I was motivated to develop this website whilst working as Mechanical Engineer with a large and respected UK engineering consultancy. Like many graduates I left university with an excellent degree; however, it didn’t take me long in the real world of engineering projects to realise that as a fresh graduate I really didn’t know that much about practical engineering at all.
The typical modern engineering degree is one of the most rigorous undergraduate degrees a student can undertake and it equips the graduate with the skills necessary to understand complex concepts, solve difficult problems and formulate convincing technical arguments. However, the field of engineering and its multitude of disciplines covers a vast scope of applications. University degrees cannot hope to, and generally do not attempt to, provide students with the tricks-of-the-trade and rules-of-thumb that are so often used by experienced engineers in the course of design and analysis.
A recent graduate generally quickly learns that in a typical professional engineering role (if such a thing exists), a good chunk of the knowledge imparted in a degree education is surplus to requirements and was been taught mainly to stretch the student’s mind and deepen their understanding of concepts. In reality, many design and analysis tasks are somewhat straightforward in the sense that the techniques and concepts are not hard to grasp and have invariably been seen before by the practitioner. The difficult part of practical engineering comes in defining the problem, making appropriate assumptions and discovering the best technique for obtaining a solution in a cost-effective and reproducible way. This became clear to me when I realised that I was spending a significant amount of time at work researching websites, textbooks, standards and codes of practice in an attempt to discover the methods, techniques, assumptions and rules of thumb for many engineering problems I had come up against. It seemed to me, at the time, that maybe this was how it was supposed to be; perhaps I wasn’t as good an engineer as I thought? After a couple of months I spoke to a senior engineer and friend who said he’d had exactly the same experience until he learned to use the engineers around him. After that conversation, that’s exactly what I did. I am lucky in that I have had the privilege to work with some outstanding engineers and mentors, who, through their years of experience have been able to point me in the right direction when I had a question. I only had to ask.
If you don’t know something, you only need to know where to look, or who to ask.
In my professional career to date I have discovered that if you don’t know how to do something, it can be frustrating; yet, if you don’t know how or where to find out how to do something, it is even more frustrating! One of the most difficult parts of the job as an engineer is knowing where to look for the answers. If you are lucky, like I have been, then you may work with experienced people who have been around long enough to know the answer, or at least where to look for it. In that case, you just have to know the right person to ask. Unfortunately, this may not always be so, and it is in that situation, especially, that I hope this website can be of help.
It is worth remembering that the vast majority of problems in a “typical” engineering role have already been covered by someone, somewhere before and that information relevant to your problem will very probably exist.
It is my opinion that an engineer in business and in life, should seek not to reinvent the wheel and should always strive to keep things as simple as possible. The productive engineer who can keep things simple and fulfil the Client’s requirements, safely, cost-effectively and on-schedule is the one who will succeed. It’s best not be the engineer who, although talented, burns through all the available man hours on a fixed-price project in the happy pursuit of designing a pipe bracket from first principles and then substantiating it with FEA, just because they know how. In a world dominated efficiency and productivity, that is a quick and unfortunate path to being labelled a toxic resource.
A Short Disclaimer
It is my intention to ensure that all content posted is of the highest quality; however I am not currently in the position to have the content checked by an independent person. Therefore the reader must understand that the information posted on this website has NOT been checked by an independent person and all information is used at the reader’s own risk.
I am writing this website whilst working a full time job, therefore updates may occasionally be slow in coming; however I will endeavour to ensure that all content posted is of a high quality.
This website in its current form is not intended to be a citable reference for inclusion on official engineering documents; however I do try, where appropriate, to link to recognised national and international standards, codes and guidelines.
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