Little to say for myself

Monday, March 03, 2003  

Gentlemen, start your Ingens

For 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:
  • acquire some social skills,

  • find some means of trebling our salaries,

  • do things in our spare time that could be made to sound fascinating,

  • befriend members of the opposite sex,

  • take a critical look at ourselves in a mirror from time to time,

and we’re away.

posted by Plig | 17:00 |

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Forget the sentimental notion that foreign policy is a struggle between virtue and vice, with virtue bound to win.
Forget the utopian notion that a brave new world without power politics will follow the unconditional surrender of wicked nations.
Forget the crusading notion that any nation, however virtuous and powerful, can have the mission to make the world in its own image.
Remember that diplomacy without power is feeble, and power without diplomacy is destructive and blind.
Remember that no nation's power is without limits, and hence that its policies must respect the power and interests of others.
Hans Morgenthau

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts
Bertrand Russell

The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one
Albert Einstein

When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative
Martin Luther King Jr.

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man
Bertrand Russell

I think it would be a good idea
Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun
Pablo Picasso

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others
Groucho Marx

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it
Mahatma Gandhi

Always make new mistakes
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