Engineering Your Career - How does it structure your life?
A career in engineering has faced its fair share of misconceptions from the wider world. As with all occupations, many skewed or misunderstood opinions begin to centre on those who choose the career, and of course, the career itself. So what reputation does engineering hold in 2018?
What exactly is Engineering?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, engineering is “The branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.” However useful that definition is for basic reference, it does not tell the everyday person what engineering is. Unfortunately, when some people hear the word ‘engineering’, the cogs in their heads turn and descriptions like “boring”, “hard” and “not creative” flash up like neon signs. These are unfair for a profession that opens many doors to people and adds to the world in ways that can benefit us all. But let’s consider why these words so often pop up.
Firstly, let’s start with why people choose a career in engineering, or don’t. Sadly, many students shy away from this profession due to the previous mentioned “misconceptions”. At a substantial figure, 59% of 11 to 14-year olds would choose engineering as their profession. Sadly, this number drops to 39% in 16 to 19-year olds. So, what happens in these two years that causes teenagers to swiftly avoid choosing a career in engineering? One reason is that engineering is not being spoken about enough in schools and when it is, teachers often brand it as ‘too difficult’.
Therefore, the technique to try and deter engineering from the students who may ‘not suit’ it actually discourages the masses. Additionally, it could be that engineering is only been directed towards the male students of schools, rather than the females. It might not come as a surprise to know that only 16% of female students went on to do an Engineering degree at University. Furthermore, of the 47% of females that make up the UK’s workforce, just 12% of them are Engineers. This number drops down to 8% of Engineers being BME. These statistics suggest why people would think of engineering is a mostly white, male-dominated profession. Although these numbers are rising, it might take a few more years for the diversity surrounding the engineering profession to grow.
Engineering the World (or the UK specifically)
Did you know that engineering plays a crucial part in boosting the UK’s productivity? Productivity is one of the many factors that equates to the general prosperity of a society (basically if everyone laid around not doing anything all day, no jobs would be get done and the economy would plummet to chaotic ruin). However, engineering has created 1.74 jobs down the supply chain. Also, according to research done by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), engineering also generates 25% of the UK’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product-or in simpler terms, the financial status of the country). Therefore, engineering is important for the country’s well-being. But it has other important values for society.
What doors can Engineering open?
Of course, Engineering leads to many opportunities. There are different types of Engineering: civil, structural, mechanical, electrical or even more interestingly, Aerospace (imagine designing the next aircraft to go into Space or the one that carries the community of people who will be living on Mars after finding out it is habitable). Nevertheless, I bet you didn’t know that Engineering could be a smart choice for people who love psychology. It creates a remarkably broad and useful set of skills. One of those being the ability to understand what people want, while maintaining an ethos of protection, security and collaboration. Furthermore, they are great communicators. They have a wide audience of non-technical and technical people, so they need to adapt their language to suit the individual they are speaking to. These characteristics are important to counsellors; they need to be good communicators, protect their patients and adapt to their individual needs.
Therefore, we should all be open-minded when looking at engineering. Think about it. Without engineers we would have never been able to go to space, live in our dream houses or have heating during those cold winter months!
So, what who is Engineering for?
Absolutely anyone can be an engineer. With its relevance to creativity, problem-solving, logistics and passion (to name a few), it is a great career choice for anyone who wants it. You never know how far your passion in engineering could take you. You could change the world for the better. Or you could just have a career that you love.
Spaces in the Brain – The Psychology of Architecture
Buildings are a frequent part of our everyday lives; they surround us, shelter us and are centres for travel, occupation, education, health etc. But how many of us take notice of these structures, and the elements that take them from bricks to works of structural art? These components are the concerns for engineers and architects, and the builders they work with, but how often does the everyday person consider what makes a building? According to the newest movement in Environmental psychology, ‘Neuro-architecture’, the way a building is designed affects us in ways we may not even realise. In fact, the spacing of a room, the light fixtures or the materials used can impact our emotions and our unconsciousness, reflecting how comfortable, productive and happy we feel in a space.
Think about it. How many times have you walked past a dreary, bland and lifeless office block and it made you feel just as gloomy as its horrid grey appearance? Or how the artificial light makes you feel exhausted and idle as you sit at your desk? This is what Neuro-architecture is trying to make a point about. According to the dictionary, it is “the study and application by behavioural scientists and architects of how changes in physical space and related physical stimuli impact people’s behaviour”. The purpose of this research is to go against the negative consequences and instead maximise the effectiveness of a space by making suggestions towards efficiency and comfort.
Not convinced? Take the notorious 1950s Pruitt-Igoe Housing Complex as an example of how architecture can affect mood and behaviour. The 33 unimaginative blocks of flats, built in St Louis, Missouri, by Minoru Yamasaki, gained a reputation for their social upheaval, crime levels and poverty. Many specialists argued that the wide-open spaces between the separate blocks discouraged a sense of community, and thus crime flourished where neighborhood relations failed. Eventually, these buildings were demolished before the consequences of poor social housing could get more out of hand; this shows how construction can create isolation amongst residents and influence their behaviours.
Problematic building blocks can be found in the UK too. Birmingham City Council demolished 315 tower blocks, despite the need for high-rise buildings in over-crowded cities. Residents found that the extreme proximity of the structures led to an increased feeling of claustrophobia, lack of security and fear of unwanted strangers due to the anonymity of the flats.
Research by Collin Ellard at the University of Waterloo found that the exterior of a building had strong affects on people. Using a device to measure skin conductance (the levels of sweat produced amounted to the physiological stimulation felt by the participants). The more complex and interesting the design of a building was, the higher their excitement levels. The more monotonous and simpler a building was, these levels significantly dropped, and the participants felt less engaged and motivated to enter. These findings are not just important to researchers, but to the architects and engineers involved as visual design often sells their business to potential clients. The Conscious Cities Conference in London discussed how psychologists could make their findings more accessible for these professions, leading to better quality of built environments and better quality of life.
Some places have begun to interweave these ideas into urban living. Vancouver is consistently rated as one of the most popular cities to live in, and it’s not surprising to find out why. Taking psychological affects into consideration, new building policies there are geared towards ensuring residents having views of mountains, ocean and forests. This is because green spaces are linked to feelings of restoration, and even improved health. A study in England found that a link between the risk of circulatory diseases decreased in areas that were richer in greenery. Perhaps, this is the reason there is a current trend in architecture to introduce natural materials into residential homes, like replacing bricks with timbers for that more ‘down-to-earth’ feeling. Additionally, more eco-friendly homes are on the rise; these not only benefit the world around us (saving energy and reducing pollution is the way forward) but our psychological and physical health too.Other structural factors can affect us too. For example, living in a city is often an overwhelming experience, especially for newcomers. A sense of disorientation is an unpleasant feeling for anyone and finding your way around is not made any easier any by the mismatched
positioning of buildings and streets. The Seattle Central Library is a building that has won multiple awards for its architectural design but has an unusually dysfunctional layout. Its various routes from point to point are unsettling to say the least and its navigational issues undermine the beauty of the building. Therefore, aesthetics, practicality and psychological impacts of a space should be considered when designing a building, as these factors equally add to the successfulness of a structure.
So, we should ponder the places we are in. If the environments that surround us have psychological and physical control over us, we should reflect the control we have over buildings and their designs. The end result is just as important as the development (aka how people will live in them). Considering neuro-architecture may help maintain the relationship between a space and its inhabitants and preserve architecture as the form of art that it is. This could lead to a profound change in the profession that sees the world shape its buildings according to people and the spaces in their brains.
The Engineer and the Paintbrush
A common misconception is that the beauty of art and the intricacies of engineering are unable to merge and become the perfect platform for purpose, expression and exceptional structural pieces. This is far from the truth. In fact, the development of technology has opened a path for engineering and art to work together. Hi-tech engineering has begun to change art and make its boundaries even more flexible. According to Engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and Artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman, there is no reason “innovation and beauty” cannot be combined. This belief led them to establish ‘Experiments in Art and Technology’ (or E.A.T for sort). This non-profit organization works to encourage the colluding of artists and engineers to further work outside of conventional boxes.
The Pepsi Pavilion, in Osaka, is a mesmerizing Geodesic dome sculpture designed by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya that fantastically accumulates this idea. The dome is covered by water vapor and is fitted with a Mylar mirror inside to give it a hologram effect (the great work of Architect John Pearce). Further features include 1.8-metre-high kinetic sculptures designed by artist Robert Breer; these interesting designs move around and emit sounds when interacted with. The Pavilion shows the exceptional outcome of blending art and engineering and has out-lived its original 1970 construction, showing its relevance as “one of the most monumental immersive art and technology projects of the 20th Century”.
Furthermore, Engineer Debra Hockemeyer explains how art and engineering “engage both sides of the brain”, interweaving the ‘creativity and insight’ of the right hemisphere with the ‘logistical and science-math based focus’ of the left. The duality of these forums does not just renovate art itself but improves our brain power. “When you throw art in combination with design and engineering”, Kotaro Watanbe, director of Takram Design Engineering in Tokyo explains, “it starts to open up the very idea of thought”. Therefore, we should look at the walls that exist between art and engineering and break them down, allowing for free thought and expression to seep into the design of our structures.
The Burning Man Festival is a suiting location for the blending of engineering, art and self-expression. Its wacky and wonderful structures are fitting for such a transformative annual event, held in the state of Nevada, Black Rock City. A significant piece was designed by the Flaming Lotus Girls, a group of artists and engineers that aim to emphasize female leadership in an occupation where the ratio of men to women is lopsided. The structure, ‘Tympani Lambada’, is “a sculptural embodiment of the structures of how we perceive pitch” combining “fire, vibration and sound to create an experience rich with visceral sensuality”. The design is made up of “canals that are depicted as very
large carved trusses”, “two steel arches” and an interior piece that features “gracefully extending tubules, connecting nerve clusters, and a spiraling cochlea”.Another design integrates the concept of self-expression and celebration.
The Riverside Barons Quay Development in Northwich created a structure involved with the £80m regeneration of the town. In 2007, the council invested £32m to stabilize the abandoned mines and commissioned artist Katayoun Dowlatashai to design a piece that would commemorate the town’s salt mining heritage. The structure established a visual presence for the archelogy of the salt mines directly situated below and created were used to provide a link between the historic high street to the new contemporary space. The salt pillars decorated with royal white granite measured at nine metres each, completed with in-ground white lights so the structures could be visible during both the day and night. The centerpiece of the design was an etched granite plinth that depicted various images of the salt-brine industry in the Medieval period. The piece included 100 individual pieces of polished stone cut to 0mm tolerance. The hugely ambitious project incorporated 14,000² of paving granite, 500 linear metres of cladded steps and 200 linear metres of ebony in order to bring the architects’ and artists’ vision to life. The success of the structure not only created a beautiful social space but celebrated a town’s heritage with the wonderous fusion of art and engineering.
Let’s consider the possibilities of blending art and engineering- the potential for structures to create a world beautifully and innovatively designed.
We all want to be the best versions of ourselves and we want others to see this version too. However, it is not easy to be our best selves at all times. It takes hard work and baby steps to get to where we want to be.
How can you be the best employee? The best colleague? The best YOU can be? – Well, being the best is relative. We all have different interpretations of the standards we set for ourselves. So, what does success mean for you and how can you carve out an exceptional career for yourself?
Here are some tips on how to climb the Stairway to Success.
Firsts things first – It may sound simple but decide what YOU want. In order to work towards a goal, you must first pinpoint what that goal will be. Then set a deadline for that goal; whether it will be five years from now, three months, next week or even tomorrow, know when you want to achieve it.
*Break down your goal into smaller components if it is on the larger side. If you want to become a singer, you wouldn’t go straight into stepping on the stage at the 02 for a crowd of thousands – you would take lessons or learn an instrument beforehand. Apply this to your career.
Think about your mentality. A fixed mindset or negative outlook rarely leads to success. Take a flower, for example – if you forget to water it or leave it out in the shade, it won’t grow. So why do the same to your mind? It’s all about having a growth mindset – allowing room for adaptability and determination creates an environment for change and personal development. Believe in your capability for greatness and you’ll find the world will believe it too.
Don’t fear failure – embrace it. This one is hard. It is only human to fear failure. We strive for perfection at all times; however, if we never make mistakes, we cannot learn from them and grow. Being good at everything all the time can be boring and often leaves us a bit stuck in the mud – trying again, learning and evolving means there is nowhere to go but up.
Don’t play it safe – take risks and defy conventions. The more we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, the easier it will become. Staying safe will keep you comfortable, but it won’t help you change the world.
*Stay curious. Constantly learning fuels our passions; our motivations; our path to success.
Take care of yourself. Often, we think the pathway to success depends only on our professional capability. However, neglecting our physical and mental health hinders our progress. Being fit and healthy keeps you alert and focused – eat healthily and exercise when you can.
Don’t forget about your mental health – take breaks and refresh your mind. If you are having a tough day, that’s okay. Take as long as you need to set yourself back on the path.
We all have bad days or days where we don’t feel ourselves; take breaks