06 April 2009

PROFESSIONAL MATTERS: Improving the Profession: Ideas from Another One

Now that the last issue of The One-Person Library has been distributed, I will be posting longer selections on this blog--mostly articles I had written or collected but that never made into print. This is the first one--expect more once or twice a week.

Richard Weingardt, a structural engineer, made these suggestions for improving his profession. Just substitute “librarian,” “librarians,” and “librarianship” for “engineer,” “engineers,” and “engineering” to see how we can improve our own profession.

“Over the years, I’ve received hundreds of letters from readers, many of them insightful and revealing. More often than not, their comments underline the day-to-day concerns and dilemmas our profession is facing—where it’s headed and who will be populating it in the future. The issues on the minds of the younger engineers differ from those of the older, more experienced practitioners. Typically, the younger these engineers are…the more worried they feel about how best to advance technically and move up in their companies or departments. They’re also concerned whether they made the right career choice, about the future of structural engineering as a true profession, and about becoming leaders in the profession, industry, and society.
“Those out of college for several years and well into their careers, on the other hand, have more interest in addressing issues such as the ramifications of engineering increasingly being considered a commodity rather than an intellectual or professional service.
“Both younger and older engineers…have been concerned about the deterioration of the profession’s stature. They’re also concerned about the lack of recognition and appreciation for structural engineering and the achievements of its professionals.
“How can most of these items be positively dealt with? Increase the number of engineers of all ages and levels of experience who are active in the professional societies and involved in consequential leadership roles in industry and society. Just working at our jobs…and leaving the advancement and betterment of the profession to someone else is not the answer.
“Many intelligent and highly committed American structural engineers…are capable of forwarding the technical expertise of American engineering know-how. But to influence the direction of the American structural engineering industry…required honing one’s natural leaderships skills and identifying the paths to becoming a person whose advice non-engineers, as well as engineers, will seek out.
He further suggests establishing a structural engineering hall of fame, observing leaders in the field who are involved in advancing the professional and trying to do even more than they do, and finally,
“If you’re a seasoned engineer, commit to helping those following you to be the best they can be. In addition to having fun doing engineering work—something you love—expand your influence and range of deeds. Then, not only will time fly, so will your sense of accomplishment as a successful professional and as a human being and citizen of the world.
“Remember the words of John Ruskin: ‘The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get paid for it, but what they become by it.’”

adapted by Judith Siess, OPL Editor
from Weingardt, Richard G., How you can influence structural engineering’s future (Column: The View From Here), Structural Engineer December 2005, p. 50

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