A question of expectations

Engineering has, as a profession, been around for rather a long time. In fact it must be at least a couple of hundred years since the overarching label of “inventor” was automatically applied to anyone who nailed one piece of metal to another piece of metal and called it a widget.

It’s not that inventor and engineer are mutually exclusive but rather, as we at least know, “engineer” covers all manner of areas and has an official title for every subtly different application. Therefore there has surely been a chance for roles to become clearly devolved, defined and consequently boundaries set.

My move to the Great Lakes Metal Foundry and Glass Works has, however, shown me the variations that can be found between companies for even a single job title. In my previous life there were certain levels of performance related to engineering design that I was expected to attain, and sometimes it felt as if I was a tad marginal. Of course we all push ourselves, and indeed expect to be pushed, to reach for excellence; to continually improve and find challenges. This is a key aspect of our “professionalism” and development. However it is fair to say that in the world of widgets I seemed to be struggling on this score.

Ensconced in my new world I seem to be seen as excelling in the very same areas! As far as I can tell my peers are of a similar ability to those before, with the two companies showing similar trend-bucking levels of success and growth. In fact, bar the products manufactured it’s difficult to separate them. As it happens my new place of employ is just across the river from my old one so it’s not like these inconsistencies can be blamed on differing cultures or local conditions.

There are personal consequences to be considered regarding this. With the renewed validation my confidence has grown and not only do I feel better about what I am doing but also that I am successfully taking on higher levels of responsibility.

There are problems of course, these things will never be plain sailing, but as a direct comparison the degree to which my morale has improved is rather surprising. I am not conscious of doing anything radically different so the only thing I can think of is that there is a variation in expectation?

If this is the case then obviously the result (given the success of both companies) shows no degradation in performance coupled to a happier bunch of engineers.

Of course this may just be the lull before the storm; perhaps it will shortly all come crashing down around my ears. Until then I remain somewhat perplexed regarding how such variations can exist for a clearly defined professional role and wonder how many engineering careers have been influenced for good or ill by such vagaries?Personal