From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Engineers - The FINAL word (I hope :^)!)
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 14:59:17 -0500
Mike Simmons wrote:
> You hit the nail on the head! That was exactly my point about the post....
> it is not the piece of paper, it is the individual and his abilities.
> I have no quarrel with the PE certification and I think some sort of
> overview is necessary to ascertain whether a certain level of competence has
> been achieved, ala the bar exam given to attorneys. Further, those who have
> earned a degree or professional certification should be justifiably proud of
> their achievement.
What is important to realize is that the PE exists primarily and
almost exclusively to give the state someone to blame when something
goes wrong. In 1980 the utility I was consulting for was offering a
significant bonus for getting or having a PE. I sat for and passed
the EIT (Engineer in Training, the PE prelim), as did most of the
people in my office. As a nuclear engineer, the EIT had just about
nothing to do with what I was doing - it simply tested my ability to
do math and to memorize the study guide. After a question of
liability came up in our study group and one of my office-mates
consulted an attorney for an opinion, everyone, myself included, who
had not sat for the PE declined to do so. (The attorney's opinion
was that a PE is professionally liable for anything he works on even
if he does not stamp the work.) If I had gotten a PE it would have
been in a discipline that had nothing to do with the work I was
The tranformation of the couple of guys in my office who got the PEs
was remarkable and unfortunate. One the liability issue was
clarified, they became extremely conservative to the point of
paralysis. They were so risk-adverse that they really could not
function in the positions they held.
The credentials are important starting out but after a few years
what matters is the track record. When I went to college, the
microprocessor had not been invented, electronic calculators still
cost $500, mastering a slide rule was a geek status symbol and the
computer science geeks did their work on an old IBM 360 punch card
system. Most everything I learned that applied to my work I learned
AFTER I left school.
We shouldn't forget that most of the richest and most successful men
in the US lack degrees. Gates is at the top of the heap along with
Larry Ellason. As an employer, I quickly learned that the best and
most creative software programmers were the self-taught ones. After
all, one does not need to sit in a classroom to absorb Knuth!