Time To Get Real

I applied for membership with the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE), but not being able to fulfil the prerequisite of having a degree resulted in my being turned down. Oh well, their loss as they won't be getting any of my hard earned cash!

Next stop was the Institute of Incorporated Engineers - IIE (www.iie.org.uk) - and they are more amenable to the self-taught individual. It was a little surprising though when only an associateship was granted rather than a full membership, although an opportunity to upgrade via a "mature candidate route" was offered. This involves writing a paper on an engineering subject of about 5000 words ensuring that full understanding of the subject is clearly indicated.

Yet, through this web site, a question started to emerge in my mind. Is getting recognition by such an institution of any worth? Does having a few letters behind your name make you any better at your job than if they are not there? Put it this way - I know many engineers who are members of the engineering institutions that do nothing more than drastically reduce the value of any membership to these institutions through their appallingly low level of knowledge. This raises yet another issue. Have the institutions maybe a lack of ability to recognize talent coupled with an inability to recognize shortcomings which has led to this scenario?

I know a chap, a full member of an institution, who was in a position whereby he could have papers presented to him by those he was in charge of. He would then edit them and present them as his own and through this has gained a reputation of being one of the "brightest young electrical engineers in the UK". I was privy to information presented in one of his papers and it did not take long to prove the ideas were nothing short of 'crackers'! Yet, the engineering world applauds his ideas. What fascinated me was actually just how little this guy knew. During a project, every question I asked him had him consulting someone for the answer..... and this was his project !!

I was all set to start on my submission to the IIE when I met a chap who is also self taught. He too is involved with training other engineers in their jobs. But is he recognised? No. His institution will not give him the recognition he is due. Let me say it again - he teaches required skills to the very engineers who will not recognize his skills. Bizarre! He has fought long and hard to try and get a few letters after his name, until wisdom kicked in that is. He realised that it was always going to be in vain. He now just relishes the times people ask him where he studied, and then reminds them they came to him to further their knowledge parting with very good money on the way. He's happy with life.

A dilemma presented itself. I could take time out to do a paper for the IIE. This would probably take about 6 months of my spare time and all I would accomplish is membership to the institution, although there is no assurance of this. Even with membership the only certainty is the fees go up dramatically. There is absolutely no guarantee my job status, or the chance to further my career, would improve. Regardless of the outcome the only guarantee is; During this period there would be no time spent creating training courses or writing e-books. Engineers asking for help outside the scope of the support as defined by my job would not get it. With this option, how many people would gain? Only one! Me! And that is only a maybe. I also believe that doing the paper is nothing more than either begging or arrogantly stomping my feet for recognition.

But, if we choose to continue as we are (this being the second option), then how many people benefit? The true number will not be known but it's going to be a lot more than one. With "if you have questions email me" appearing at almost every page on this web site it's only the lazy engineer who loses out. The opportunity is always present for him to expand his knowledge. If I cannot help then I'll say so. When I can help someone I also gain from the experience, especially when I need to go back to the books to brush up on a subject. What better way of learning. One could say this is truly a win-win situation.

When this article was first penned I indicated that creating and maintaining technical web sites can provided great enjoyment but that the activity did not count towards Continuing Professional Development. It has subsequently been learned it can indeed count as CPD if the activity is relevant to the individual's or his/her employer's needs. The IIE has no fixed rules, only "relevance" and "what is gained by the activity", and have been strongly influential in getting other institutions to think likewise.

It is a comforting feeling when it appears the IIE recognises the CPD value of maintaining technical web sites, regardless of whether the individual is institution-taught or self-taught. In response we need to make sure the Institution is kept informed, through a CPD program, of milestones reached along the way. If this pans out not only will the institutions win (for starters their annual income goes up) but so will all who are in this position, not forgetting the engineering fraternity as a whole.

The Bottom Line:
Have the goal posts moved? Not really. They have, surprisingly, become a lot clearer. I will carry on as I am, helping those I do, and carry on having fun doing it. The old saying "Respect is gained, you cannot demand it" still applies.

If you have any comments I would be most interested in hearing them.

Marc Dekenah.

© 10.06.01 / 27.07.01