Why Engineer? Chapter 3 Part 1 — What Can You Only Learn on the Job?

Beyond college is where the learning most pertinent to your career takes place.  So, here are some of the first things you will learn.

Completing a job on time is number one.  If you can do that without ruining the outcome, so much the better.

Speed is important.  It allows the company to promise a quicker final result.  It spends less company and customer money to get what the customer wants.  It commonly allows you to spend time refining your solutions, making them better, cheaper.

You will not generally be a speed demon the instant you start your first job.

Speed is not just dependent on you.  You will most likely have to coordinate your work with the work of others, the customer included.  That can, and often does, slow you down.  If the work is not adequately coordinated by either you or those above you, speed will not be the only thing that is sacrificed.  The quality of the work will suffer also.  Sorry, but that is the real world.  You are seldom the only one to determine the fate of your work.

Completing a job correctly may take more time at first, but may still be the least time burner.  A common phrase in the industry is, “We never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over.”  That sarcasm makes a point that is all too often ignored.  Now, you can fight against doing something wrong, but there are limits.  Every project has a program manager in one form or another.  As short sighted as it may be, in fighting to stay within budget and schedule, a program manager may not want to solve all of the design problems.  It may be the program manager’s judgment that certain aspects of the design are not all that important.  However, they may seem extremely important to you.  Seldom will you win that argument.

What if the design aspect that is being ignored is not just about money?  How if it is truly an issue of safety?  Well, some of the responsibility to get this fixed depends on you, and how well you can make your case.  The good news is that most engineering organizations have a path to follow in dealing with potential safety issues.  And they are far better at it than the evening news would like you to believe.

Get to know your organization.  Use it to get what you need for a good design.  In those rare instances where you think safety is being compromised, you may be surprised to find that the problem is not what you think it is.


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