Little to say for myself
Monday, March 03, 2003
Gentlemen, start your IngensFor my day-job I'm a Satellite Antenna Engineer. Most UK people I tell this to jump to the conclusion that I spend my days driving a white van and clambering around on people’s roofs nailing up Sky dishes. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an antenna fitter, it’s just that I’m not one of them. What I am is a professional engineer working in the space industry – I design the antennas that go on the spacecraft that beam all those lovely shopping channels to your home.
I’ve found recently that the best answer I can give to the “what do you do?” question is to say I’m a Rocket Scientist. I have very little to do with the rockets themselves - I work on the payload, the thing they stick inside the nose-cone at the top (the rocket itself is after all just a glorified firework) – but it’s the closest label that people recognise. OK so it's a cliché that has intellectually glamorous associations, but what's a guy to do?
If truth be told (and this is a blog, so it must) I’m one of the thousands of whingeing UK engineers who bash on and on about how badly we are treated in this country compared with our colleagues abroad. Engineers love nothing better than to whinge, and this is the perfect topic – something which occupies us for inordinate amounts of our working lives, and which bothers other people not one jot.
We moan that anyone in the UK can call themselves an Engineer – whether they design, build, install, test, mend, or simply scrape the crap off something. Abroad, you can’t call yourself an Engineer unless you have the recognised professional qualifications – much the same as doctors and lawyers here. This is the nub of the problem – we want to be grouped together with certain people (i.e. high status, middle-class achievers), and not others. We’re elitist, but not of the elite.
I have the perfect solution:
In the English language, the word Engineer has a strong association with the word “Engine” – implying that we work with hot, noisy, oily contraptions, wear overalls and have dirty fingernails. In most other European languages the word for engineer sounds very similar (Ingénieur, Ingeniero, Ingegnere), but in fact has a totally different root, shared by the words for “ingenious”, “ingenuity” etc. It implies a creative problem-solver – someone who works with their brain, rather than their hands - which is much closer to the truth.
My solution is that we elitist professionals switch a couple of letters around and call ourselves “Ingeneers”. Imagine the hordes of impressed dinner party guests, bank managers and golf partners.
All we need do then is:
and we’re away.
posted by Plig | 17:00 |
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