As I was unpacking the truck in Washington, DC this past week, an employee of the hotel introduced himself as the engineer with the hotel. He went on to explain that he had not graduated from college but was the head engineer there. His father, like my own, had taught him to work with drywall, electrical, drywall, plumbing, etc. I never identified myself as a structural engineer. In fact, I did a lot of listening and nodding of my head. He stated that his problem-solving ability got him the job.
The next day, as the HVAC, was not properly cooling the room, the front desk said that they would send an engineer to check things out. A different engineer came to the room and addressed the cooling issue.
In my opinion, the term "engineer" is being used to convey a degree of importance, honor, respectability, integrity and positive imagery to employees, clients and/or customers. Folks probably feel a whole lot better knowing that the "engineer" is coming to solve the issue.
Engineers pride themselves on being problem-solvers.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Note: My first recollection of the term "engineer" is associated with the individual driving the train. I am curious as to whether "engine" is the root word.
James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
Sent: 06-16-2022 12:21 AM
From: Christopher Seigel
Subject: Ubiquitous Use of the Word "Engineer"
I was browsing some jobs recently, and I came upon a number of positions with the word "engineer" in it that didn't seem to be in traditional keeping with the title "engineer."
For example, some of the responsibilities for an "overnight engineer" at a hotel included cleaning carpets and changing lightbulbs (please feel free to make a joke about how many engineers it actually takes to change a lightbulb while we're here).
Other titles that had similar duties in the hotel industry appeared to be "Engineer 1", "Maintenance Engineer", and "Hotel Engineer".
Before I go further, I am going to be clear that I am not attempting to disparage any person or job or imply that one has more intrinsic value than another. Many jobs such as these exist in the world and are much more physically grueling and mentally stressful than many places where one may be employed in some capacity as a design engineer or related. That is not the direction I wish to take this conversation.
However, I do want to hear from others (although posting in an engineering forum may contain obvious biases) about their thoughts on the widespread use of the title "engineer".
Below are some of the questions that crossed my mind while thinking about this.
- Is the title being misunderstood?
- Is it being intentionally misrepresented?
- Should the word "engineer" convey some particular meaning?
- Should it carry the expectation that one is able to perform some level of technical thinking and possess some general understanding of science?
- Would any type of inflexible definition such as this end up excluding too many individuals?
- Should the word be left open to general use and adapted, as its use has already morphed and changed over time in response to advances in technology and civilization?
In summary, my question is essentially this: is the unrestricted designation of "Engineer" in so many different jobs detrimental to the profession or misleading to the general public?
Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE