Friday, February 25, 2011

I Repel Engineers

An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin root ingenium, meaning "cleverness".
Engineers are grounded in applied sciences, and their work in research and development is distinct from the basic research focus of scientists. The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and the applications that meet the needs of society.

(This makes them sound much easier to work with than they are.)

Dear Engineers,

When you are speaking to me, do I look slightly terrified?
Because I am.

Do I look as if I am considering running away?
Because I am.

Please don't take it personally, I feel this way whenever I talk to someone who thinks on such a different level than I do. And. I am afraid you will ask me a lot of questions I don't know the answer to, confirming that I am as big of a bullshit artist as you supposed I was. I'd hate to confirm that.

I don't TRY to avoid Engineers. OK, that's a lie. Sometimes I do. They make me NERVOUS, and I feel that there is always going to be a test at the end, or I am going to be asked to formulate my blabbering into a six page report, complete with proof. And while I luuurve research, I dislike technical data. I like to think big picture, and those detail guys drive me to drink.

I used to have a boss who said "don't tell me about the labor pains, girl. Just SHOW ME THE BABY..".  Exactly, Bob.

Until recently, i have been up to my eyebrows in Engineers and their lack of soft skills. When I try to crack wise to ease the tension, they look at me quizzically. They do not smile. They do not laugh. They do not speak sarcasm, my native tongue. They take my joking seriously, and ask "do you really think so?"

For several years, I worked in Public Affairs,  which included working with employee volunteers, community outreach, engaging elected officials and event planning. These are things that engineers disliked and thought was a huge waste of time. It did not factor into production directly. In fact, it was seen as a waste. I was wasteful. I was a waste. I was forced to meet with them regularly and waste more of their time giving them a peppy update while they looked at the clock behind my head and tried to ignore their ringing phone instead of me, overusing the word "SUPER!".


I don't blame them. They can't see how our giving away donations to local charities and glad-handing the local elected officials paves the way for their upcoming projects. There is no way to measure it. It doesn't calculate. It does not compute.

Several of my friends are married to engineers and I know they see me giving them the chicken eye when we are in a group setting. I am just WAITING for them to catch onto one minute detail of my yap-yap-yap and call me on it. They are listening MUCH to intently to whatever I am yammering on about and I am terrified they will say "what is your basis for that theory, Onion?" and I will literally, truly, turn and sprint away.

Or do that Twix commercial thing, where they shove both pieces of the candy bar in their gob and then stand there helplessly.

Traveling and working with them, I also learned some other basic differences, including:

1. Engineers figure out how to split the bill, including the tip (standard 15%) to the PENNY.

The Onion guesses by taking the total bill, roughly calculating 10% and then roughly doubling that number (waitresses like to see me coming)

Carry the sugar...

2. Engineers explain locations using GPS, maps, or saying travel due North 13.6 miles before turning west and traveling 7.5 miles and then taking the left fork and traveling back east 3 miles...

The Onion needs immobile landmarks (cow herds travel about and can't be trusted) like "turn at the broken green gate and travel until you see the water tank with the giant penis spray-painted on the side. Turn there and go a long way until you go over the big hill with the Dr. Seuss tree at the top.

Where my sister's ex lives. Feel free to TP his house.

 This is not to say that I didn't like some of the crazy engineers I worked with. All were good guys, and committed to trying to help me, if they could only figure out exactly what the hell I wanted from them. I felt the same way, so often we were at an impasse. They said "Onion, just let us know exactly what we can do to help you guys out..(looking at watch)" and I said stupid things like  "we just want to support the field operations, Jim! (note peppy PR smile). 

One thing I am enjoying thus far in my consulting career is that I am no longer feeling tortured or making engineers feel tortured by my ramblings. Instead, I torture you guys.

what?...I don't mean anything by that. isn't really a theory...just my.. was...well, it was just a joke...
No, I mean it was just for cracking wise on the blog...
What's a blog? oh, um...its just this silly thing.
No, it isn't related to the project.
Really, just forg...

((running away))


Sheila said...

I think you are hilariously funny and have a very interesting (read accurate but I don't want a bunch of hostel engineers showing up at my house) way of looking at things. You always bring a smile to my face!!! So please keep peeling through those layers :)

Jones Family said...

I really enjoy your blog! Your level of straight forward tell it like it is mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm is right up my alley!

And as a side note as a bonus I shared you on my Face book page! :)


Lazarus said...

You've got engineers down pat, great post!

Memphis Steve said...

I grew up in a world of engineers, in a city where every job was either teacher, or engineer. Every kid had at least one engineer parent and we quickly learned how frustratingly incapable of normal human interaction they were. We developed a lot of engineer jokes. And years later, someone came up with the show "Beauty and the Geek" and then "Big Bang Theory" and we watched them and laughed and laughed and laughed.

TCA1974 said...

I agree with Lazarus, you have got engineers down pat! Great job I work with engineers all day long some days I have really long days!