Where I hail from there was a retort to anyone who referred to himself as an engineer being "hy sit die 'spanner' in die engin neer". Roughly translated, "he puts the spanner inside the engine" - A more accurate English equivalent would probably be "he puts a spanner in the works!" But is this the general view of the engineering fraternity?
I'm not sure those who have degrees will appreciate this, but with 'engineer' appearing on an extortionate amount of business cards the whole meaning of the word seems to have changed. Almost everyone, regardless of their real role, has either 'engineer' or 'manager' in their official title (some have both!).
To make my point just take myself. I was employed as a "systems engineer", yet have no degree. Isn't that a little wrong? Those who have degrees will probably agree. So will I, but not for the reasons you may think. Having the appropriate degree will allow someone to be called an engineer, but having the title does not necessarily mean he can do the job. Don't worry, I'm rather proud of the fact I don't have a degree, especially when I look around and see the appalling lack of knowledge of many degreed engineers!
Now, I like to be a little different (those who know me are nodding their heads). Lately, with the title of 'engineer' losing its real meaning - and me just wanting to be a little different - I've changed my title to simply "Technical Support". But have I downgraded myself? Read on before you decide.
Let's interpret some commonly used titles nowadays, we start with 'Sales Engineer'. Engineering is the art of taking an idea and making it reality. Therefore, as his title suggests, this is someone who creates a sale where one did not exist! (with the reality more often existing only in his head!). C'mon, lets give the guy a break. Ok, maybe he does assist engineering departments and so makes a sale (there's a funny feeling you're starting to pick up the drift!).
Now for my favourite, 'Support Engineer'. Could someone please give the real meaning behind this as the only logical thought is the guy does nothing more than engineer situations that support him staying in a job. If he did any real engineering he would ensure the customer would have no reason to call support again!
There is one that takes the cake in all aspects, the "Customer Services Engineer"! Tell you what; we're not even going to go down this route, but do let your mind wander....
But it is not just individuals who are trying to hide their real function; Companies are just as guilty! The words "solution provider" are now the most prominent in advertising gumph. It's almost as if companies are ashamed of what they do!
Instead of saying, for example, "we sell nuts and bolts", which would be helpful to anyone conducting a search of directories or the 'Web', they have decided they no longer sell products. They now "provide total engineering connectivity solutions" or similar twaddle. They even have this on the front of their business cards and websites - omitting to inform us exactly what field they "provide solutions" in!
Back to our question; have we really downgraded by removing 'engineer' from the title, or not? Take our 'systems engineer' bit, does this give the client an idea that he can call up and get assistance with a product he has just bought?
"Technical Support" - borrowing a rather catchy slogan of a brand of weather-seal products - does that not have that "does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin" feel to it?
Doubt there will be a sudden shift from class and status orientated titles to "what I really do" as this would mean moving from 'flashy' towards accepting responsibility! Take a "Customer Services Engineering Manager" (eh!??). Can you see him rushing to call himself "Head of Technical Support" with the added implication that when things go wrong the buck stops with him?
Now, bearing this in mind, are you still of the opinion we have downgraded?....
© 14.07.02 / 29.03.05