According to the dictionary, an engineer is a person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or structures. or he can be one who controls an engine, especially on an aircraft or ship. Most of our engineers do the latter- control and operate – unfortunately, and mostly they (and their parents and families) are happy with that role.
In our experience, an engineer is often a square peg in a round hole. He studies something and does something else. He does but he does not think. He does not create. We must introspect as to why this is the case?
The reasons are many perhaps – the need for job security and a steady monthly income, an educational and working environment that mercilessly punishes failure and celebrates marks obtained by rote learning, and the lack of enthusiasm for the hard grind of innovation, because of the initial 24 hour days, the lack of ease of setting up a start-up, funding crunches, insecurity of the future, the need to settle down, parental and family pressure, the lack of protection from prosecution by funding agencies, employees and creditors in case of business failure, well-heeled competition, and not the least, the inability to think beyond tomorrow’s breakfast.
Then there is the education system itself – Most engineers are hardly employable post their education. Many lack conceptual soundness and the ability to articulate their thoughts clearly, concisely, and think creatively – to be a problem solver rather than a problem finder! Besides, what they study in College, is often 10 years removed from current thinking and practices and theory outweighs the practical experience in the curriculum. Engineering is also all about teamwork. This would require him to have a high level of EQ.
Obviously, an engineer must contain within himself, all these elements in equal measure. While some elements are inherently present in some individuals, the others must be developed by rigorous training. And this is where perhaps Engineering education needs to introspect and improve.
However, even if it does that and changes, the environment in which they practice post their qualification also needs a revamp – from a visibility based system (the loudest, most gregarious, most influential, and most politically aware first) to more of a merit-based system that exists in the west, where most of our engineers go to create and thrive. How that can be done in a highly conservative, caste-ridden, community-driven, patriarchal society is a question we must ask ourselves every day.
Not only ask, but also answer if we want to build the next successful commercial jet that flies across continents at Hypersonic speed, yet is environment friendly, or for that matter, find the next COVID19 Vaccine first, by designing the equipment necessary to incubate it!