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Why do you want to be an Engineer?

Why do you want to be an Engineer?

Why do you want to be an Engineer?

I'm writing an article for my website and will be including a link to this thread.

RE: Why do you want to be an Engineer?

Trust your website includes a bit more information than this post.

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia.)

RE: Why do you want to be an Engineer?

They said there would be trains! smile (pun intended)

Seriously, though, I come from a family of engineers and other technical people, so I inherited ability and very early acquired interest in the field. Since I am long past school (I'm 63), this will be "Why I wanted to be an engineer," rather than "Why I want to be an engineer." Maybe some old guy perspective will be useful to you.

Here is my backstory:

  • My grandfather on my dad's side was a chemist with Dow Chemical (approx. 1933-1972) and had one patent under his belt related to iodine extraction from sea water brine. He managed one of Dow's iodine production plants for about a decade.
  • My dad earned a degree in Petroleum Engineering after switching from Chemical Engineering. However, he didn't go into the oil and gas industry due to a 3-year commitment to the Air Force coming out of college (ROTC). Then, when he left the Air Force, most of the available jobs were oversees or in Texas and Louisiana, which, as an Orange County, CA, boy he didn't see a being very much different. smile (Most of my dad's relatives lived in Louisiana and some in east Texas, and he had travelled there many times as a kid, so he knew whereof he spoke.) Instead, he took a job with some chemical company in northern California as a general engineer. A few months after he started, Dow Chemical bought the company. Because my dad was in plastics, he didn't cross paths with my grandfather for business. After ten years of engineering and engineering sales, my dad switched to teaching. He spent most of the rest of his career at the top academic high school in our area teaching Honors Chemistry (our district didn't have AP Chemistry yet) and sometimes physics and mathematics.
  • My mom was a math major in college until she dropped out to marry my dad. She later because a substitute high school math teacher, mostly handling Trig and Calculus. At age 85, she still does math and logic puzzles for fun. She was the first (and perhaps only) person in the history of her high school to get A's all four years in Latin. Her math skills and language skills are the best in the family, including the extended family.
  • My dad had lots of cousins, all of whom were older than him. In this group were nine male cousins (IIRC, seven served in WW2 and/or Korea), five of whom earned degrees in engineering, including a couple Masters Degrees. One of those cousins later earned a Pharm.D and owned the drug store in his small town. Among my dad's female cousins, two were high school math teachers.
My personal story includes an early interest in math and science, like probably everyone else on this site. This was, of course, encouraged by my parents. I followed the Gemini and Apollo programs with great interest. I started reading my dad's Sky & Telescope magazine about 3rd grade and Scientific American about 5th grade. I didn't understand all that much at the beginning, of course, but eventually I became conversant to reasonably well informed in most of the subjects they covered. By about 7th grade, I decided something in engineering was for me, but I didn't narrow it down until high school. My final two choices were electrical and civil.

I chose civil for several reasons:
  • I am fascinated by moving water (rivers, waterfalls, hydraulic jumps, the garden hose, etc.). So, in college, I emphasized the "liquid side" of civil engineering instead of structural, geotechnical, etc. In my career, I have spent a lot of time modeling water, sewer, and storm drainage systems and designing various improvements for these systems. The limited amount of structural that I do is reinforced concrete structures related to "liquid" systems.
  • My two best friend's fathers were civil engineers (one in private practice and one in local government) and my dad's best friend from his college fraternity was a consulting civil/structural engineer. I had quite a few conversations with them over the years and they were persuasive about civil engineering. A couple points still resonate with me: civil provides the opportunity to improve the built environment, which is necessary for a functioning society, and civil provides the opportunity to actually see your own designs completed out in the physical world (i.e. I can still drive by my old projects and say "I did that.").
  • Of all the engineering disciplines, civil seemed to be the best field for owning your own company. I have done that (partner in one firm, stockholder in another, and working for myself for a few years), but in the end I prefer the engineering side of engineering to the business side.
I hope this helps.

"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

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