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Please note that your list (electrical engineers, computer programmers, and biotechnologists...) is one that I might have produced, too, and that engineers involved in manufacturing somehow wouldn't fit.

What are those engineers called, anyway? And why isn't this name immediately obvious?

Googling suggests that there isn't even agreement on a name -- "industrial engineering", "production engineering", and "manufacturing engineering" are all applicable, and get a similar number of hits. None sounds high-status to my ear. How many top universities in the US have a department? -- a program? -- a course?

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 at 05:20:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure Michigan had an industrial engineering department, and offered advanced degrees in it.  I also remember that Michigan State had a whole raft of unusual engineering specialties, down to things like packing and containers.

I won't argue as to the status of these degrees vis a vis "real science" and whatnot.  I do know the engineers at UM were a world apart.  They (along with most of the artists, oddly) had their own separate campus.  They were also strongly anti-union, despite the fact that there the engineering departments had a huge number of TA's.  Being snubbed during organizing drives was one of the only contacts I had with students in engineering.

by Zwackus on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 at 07:14:45 PM EST
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I don't think there is a "manufacturing engineer" speciality but, rather, them that work in manufacturing keep their specialities distinct: mechanical, electrical, industrial, design, control, & etc.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 at 08:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear old Finland is run by engineers. The majority of CEOs have engineering degrees. Lawyers, thank Zeus, hardly get a look in.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 06:35:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was when I was talking in 1989 with a Finnish engineer who was a specialist in district heating that I realized how difficult and unsatifying it was to be an engineer in the Anglo-American countries.

It also explains why Finland, in spite of its very remote location (it is NOT true that Finland is the edge of the world even if you CAN see it from the top of the ski jump in Jyvaskyla ;-) and lack of resources, consistently "punches above it weight class" in economics.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 08:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could it be the obvious: that engineers are tuned to the dynamics of structures, in contrast to the lawyers, MBAs and Adpeople who are more focused on the gaming of systems, and perceptions.

The only perception element of eg a bridge is whether it is elegant technology or not. In engineering, 'integrity' is vital. I know it is not in quite the same sense as the human one - but for engineers it is an important insight in their deealing with organizations/structures of people.

Nokia for example accepts enormous redundancy in their organization because it allows them great flexibility in facing change. I was shocked to read that there are some US bridges that are so 'linear' that a single component failure could bring the whole thing crashing down.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 08:57:09 AM EST
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In my experience engineers are aware redundancy is a necessity whereas MBAs, lawyers, & etc. think it is 'fat-to-be-trimmed.'    

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 11:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW Do I understand correctly that you have some Finnish or Scandinavian genes in you?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 09:02:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to my sister who has done extensive research on the family, I am 1/8 Norwegian (Bergen) and 7/8 Swede (Gotland, Smaland, Skane).

My link to Finland is much more direct.  In 1989, some Finns published an early draft, in translation, of Elegant Technology (1992).  It was called "Tuottajat ja Saalistajat: Johdatus ekoteolliseen ratkaisuun" in Finnish.  How this happened is a long story but it left me with the very distinct impresson that the Finns were easily the best informed people on earth.  When the OECD report came out a few ears back ranking Finnish schools the best on the planet, I could only nod and say, "of course!"

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 10:09:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funnily enough my daughters have both Norwegian and Gotland genes in them from my ex's side. How this mixes with my mongrel genes from the wrong side of the distant blankets of the Earls of Derby has yet to be seen. But so far looks promising.

I could imagine your book might have influenced quite a few Finns. I thought I was a bookworm till I came to Finland.

I imagine, if it is still in print, that the very knowledgeable and helpful staff at the Aalto-designed Academic Bookshop in downtown Helsinki could put their hands on a copy in seconds. This used to be the largest and most diversely stocked bookshop in the world, though I am sure it has now been overtaken.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 10:23:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I fail to grasp how you Finns expect to successfully run a modern business with people in upper management having an understanding of what that business produces.

</snark>

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 11:11:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL! It sure takes up a lot of time that could be better spent on thinking about their options.

I've worked with a few scions of large Finnish family-owned private enterprises (yes, these thowbacks still exist), and they all happily recount the times they spent at the very bottom, learning their business from the ground up. And how they had to conceal their identities to ensure the authenticity of the experience.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 11:25:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the deal on engineering.

At one time, the finest engineering schools on earth were found at the land-grant universities like Perdue, Michigan State, Nebraska (agronomy).  These schools were responsible for many Fortune 500 companies--I cannot even imagine 3M without the chemical engineering department at the University of Minnesota.  The UM medical school spawned Medtronics, and about 50 other major players in medical equipment biz.  In one of the late Apollo flights, the entire crew was from Michigan.  You want to learn how to drill for oil, go to Texas or Oklahoma.  ETC.

While it is probably no longer possible to get an engineering education like they did in the 30s to 70s, I am certain that there are still schools that will do the job.  The biggest difference is that you better have a fault-tolerant ear for those who learned English in schools.  Just remember, these guys got their jobs because they learned math in countries like India that actually teach math to their children.  They are genuinely baffled by folks who cannot do math.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 at 11:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The distinction might be between "designer" and "worker".

The latter sometimes does not require the same degree of skill but is the most visible. The low status is associated to the other branches. With more and more efficient production methods, fewer "designers" are needed, and their jobs become increasingly abstract (and well paid.)

Sooner or later you will need someone who can interpret between the two groups.

Sorry, I don't have a conclusion at this time.

by Number 6 on Fri Aug 10th, 2007 at 06:26:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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