Thursday, November 17, 2005

Is Engineering Boring?

Lately I've begun to think that maybe engineering is a bit boring. I know that sounds funny to most of you. It's like a member of the bomb squad pondering whether defusing bombs is dangerous.

I associate the words "boring" and "engineering" to an undergraduate class I had with Professor Dourman. (Do I need to mention that's not his real name?) His first lecture seemed very promising. He motivated the course pretty well. But thereafter, the professor would deliver the entire lecture seated next to his desk, quietly reading his handwritten course notes that we all had a copy of.

At least half his students were completely asleep -- the kind of rock-solid, drool-on-the-chin variety of sleep that indicated either serious sleep deprivation or severe boredom. Miraculously, no one snored.

I don't think I ever lost consciousness in that class. I would dutifully fill a cup with steaming hot black coffee* beforehand. And I'd buy myself a large cookie to save for the last twenty minutes, should I still find myself awake by then. I had to time the eating of the cookie just right. If I ate it too soon, I'd most certainly crash before the end of the class from a sugar letdown. If I ate it too late... well, that wasn't ever going to happen, was it? After a month, I started bringing three cookies to the class. So I managed to stave off anything more comatose than a semi-hypnagogic state.

Now that I write about this class, I realize that it wasn't the most boring one. It turns out that the material the professor droned on about was novel and even a bit cool. The really boring classes were those in which I already knew the material.

I'd start the semester in one of these classes fully engaged, hoping to catch the professor's mistakes. But as the semester ground on, and as my workload from other courses increased, I would study other subjects or work on various term projects.

This problem, wherein lack of novelty leads to boredom, was actually a precursor to my current plight -- the ho-hum ordeal of supporting my employer's manufacturing department on the many dozens of products I designed over the last thirteen years.

I don't mind answering an occasional support question. But the product we make is highly specialized and difficult to manufacture. No two parts come out exactly the same. So each part needs to be honed (metaphorically speaking) by a skilled technician, who is supervised by a knowledgeable engineer. This is tedious.

I vacillate between INFP and INTP on the Myer-Briggs scale. I need to express myself creatively, and I need to do so in isolation from others. I do not care to make decisions or reach concrete conclusions. Deadlines don't concern me -- I sneer at them. I care much more about the process than about the outcome. And if I cannot learn while doing something, it's not worth doing.

So cut that manufacturing umbilical cord and let me loose on design work. I might just discover something great, like the meaning of Life, or better yet, how to make engineering exciting.

* The cafeteria sold a hot dark brown liquid that looked just like real coffee but tasted like you were sucking on the sharpened end of a pencil. If the caffeine failed to keep you awake, you could count on the taste to give you a jolt.

1 comment:

Tirsden Frozenrayn said...

Just droppin in to say THANK YOOOOOOOOO <3 ^_^ Mucho happy gamers in the house, yup yup. Especially me. >D *huggles* Once the new year has come and gone I should be able to catch up with stuff. Heh. *looks at the piles of games to play* Yeah.....