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How to be a Happy Engineer

The expert gets up on the stage. His t-shirt is large and tight over his round belly, tucked into the top of his jeans. His hair is thinning. He looks proud. With an easy smile, he takes ten minutes to introduce himself. He’s an entrepreneur, and he’s dreaming big. With over 20 years of experience, he is an expert. More than that, he’s an expert with a plan. He’s a bit full of himself, but this is his promotional slot. The audience fidgets.

Then, suddenly, the pitch is over, and he changes gear.

He relaxes into the technical details. He takes us on his journey. The other experts in the room listen, attention grabbed. A few questions come but are handled effortlessly. He continues. We learn more – more questions come – more thoughtful responses. Ultimately, we are convinced by him, and he is accepted by his peers.

Finally, again, he reminds us he is an entrepreneur. He is not just an engineer. He’s a businessman. He’s an expert. He’s an authority.

Next up, we hear from a couple more guys (of course, they are guys) from the bank. The bank has a big plan. The bank has a slick presentation. Two engineers are talking us through it. One has 10 years of experience, one has almost three times as much. Should we be impressed? They aren’t as confident as our entrepreneurial friend but they run through their presentation nonetheless. While it looks good there is perhaps too much information. It is inexact. There is disquiet in the room. Then there is discussion.

“Any questions?” The hands shoot up – the experts are not convinced. “Have you tried this? Have you tried that?”

The bank slinks from the stage. That could have gone better.

The entrepreneur exchanges business cards with the bank.

When is Enough?

When are you enough of an engineer? Do you have to get up on a stage to prove yourself? Do you need to have worked on something that you feel is important to make yourself happy?

We saw two types of engineer in this presentation.

The one who loves what they do and is proud (perhaps a little too proud) to show it off.

We also saw the one who has compromised perhaps a little too much. The one who is perhaps uncomfortable with the result.

Both of these situations happen all the time. The highs and the lows. Neither means that their solutions are necessarily better. However, confidence and engineer happiness is a great predictor of engineering validity.

If you can recognise the highs and the lows of your engineering journey then you’ll always be able to say to yourself “I did the best job I could”. If you’re not happy, what can you do to influence the solution?