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Thread: To all engineers out there: What is it with everyone claiming your title?

  1. #1
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    To all engineers out there: What is it with everyone claiming your title?

    I spent 30 years as a computer programmer. I viewed myself as a blue collar worker in a white collar world. But various companies insisted on calling me a software engineer and it bugged me. To me, engineers are degreed and licensed like doctors and lawyers. Civil engineers put their stamp on their work and go to jail if it's wrong. I held none of those qualifications.

    My undergraduate degree was in education with an emphasis in Industrial Arts. I taught for 8 years. About 3 years in, I realized it was a bad fit and started taking community college programming classes. I left teaching and started writing software which was a much better fit for me (and the students).

    I think my companies liked to call me an engineer because the title carries some prestige. My gut told me that they were sort of appropriating a title and I never liked it.

    I find myself back in the workforce as "Director of Engineering". I actually am a little more comfortable with that. I'm not claiming to be an engineer, just overseeing a bunch of engineers. Sort of like a civilian commander in chief doesn't have to be a soldier.

    So, to all you real engineers out there, am I being a bit over-sensitive? I really do respect the education you've attained and the work you do. It seems disrespectful for me to claim your hard-earned title.

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    I always had an issue with this during those periods of time when my long-time employer in the telecom world insisted that I and my peers use the "Systems Engineer" title but strangely enough, I was "more ok" with Sales Engineer which it ultimately ended up officially being for the last few years prior to retirement. Yes, there was some "engineering" to a great extent in designing "systems" (using various product solutions), but the real engineering was done by real engineers. My degree was in business...logistics specifically, but broad across all business areas. I just happened to have an affinity and aptitude for IT and telecom stuff. My job was to assemble their work into something that fit my clients' needs and sell it to them. (the "sales people" had to get the appointments...) The terms engineer and engineering have evolved in our tech-heavy world from what they once were. Toward your specific question, hopefully there is always some kind of modifier involved, such as "sales", "systems", "solution", etc., just as historically things like "electrical", "mechanical", "structural", etc., have been used for folks who truly did the groundwork to be a "real engineer" to insure there is some clarity.
    --

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    I always had an issue with this during those periods of time when my long-time employer in the telecom world insisted that I and my peers use the "Systems Engineer" title but strangely enough, I was "more ok" with Sales Engineer which it ultimately ended up officially being for the last few years prior to retirement. Yes, there was some "engineering" to a great extent in designing "systems" (using various product solutions), but the real engineering was done by real engineers. My degree was in business...logistics specifically, but broad across all business areas. I just happened to have an affinity and aptitude for IT and telecom stuff. My job was to assemble their work into something that fit my clients' needs and sell it to them. (the "sales people" had to get the appointments...) The terms engineer and engineering have evolved in our tech-heavy world from what they once were. Toward your specific question, hopefully there is always some kind of modifier involved, such as "sales", "systems", "solution", etc., just as historically things like "electrical", "mechanical", "structural", etc., have been used for folks who truly did the groundwork to be a "real engineer" to insure there is some clarity.
    For me, it was always "Software Engineer". Since there is no formal Software Engineering degree or licensing, I suppose I might have fallen into a category with Sales Engineers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Feeley View Post
    For me, it was always "Software Engineer". Since there is no formal Software Engineering degree or licensing, I suppose I might have fallen into a category with Sales Engineers.
    I designed and created software for special projects until my wrists gave out then switched to scientific 3D modeling and animation. I think they called me a Computing Specialist for a while then later it was the generic Senior Staff. Management even asked once what title I would like. I didn't care since I never went job hunting and never needed a dazzling résumé to trick someone into hiring me.

    JKJ

  5. #5
    Not all engineers are licensed. Most have an engineering degree. A few get licensed.

    Everyone wants to be an engineer. I was one for much of my working career but I never got to blow the whistle.

    My Grandfather was an Erie RR engineer, he did get to blow the whistle.

    I used to list my wife's occupation when we went to trade shows as Domestic Engineer.
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 02-06-2019 at 3:46 PM.

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    10 years ago I sued for consequential damages from an improper trailer hitch install. The judge was in a quandary; my complaint made much more sense than the defendant's explanation, but I had no expert. The defendant said something particularly foolish; I replied that I was an engineer and I knew that was an outright lie. The judge perked up; if I was an engineer, then I was an expert. He immediately ruled for me.

    I got a BSE 30 years earlier and figured that made me an Engineer, despite never working as one. Did it?
    But I did have a job doing computer programming, so maybe I did work as an engineer. Very confusing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    I designed and created software for special projects until my wrists gave out then switched to scientific 3D modeling and animation. I think they called me a Computing Specialist for a while then later it was the generic Senior Staff. Management even asked once what title I would like. I didn't care since I never went job hunting and never needed a dazzling résumé to trick someone into hiring me.

    JKJ
    Ha! I worked for one start-up that let us choose titles. One guy chose "Galactic Overlord" and actually got business cards with that.

    That was the same company that found out they had to administer drug tests. But no one ever said they had to pay attention to the results. So the joke was that you couldn't be so stoned that you couldn't hit the cup.

    Then they found out that they had to have a drug policy. So, "Anyone found with drugs at work has to share."

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Feeley View Post
    To me, engineers are degreed and licensed like doctors and lawyers.
    Over-sensitive? Maybe not, but perhaps a little pendantic.

    Insert the word "professional" into your definition above, and I think it will resolve everything.

    The term engineer can rightly be used for all sorts of applications ranging from machine and building maintenance to operation of a locomotive train to the person who oversees the engine of an aircraft or vessel, to other more artful applications.
    However, a Professional Engineer is generally more regulated and specific a title. Next time you meet an engineer who is qualified to seal drawings, ask for his/her business card, and I will bet good money the title will read Professional Engineer, not just Engineer. I hope this helps,

  9. I am a registered professional engineer in the province of Ontario. As with most things, context is everything. If someone is using the title "engineer" because it makes them feel good about themselves, that's one thing. If, however, they are representing themselves as having qualifications which they do not have, especially for financial return, then that is a different matter. The Association of Professional Engineers for Ontario frequently prosecutes people for such misrepresentation as do many other jurisdictions. Would you want a doctor who is not qualified to do your open heart surgery?

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    How about sanitation engineer. I used to call them garbage men. I guess that was too sexist.
    Bill D.

  11. #11
    I thought that engineers ran the train, till I found out that the conductor actually runs the train. The engineer only drives, when and where the conductor tells him to. Almost like a wife.

  12. #12
    That's just a small part of the loss of the meaning of "professional". People are now acquainted with BS advertising .
    A guy who owns a business named " The Toilet Doctor" is no different from a U.S. lawyer with "Esquire" on his card.
    Last edited by Mel Fulks; 02-06-2019 at 10:36 PM.

  13. #13
    I'm an EE (electrical engineer). It never bothered me that some people call themselves "engineers" without much backing for it.

    To me, an engineer is someone who attended an accredited college or university and was awarded a degree with the word "Engineering" in the degree. For example, my degree says that I was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering (if I remember my degree correctly).

    Either that, or they drive a train

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 02-06-2019 at 10:58 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  14. #14
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    I don't get upset if someone usurps the title, but just offer somewhat the same as others have said: Caveat emptor. Its up to the 'customer' to determine if the person is properly qualified (and titled).

    We used to sit on the steps of the Mechanical Engineering building between classes and lament who else had changed their major to Business school, "Calculus III has created more Business majors than anything."

    I'm proud to have earned the degree, proud of the title, and my work product. I hope others, regardless of education or station, find the same pride.
    Molann an obair an saor.

  15. #15
    As a licensed (and degreed) engineer, let me tell you: the day I took the PE exam, I proudly walked out of the exam hall, knowing that I had certainly passed, and for the first time in my life, had serious concerns about the bridges I'd be driving over on my way home!

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