Adonis Diaries

Industrial Engineering: Introspection

Posted on: February 27, 2009

Something about my profession (#53)

Introspection within introspection

I started this chapter in September 13, 2007 as a personal introspection concerning my profession which generated later into a life introspection; I am basically editing this chapter.  Personal rambling set aside, I presently focus on the core of the subject that started my introspection into the industrial and human factors engineering. I have already written over 50 articles and later published them on in the category “Professional articles”.  Thus, this chapter should be technically redundant, but it is for my benefit that I am recapitulating the story.

This chapter is sort of introspection within introspection.  I did not attempt to copy/paste sections from what I had published because I want to discover how my positions and inclinations have changed since then:  It is very revealing to compare texts after a lapse of time and ponder what statements were fundamentally true to you and what were for the consumption of the general public.

Industrial engineering

I spent years pondering on the importance of industrial and human factors engineering and how to communicate their relevance in this fast pace environment of computer aided, computer simulated and computer controlled experiments that generate alternative solutions.  I was baffled on how to explain the difference between industrial and mechanical engineering when prompted: “So you are kind of a mechanical engineer?”  The two fields have not much in common except the pre-requisite courses in the first two years and the connotation to something having to do with machines and geared toward the manufacture and production of goods and the inevitable design of equipment and tools.

By the way, I never had the opportunity to take an industrial drawing course: everytime I tried to enroll for this course, I discovered that priority was given to the undergraduates.  The Dean had failed to include this course as a pre-requisite to satisfying my undergraduate program in 1975.  My guess is that the Dean might have figured that it is not actually that necessary for the graduate industrial engineer, since no industrial drawing would be contemplated, but I beg to differ.  How can any engineer whose basic general function is to design systems and tools not be trained in his mind and with his hand at viewing things in many dimensions?  Frankly, when I graduated I had many offerings in quality control of mechanical specifications to matching standards; I was too honest to declare that I had no industrial drawing schooling or training and declined jobs that were perfectly within my capabilities if I had the guts to lie.

May be the most damaging reason that inhibits me from socializing among people is the first unsolicited question asked: “What is your job?”  This is a question that I struggled very hard to identify and clarify for my own benefit first. I could take the alternative of returning a question by a question and try to find out what a “job” means in the mind of the inquirer. This technique in communication might means that I feel an interest in the person, that I like him to talk, that he would be willing to resume the conversation. I want to take a chance of investigating his reactions first; do we really want to communicate or the question is flatly a socializing gimmick?  Frankly, if I had something to sell or to buy my job should not be complicated.  The problem is that I probably have nothing to sell or buy either product or myself.

I don’t have a vocation and I am not interested wholeheartedly in anything that comes to mind.  I must discover myself and what gives me a sense to fight and struggle; I must know what drives me to wake up early and go at it.

Is my job what I currently do to earn a living or what I have studied and was trained to practice? Should I focus my explanation first on industrial or rather on the human factors engineering issues?  Is my real vocation my undergraduate (in Physics), Master’s (industrial), or Doctoral (human factors) program or what I have read lately?  Am I to disseminate the concepts that I hold to heart or to sell the company or the main product?

These wonderings are not abstract notions to me because I have been affected differently at various stages.  These questions are valid for someone who believes, deep down, that he never had a vocation and never really practiced what he should have been trained to do as a profession.

I consider myself a generalist in knowledge with no specific skills in any job specifications.  What is a job specification if not first, expertise in a very restricted job, and second, a thorough communication of the terms and vocabulary of the job?

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February 2009

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