engineering is an art form

Relying on nothing but scientific knowledge to produce an engineering solution is to invite frustration at best and failure at worst.  -Henry Petroski, Duke University

engineering solves problems

For more than half of my life I have worked with electronic systems, either performing maintenance, assembly, test, or in many supporting roles. Because of my career in the Navy,  I have been fortunate for the jobs that it lead me to,  and the experience of working with some of the best and brightest people.  That I have made a second career in an engineering company and was employed in a technical capacity of one sort or another since 1987 is somewhat ironic.  My father was a gifted aerospace and mechanical engineer.   However,  other than my initial success with high school algebra, geometry and trigonometry,  it would have been easier for me to crush a lump of coal into a diamond with my bare hands, than to develop an engineering mindset.  I was a polylinguist and a social scientist in college.   Through intense study, the skills gained from military service and hard economic reality of a requiring a gainfully employable skillset, put my nameplate on an office at my present employer these last eleven years.


engineering challenges: customers and managers

There are times when even the best manager is like the little boy with the big dog, waiting to see where the dog wants to go so he can take him there.  – Lee Iacocca

Every development project I have been teamed with has been beset with complex issues.  A first-of-its-kind, proof-of-concept project is presented to potential customers.  On a fixed budget, and given a short schedule, complex designs are prototyped by the hardware team,  software team, and others working feverishly to produce an initial production design.  While outside sources are reviewed, qualified and contracted,  plans and processes are started in motion.  Customer requests for added features may then initiate a slew of more rigorous tests.   In this cauldron,  businesses gain advantage over competition by being first to market.  (And one’s continued employment is assured by meeting those challenges.)  My contribution, while concurrently creating procedures, test fixtures for our design team,  and supporting customers employing our other product lines, is to provide feedback to managers and execute processes effectively that our business employs to maintain our industrial certifications.

I have been blessed with an ability to resolve problems,  understand people, and find solutions that are sometimes more art than science.   In middle age,  I am revisiting someone I studied in a college Humanities course: Leonardo Da Vinci.  He was a brilliant engineer and designer.  I believe he retreated into his oils and canvas to calm his overly brilliant mind.   I am no muralist, but I can find peace after a long day in the lab.  I take long walks with my dogs, work in my garden (God engineers the success there), and write.






  1. Fantastic post, NotDonnner!

    You made some fantastic points and offered great insights into the technical professions. I became an engineer because when it came time to go to college, I realized that the chances of me earning a living by writing were about zero, whereas the chances of me earning a living wage as an engineer were virtually 100%. It seemed like an easy choice at the time. I figured there would be time to become a writer later in life when I became rich as an engineer. Well … you know what they say … the best laid plans etc etc. So writing became more of a hobby than a passion. And to top it all off, because of my time accrued in the technical field, I have been “kicked upstairs” into management, and so now I don’t even get to enjoy the parts of engineering that got me interested in it in the first place. But such is life, I guess.

    Also, I’d like to mention that it is my experience that test equipment is often far more complex than the products they test, and so requires a very high level of skill and ingenuity.

    Thanks for a great post! I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Biff, Thank you SO much for your input. I did much of the same choosing when I was young. There’s no riches in engineering – unless you are CEO, and even by the time you work up the ladder, well , you know.
      And you are correct about the test equipment – omg, the tech in one of our 100 Gb protocol analyzers took me a few days just to learn set up for just one basic capture!


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