23 Aug 2011
In a recent article published in Forbes online, engineer Tom Gillis says that “the truth [is that] the era of the engineer is over”. We would say the era of how engineers had been used is over, not the engineer. He states that in the past, engineers were employed to make things “better, faster, cheaper”. This worked well in an era of profit at any cost, but what about now? What is the new role of the engineer?
According to Wikipedia, the word engineer is derived from the Latin word ingenium, meaning ’cleverness’. At a time when the USA and Europe’s economies are broken beyond easy repair, the Middle East is awash in political unrest, and our natural resources continue to deteriorate, how can ingenium not be at its most significant?
Engineers are furthermore known for their great analytical thinking drawing on science and mathematics, making them the gatekeepers of pragmatic and essential solutions. Anyone, even an engineer, claiming that these attributes are no longer fundamental to helping us create better ways of doing things is not seeing the full potential of the engineer. However, our in house engineer, Daniel Gutierrez would argue that this is not a new perception – ‘I studied engineering because I wanted to create better systems and now I use my skills to make entrepreneurs more productive’. It is engineers that are moving the economy forward in countries like India and we are missing out if we do not create more in the UK and USA.
In the article Tom Gillis says that the future of an economy is service based – however we still need engineers to create a better economic system, create more environmentally friendly solutions, and even be part of political negotiations – who is leading solutions in difficult countries like Afghanistan or Iraq?
In Corporations we often hear in the news of the struggling CEO at the helm of a company that is no longer performing the way it ought to be. The usual response is to cut costs, and make things cheaper to manufacture to increase margins. However, what would happen if corporations were instead to hire engineers to create better systems, not only in production but also in the office? Or include them as part of the innovation team to create better systems around the innovation process, as well as engineering better products and services?
As part of the THECUBE & WECREATE teams, we have an industrial & systems engineer. However, instead of engineering mechanical systems to increase productivity on a factory floor, he creates productive systems of innovation for entrepreneurs.
Conclusion: The future of engineers is to be leaders of innovation, productivity, and improvement. We need more engineers, not to make things cheaper or faster, but to create solutions for a new era of economy and change. We would like to leave with one last thought from Albert Einstein – ‘Engineers create that which has never been.’ Creating that ‘which has never been’ never goes out fashion, it is human nature to keep creating.