Last month, my son decided that his future career path lay in the development of games software for Nintendo. Not wanting to stand in his way, I introduced him to a C programmer who, I thought, might teach him a thing or two about pointers and arrays. So far, he has developed his very own CPU-crippling prime number program and greater things lie ahead, I’m sure. But learning C won’t be quick, and it’s going to take a long, long while before he develops anything like Zelda.
Over in the States, my nephew had a bit more of an immediate problem. He needed to develop an audio analysis program for his last year project in high school. Specifically, he needed to acquire, analyse, and present a bunch of audio data on a Windows system. Trouble is, he only had a month or so to do it. He first thought of writing the application in C, until he figured out how long it would take. Then he discovered that by using LabView, National Instruments’ software package, he could cut the development time down to just two days.
Thinking about both of these young folk reminded me of what real honest to goodness engineers do. Aside from the actual business of design, development and manufacture – their companies give them the time to learn about new techniques and technologies that could, in the future, help them design and build better products and get them to market faster than the competition..
Ah, dear reader, if only it were so! More often it isn’t. Because it’s far too easy for many employers to put short term profits ahead of the real needs of the engineering lifeblood of their own companies. Especially in these tough times. What outfit today, for example, would provide the opportunity for a junior engineer to study C if they did not see any immediate benefit? What company would see the value of allowing an engineer to attend even a free seminar to learn about a new product or technology unless they could determine its usefulness beforehand? How many ‘managers’ would simply dismiss such ideas as ‘jollies’?
What such companies have forgotten is that engineering is a profession. And professional people need to be continually stimulated by fresh ideas, new products and new ways of thinking. Engineers do not simply graduate knowing everything there is to know.
But many companies think that they do. And if you are unfortunate to work for such an employer – one that doesn’t even treat you as well as my son or nephew – it might be time to think about visiting our jobs site and finding an employer that does. You can find the site at <a href=’http://www.theengineerjobs.co.uk’>The Engineer Jobs</a>.
Tell ’em Dave sent you.