Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An engineer and a manager

Yesterday I went to Tekla’s annual managers’ day, held in Dubai.

 As expected, the event was discreet, smooth and professional, good tea on offer in all of the breaks.
The presenters kept themselves to their topics, the timekeepers rang their bells in their allocated times, more or less;
Beyond the usual technical news and client presentations, half way through the proceedings a bunch of unanticipated little gems were given to the audience.

Just the right things for me to mull over on the long-drive back to Abu Dhabi.
Mick Hodgson from Tekla’s HQ was charged with providing global examples from real-life use of the Tekla-tools. I was pleased not to see ‘our’ HQ building showcased this time – while the little movie they made of it some time ago is sleek and impressive it is painful to watch at the time I’m banned from the real building.****

So, Mick had three wonderful new examples to show –

·         The first one was related to the Panama Canal’s expansion.  The current plan is for two new flights of locks to be built parallel to, and operated in addition to, the old locks; *

·         The second was on the structure intended to further secure the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, part of which was destroyed by the disaster in 1986. It is being built adjacent to the existing shelter and will be slid into place on rails. **

·         The third was to do with the re-floating of the trouble Costa Concordia that ran aground over a year ago. In order to raise the ship, I understand the contractors will install underwater platforms under the submerged side of it and use huge cranes to pull the ship upright. ***

Somehow, driving towards the sunset and pondering these wonders of engineering still happening around the world I thought of my father.

He was a mechanical engineer. Was and still is.

At the age of 82 and seriously ill, he no longer works unfortunately, is barely alive most of the time, but has spent every waking minute of his conscious life being an engineer.
Even these days when he comes out of his hazy world of diminishing thoughts, what he utters almost always has something to do with ‘engineering’.

He never worked on projects as important as the gates of the Canal, never got involved with anything remotely as risky as securing a nuclear reactor and never had the chance to contemplate the logistics of flipping the stranded monster ship back onto the surface of the ocean, still an engineer with every bit of his being.

Then, just as I passed between the boundaries of the two emirates (you know, where trees appear along the motorway ready to escort me all the way home) - somehow my thoughts slipped onto the CV’s of most of the engineers/managers my company employs these days – it was bound to happen, considering how much time I spend researching them and trying to figure out what on earth has gone wrong with this ship I’m on.

Consequently, I got entangled in questions like this one:

Is it not interesting how most of my company’s top managers’ CV’s start along the line of
“XY has earned his civil engineering degree (insert number – usually 20+) years ago then”…
Steadily climbed the corporate ladder never again remembering what being an engineer really means? Or should mean?

Thankfully I arrived home – to my ‘physicist/scientist for life’ husband and the ‘true to the core – whatever they choose to be in the future’ – daughters chattering at the dinner-table.

Life is good.

****http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrLtsqYpGf4 (could not find the full length one)

Picture from here:
(So many beautiful analogies to life, engineering and other bits of life are in it!
May be a bit too cheesy too)