Forget about it.  If you’re looking for recognition of your efforts you need to work someplace else than the engineering field.  And why is this?  Well, two reasons: the very nature of engineers, and lousy management.

Let’s face it, engineering, while still considered a professional profession, is not given much respect in the US society.  Or, rather, it isn’t given much thought here.  They all love their cars, planes, roads, and cell phones, but they don’t have much interest in who makes all that happen.  Unless something goes wrong, of course.  Then you’ll get plenty of recognition.  The kind you don’t want.

So if you can’t find recognition outside the organization, can you find it inside?  Well, pretty much no.  Engineers who are good engineers are, for the most part, pretty bad managers.  The idea of complimenting workers, or writing them up for awards, or singing their praises to the higher-ups is not really in their nature.  There is an implicit feeling that the work should be enough.  And that there should be no ego stroking in engineering.

And this sort of works.  After all, you don’t see a flood of engineers leaving the field for more sensitive fields of endeavor.  Of course you also don’t see the quiet desparation/apathy in many engineers since they, also because of their nature, don’t advertise their feelings.

So here does that leave us?  With lots of engineers who want and need recognition working in a system where they won’t get it.  And the solution?  Well, a wise man once said to us, “You need to let the work be your reward.”  If the work alone isn’t enough to carry you through, then you’re going to have a rough time of it.

I suppose this all comes down to the difference between self-satisfaction and outside recognition.  In a perfect world the former would be enough.  For many of us, me included, we aren’t yet wise enough to not want the latter.  I hope that changes with age since equating worth by others’ opinions and actions is, I think, foolish.

Here is a quote from David Wallace’s The Pale King that might help a little:

“Enduring tedium over real time in a confined space is what real courage is.  There is no audience.  No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand?  Here is the truth–actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested.”

Published in: on April 23, 2011 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  


Tim Minchin is simply brilliant.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment