It began with a youtube doing the engineering rounds:
From what I’ve seen of engineers, that knack is a critical factor and bona fide specimens can suss out the humbug pseudo-engineer very quickly. I once went for a combined IT and teaching job with very little of the former under the belt. Taken to the slave server room, there was a disassembled mouse on the table and the guy said they were sending it away for repair. Could I have a look at it?
I’d never seen inside a mouse before but it was bleeding obvious that one of the transistor thingies had come adrift. I believe that that plus the teaching side got me the job, which I didn’t take because there was another on offer up north.
Did I have the knack? In some ways, not in others. Perhaps there’s a sliding scale not properly represented in this Venn diagram:
There’s definitely an overlap but maybe a fourth – management – should be put in. Analysing management, it would differentiate between the true manager with vision and the administrator who efficiently runs things. We’ve all a certain amount of each in us but how much of each depends.
Searching for a psychological profile of engineers, something engineers themselves wouldn’t generally do, not being terribly introspective people, I came up with:
What kind of personality do I need? Electrical/ electronic engineering technicians should be able to apply their theoretical knowledge practically once they are in the working environment. They should keep abreast of the latest technology. Studies require motivation and self-discipline.
That seems to have been written by an arty/academic/admin. Further:
The study linked bellow was able to identify one major personality type (ESTJ) common to both technical and non-technical group. The technical group displays a mix of extroverted and introverted attitudes while the non-technical group mainly projected the extroverted attitude. Subjects were also found to be lacking in feeling-judgment but were more oriented to the thinking and perceiving categories.
So, thinking giants but introspective/nurturing pygmies.
They don’t tend to go into politics and they think of politics in fairly simplistic terms, part of their problem-resolution mindset. One engineer said to me that when there’s a problem, they gather the people from the relevant disciplines together in a room, all put in their take and a solution is hammered out there and then. Academics, on the other hand, go away and produce papers on the matter which go into journals, they then proceed to slag each other off and nothing is resolved.
He wasn’t wrong but he didn’t know the other academic bugbear – they do actually gather in rooms but then rabbit on in big language meant to impress over their gravitas, then when everyone’s asleep, someone makes a time for them to reconvene in a few days and after some weeks, a half-arsed solution is written up as a manifesto.
From the tone of that, you might think I’m an engineer. Actually, I’m an academic whose mindset is far more engineering/management oriented, although the academic comes naturally too. Most of my friends in life have been engineers or artists – make of that what you will.
If engineers are “thinking giants but introspective/nurturing pygmies”, are they also sexual pygmies? Is their approach to romance:
“There’s your hole, here’s my tadger, tolerances seem matched, let’s join.”
… or is there some sort of charm to them?
Here’s one attempt to answer the sexual question with engineers:
That said, I would not think that engineers are mentally and psychologically less equipped than other professions in dealing with the intricacies of flirting with women. They are just less flashy. Their appeal (based on embodying an anchor of reason, square logic, moderation and practicality) resonates better with certain types of women. Engineers make better life partners and family men than most.
Less flashy. Y-e-e-e-s-s. That fits most engineers I’ve met.
Now, to this point, gender hasn’t entered into it and I was glad to be able to do a profile without bloody female studies coming into it for once.
No such luck. Sadly, you can’t profile engineers without the gender question intruding, engineering seemingly being one of the feminist battlegrounds. Here is a fighting paper [google doc] on how to force women’s studies on engineers.
A quick look around found that about 30% of college places in STEM were for females but when government/feminazism/PCishness forced faculties to take on females, they still lagged when they eventually entered the field.
Most engineers put that down to the female brain being wired differently but feminists put it down to discrimination in a male field and payrate disparity. I looked for a youtube on female engineers and came up with this:
The moment I read the blurb: “Sandra Neuwirth is young and successful. The 38-year-old is a management engineer …” I knew there was going to be trouble. As must be apparent, even to engineers, she’s no engineer but a “people person”, an administrator in a factory who likes technology and runs the induction side, HR, far more of a woman’s field.
One pseudo-study attempted to account for the huge gender disparity in engineering but alas, it was doomed from the start. The psychologist accounting for “gender bias” was herself a woman named Murphy [let's get racist here - being part-Irish myself, I'm allowed to].
While watching the videos, students were equipped with body sensors that measured their physiological responses, including heart rate, skin temperature and level of sweating.
Female students showed faster heart rates and more sweating while watching the gender-unbalanced video compared with the gender-balanced video.
Men apparently felt neither one way nor the other but wanted an even balance of sexes in the study. Hell, so would I – who would want to be surrounded by hairy neanderthals all day when we could be surrounded by lissome lasses?
A more serious attempt at profiling engineers was undertaken by Harrison, Tomblin and Jackson in 2006 and listed these traits for mechanical engineers [don't have data on computer engineers, a wild, unkempt bunch to be sure]:
(1) Mechanical engineers are emotionally stable. They ordinarily make compatible marriages, maintain comfortable human relations, and are usually free of neurotic and psychosomatic symptoms.
(2) Interpersonal relations are harmonious but casual. Impersonality is one of their more common traits.
(3) An analytical interest in people is rare.
(4) They avoid introspection and self-examination. Insight is often shallow. This lack of self-understanding makes them less perceptive of social nuances and relatively insensitive to the less obvious needs of others.
(5) Engineers are straightforward, direct, and self-sufficient.
(6) They are inclined to be matter-of-fact and, outside their own field, are often unimaginative. Their attitudes are realistic, though their brand of realism deals more with surfaces than with depths.
(7) Engineers are energetic. When faced with problems, they are advocates of the direct action approach. Polite diplomacy and oblique conciliatory tactics are foreign to their nature.
(8) Most of them are goal-oriented, serious-minded, and conscientious.
(9) They like phenomena to be definitely structured; there is a fundamental aversion to ambiguity. This fondness for structure and order may underline their essentially authoritarian approach.
(10) Engineers have definitely masculine traits and interests.
(11) Social participation is normal in amount. The explanation is more a matter of conventionality and social conformity than any profound interest in people. It is not true that engineers are usually introverts. What sometimes makes them appear so is their characteristic impersonality.
Yep, that sounds about right.
The reason I like winding up engineers is what the bastards did to me many moons ago, when I decided to enter the marriage stakes. My dearly betrothed was no engineer but she hobnobbed with them and managed to get herself employed at EMI in some capacity in the computer field. I can vouch she knew little about computers. Being a Joanna Lumley lookalike, she was warmly welcomed by that pack of bastards and she knew how to BS, did my turtle dove.
Frankly, I thought her hunger for the company of men a bit OTT and unhealthy but let’s move on.
One day I went into town and [as this was in Oz], she’d been discussing with them, at the lunchtime bar, whether to buy a King sized bed or a Queen [slightly smaller], a double being smaller again. When I walked in, one of these neanderthals took one look at me and opined: “Queen will be quite big enough.”
I actually liked those guys because they were refreshing, open and direct. One of them I was drinking with [they had this unhealthy affinity with alcohol] and I were talking about a road bypass project on the go and many proposals had been put. This guy asked me my solution. After he’d listened for a while, he suggested the best bet, in engineering terms, was to do nothing. Cost effective, whereas the alternatives were a governmental dream – huge cost overruns and a total balls-up in the end.
Masterly inactivity has been an arrow in my quiver ever since.
Engineers are also amusing – they always blame someone or something upstream for their errors and they react interestingly to proposals of love [so I'm told]. Apparently they’re also wedded to the idea that their solution is always right, which is interesting because so many think that I think I’m always right.
Gosh, I must be an engineer. Having designed and built a few boats, fences, sheds, small buildings and box girder bridges in my time, like me da afore me, it’s not an impossible field – you just need to know purpose, stresses and buy the right gauge connecters, as well as having an eye for a good piece of timber. Simples.
I’m told but utterly reject the notion that engineers lose their sense of humour when someone is actually winding them up. Nah, they’re the most self-effacing Winnie-the-Poohs imaginable.
The new, improved Anderson shelter is now built and awaits the first blasts from the engineering fraternity. Do your worst, boys [and girls].