Friday, November 16, 2007

Engineers get no respect

Restaurant owner Scott Adams this week summarized the problems that talented engineers (Silicon Valley or otherwise) face at the hands of pointy-headed bosses.
[Dilbert]My direct experience with such abuse is more than 20 years old. I quit my last engineering job in 1986 because they wouldn't take my product ideas seriously (two ideas they implemented under external pressure within 18 months of my leaving the company). Then for 15 years I ran company founded by two engineers, where it was the non-engineers who got no respect (that's right, Rodney, no respect).

So while I post this cartoon on behalf of fellow Beavers everywhere, the reality is that I'm probably doing my part to make their life worse. Every time we inflict upon a tech company a manager or marketing person who took business because (s)he wasn't good enough at math to be an engineer, we are contributing to this problem. My dual MBA/MSE students are great — like I once was, they may be better engineers than managers (6+ years of engineering training but 18-24 months of business training), but at least they'll understand the technology that makes the business possible.

Fortunately, many of our undergrads are taking low tech jobs, while our MBA programs continue to be filled with engineers (taking the path required by HP 15 years ago) starting as engineers, getting an MBA, and then resurfacing as marketing experts. Sure, I can see hiring someone to sell digital cameras from Sony or P&G, but I hope you wouldn't find your enterprise computing or semiconductor equipment rep there.

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