Sometimes, the best education is gleaned from a conversation with someone who’s been through the mill and can give you the benefit of their experience, along with a healthy dose of humour and scepticism.
Harvey T Dearden is a chartered engineer and Fellow of both the IET and IMechE who has worked in the process industry sector for over 35 years. He’s been employed by a variety of vendors, contractors, consultants and end users and now manages his own consulting practice. As he explains at the start of this collection of essays on various aspects of engineering, “My own experience is that beyond a certain point there may well be a negative correlation between qualifications and wisdom.”
Dearden believes that engineering students are not taught about the role of engineering judgment, but are expected to acquire the necessary understanding through experience and extended exposure to good practice. That’s all very well, he says, but the right teaching can catalyse learning from experience by helping the developing engineer to distinguish good practice from bad. And once this skill is acquired, an engineer can learn from the bad practice as well as the good.
‘Professional Engineering Practice’ contains a number of pieces exploring his concerns, with examples drawn from his experience in industry. The insights into the role of the professional engineer, and in particular the nature of professional engineering judgement (what it is, how to get it, how and when to use it) will be of use to experienced readers as well as newcomers.
All in all, a useful collection of five or ten minute reads that can be dipped into or consumed in one go, and will be enjoyed by anyone wondering why Galileo’s 1633 trial is still relevant to engineers today, what to do when ‘an inspector calls’, why ‘stupid’ questions can be smart and the value of a bar stool to a professional engineer.
‘Professional Engineering Practice: Reflections on the Role of the Professional Engineer’ by Harvey T Dearden CEng is published by Harriet Parkinson Publishing, price £7.99, ISBN 9781484949979.