When do you stop calling yourself an engineer?
After 4 years of hard work, sleepless nights and a missed out social life, I finally earned the right to be called an engineer. Holding this piece of paper, inscribed BSc Civil Engineering, almost made me forget what it truly took to study engineering, so much so that I added MSc Engineering to the frames of degrees on my wall. Now, eight years after earning the title I still call myself an engineer, especially on those forms where it says “occupation,” even though I no longer work in “pure engineering.” The purists amongst us, working in plants or engineering companies and engineering councils, state that I may no longer claim my title. The question has me perplexed, the title I most identify with, I worked hard for, I can no longer use because I saw an opportunity to use my degree for greater positive impact. I disagree.
Engineering is a state of mind. It’s the ability to process thoughts, critically examine a problem and find a solution. I have gone from engineering roads to engineering clothes. In fact, in manufacturing I call on more of my engineering prowess than when I was a consultant engineer. As a development consultant, I have assisted government in understanding the type of infrastructure we need, and as a people development consultant, helped my peers find jobs, coached and mentored them to get the best out of their careers. More over, I have done more for engineering by co-founding and being the current CEO of SAWomEng, than my purist engineering peers. I have become an activist and evangelist for engineering for young people around the world. Who are you not to call me an engineer?
So many young engineers face this dilemma. When do you stop calling yourself an engineer? When you start working for a bank? A management consultancy? Being a wedding planner? I believe its up to the individual. To be honest, we all earned our titles, and no one can take that piece of paper and what it represents away. In fact, many engineers even within engineering companies become managers and don’t really perform tasks as set out by their degree. The world is changing and the type of work defined as engineering has completely evolved to include so much more.
So while the purist engineers may want us to dissociate from our hard earned titles, I say the engineering world has changed. What we can contribute to the world has changed. Wear your title with pride, you earned it!
By Naadiya Moosajee