I have been thinking, and probably being pissed off at the current status of the work, that whether the concept of engineering in my mind is the problem, or what I perceive is correct and it's the others who are not getting it.

    So, what is engineering? I recall back in high school when we were to enter the application for college. Being a naive spoiled kid back then, I had no idea what I wanted to do, nor what myself is or can be good at. I remember my dad told me that after meeting with my teacher 班主任, the guy felt I could be good at engineering. "What a nonsense!" I thought. I had no idea what engineering requires, had little interest in engineering (though my parents both were engineers), and certainly didn't think myself fit that profile at all — Noah's absent-mindness everyday constantly reminds me what I was like back then. So if anything, I was as far from being a good engineer as an engineer could possibly be.

    But, things change, I guess, and people do change (! what a surprise!). Growing up I found myself being more and more intolerable of the non-detail-oriented person and things, and wanted everything to be fitting in an organized way, in a well-oiled smooth operation, and taking proud when things work, and feeling frustrated when things aren't.

    When I draw diagrams, I like things to be aligned to grid, and the connectors snapped to another shape so they will move together without shifting position. I will make sure all labels have the same text alignment, both vertically and horizontally, and shapes in a row must be evenly spaced, and lines must be consistently the same size, so are the fonts, and so on and on. And Powerpoints, I can't believe how many times engineers, who have been known to be non-artistic type, are willingly to propel such bias against themselves by delivering a slide that is ugly because details such as alignment is not even right!!! You know, whenever I saw something like that, I wanted to scream!!! → for God sake, you call yourself an engineer, and yet you can't even get a slide right, how could I trust you to build a next jet engine, or write code claiming to be good quality!?

    You know, I firmly believe in consistency ← I think a person is, and must be, and better be, consistent, which means that if you do your laundry messily, have a messy car, I will simply discard you for being possibly a good engineer. Period! Because things like this speaks a threshold of tolerance of mess — all the ones I just mentioned tell me that you have a high tolerance of it, which, well, in engineering, I believe is a terrible news.

    What is engineering then? At this point I believe engineering is everything to fit together and work as it should. In GRE we learned the trick that whenever you see an answer says everything, it must be wrong, because there isn't such as possibility as everything. Well, engineering is exactly trying to achieve this impossibility, and that's why it is hard, very very very hard. When I saw emails or heard discussion that "oh it's broken, let's fix it", I just want to shout it out that "come on guys! what is broken? how is it broken? how did you judge it is broken? what is the reference of not broken!? what is the thought/analysis/guess of why so? and any ideas how to rule out possibilities of cause and find the problem? and any backup plan if we fail to find the cause, any action we can take to isolate the problem? or to alleviate it?"... I don 't get it, really! To me, a vague statement of "it's broken" is not only meaningless, but aggravating, and honestly, I think it is the problem itself!! → exactly because of the mentality of such non-detail oriented statement (I would go even further to say that whoever makes such statement is completely irresponsible, in engineering term!), will, and must have, driven the work and process that has created this problem at the first place!

    I'm amazed how many times people are rushed, or willingly rush into, a work without considering left and right how many pieces we are dealing with, how these pieces can fit together, how they can go wrong, what is the assumption, how to verify these assumptions.... These types of questions pop to my mind as soon as I start hearing even a faint proposal. Yet, for many, I do mean, many many many, others, they don't even occur to them, never bothered by them, and then get everybody, the whole team, into a fire drill mode, as if this is what engineering is about — putting out fire because things are broken!

    Yes, things being broken is the constant status of engineer's life; No, if fire is not becoming rarer and less severe, we are not engineers, we are criminal who is setting out fires, for ourselves, so to keep us employed, and appear to be busy!

    What a BS!

    I'm really curious how they had built Golden Gate Bridge back then? or the Sydney Bridge? or any of those enigneering marvels!? How could they pull it off with work of hundreds, thousands, of people/labor, yet, the things all came together, fit! Looking at them, you will see, engineering.

    — by Feng Xia


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