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Engineers are innovators of the future. They are most often the people who solve the hardest problems in our society in an attempt to bring us into a newer age. It doesn’t necessarily take a degree in Engineering or Computer Science to be an engineer. Instead, it takes someone who is willing to challenge himself or herself with a problem, fix what is broken and most importantly use their personal merit to solve problems. That word, personal merit and or integrity, is what is most important and very overlooked. Engineering culture is one that encompasses a variety of different people with different ideas and mindsets, but they all have similar values that join them together. Those main values are respect, teamwork, responsibility, integrity, dedication and professionalism. Interviewee Pratik Saripalli, third year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland seems to think so too. He ranks the values in the following order from leat to most important: professionalism, dedication, responsibility, teamwork, respect and integrity.
Professionalism although very important is at the bottom of the list and many people might ask how this could be. As important as it is to be professional, it is more important to be dedicated and responsible when it comes to the project. Even more important is how engineers treat their team members. Although at the bottom of the list, professionalism is still on the list because it is still important to be professional as it is in any job.
Next up is dedication. Dedication as defined by Mr. Saripalli is putting your heart into the work. It is very important to put effort into the project because sometimes it is one that can not even have minor mistakes. An example would be the challenger explosion first broadcasted by CNN. At first glance many people believed that it was the engineers who simply “took a chance” knowing the possible damage the O-rings could cause. However, a deeper look proved that a lot of the engineers data proved inconclusive due to fact that the conditions in space could not be recreated on earth. Some speculate about whether the engineers should have waited, but either way, it takes a lot of dedication on their end to try and match the conditions with regards to the physics, math and all other tedious subjects dealing with spaceflight. Without dedication, the project can end up going nowhere.
Responsibility runs hand in hand with dedication because in order to be dedicated to anything, an engineer must be responsible. At NASA, Mr. Saripalli claims that responsibility is never really any issue because usually engineers learned how to be responsible in school. He says that it is usually not hard to keep up with things because you only work on one project rather than when in school, you have to keep up with multiple subjects. He also adds that personally he likes the workfield better because there is less anxiety due to the fact that you don’t have to fight for grades anymore. Needless to say, responsibility is important because each team member is assigned different tasks and it is up to each individual engineer to
Teamwork and respect go hand in hand because you have to respect someone in order to work together. This is something that both Mr.Saripalli and many other people who have co-workers can agree on. Especially in engineering though, a lack of respect could lead to a project going down hill because of animosity amongst team members. Mr. Saripalli notes that respect can be attained when engineers stay humble and don’t have a sense of entitlement. Mr. Saripalli also says that “It is important to treat your co-members with respect because if there is no respect, than no work will get finished”. An example of how something can go downhill due to a lack of respect is when engineers leave a company and attempt to expose trade secrets. If they respected the company and other engineers a little more, they might not have exposed the secrets.
Last but not least, integrity. According to Palantir, a rising company of self-made engineers, personal merit is the most important quality an engineer can have. Similarly, Mr. Saripalli feels that integrity is a very important although he has not had many run-ins with it at NASA. At first thought, he did not feel that way, because of personal experiences. After thinking about it though, he realized that it is important because it can prevent a lot of accidents. He brought up his opinions on the challenger explosion and stated that there were a number of engineers who felt that the challenger should have been postponed and if some of the engineers spoke up about what they felt personally, the explosion may not have happened. Mr. Saripalli did not go into specifics, but he said there have been a number of other cases where engineers should use their moral code while designing a product.
In conclusion, the culture of engineering is one with varying aspects depending on the type of engineer and where they work, according to Saripalli. The Aerospace engineer notes that different types of engineers may solve problems differently and have different codes they have to uphold depending on where they work. However, all of the engineers will experience a similar culture based on the following values listed above of professionalism, dedication, responsibility, teamwork, respect and integrity. If engineers use these six values when working on a project, they are sure to get it done in a timely- organized manner.
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