do that stuff in my head a lot. I guess it's just second nature so I never thought about the fact that I'm doing exactly what you describe.

These sorts of discussions are what make Eng-Tips enriching. Thanks.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: To the wiser (older folks), how has the profession changed?

What I see from an electrical background is a lowering of managements technical skills. My managers from the last decade or so would hire you and put you at a desk and walk away. That's fine if you can *find* the work that is useful. I look to them for at least some guidance as what would be good to improve. They only say " you are expected to find the work" without a shred of a hint. Or if they do manage to offer some wisdom you are left with WTF ?? in your head for the next couple of days. As far as management they are providing nothing at all but still drawing the check. The reason is they don't have a clue and want you to manage for them. But don't make a mistake or it's all you.
Management is too much infused with bean counters and MBA's. But this is exactly how you fail to innovate.

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