The Path to Public Service at SEAS
Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum
Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President
Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study
Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum
The following article is one of a series on the Graduate Schools of the University written by members of the faculty and by the graduate students. Dean Hughes' article on the Engineering School appeared recently in the Crimson; today's article by a student, A. F. Lemmon 2E.S., is supplementary to its predecessor.
Why an engineering training? If asked this question, we would without doubt answer that this is the age of specialization that the man who is not proficient in some particular line of endeavor cannot be expected to reach any great heights.
This answer, while being partly correct, entirely misses the big point. The student taking the arts course in the college, or the student in the business school preparing himself for something outside of the engineering field would rather scorn the idea of an engineering course as fitting preparation for anything but the practice of engineering. Likewise, the student in the engineering school looks askance upon those who suggest the possibility that he will not make engineering his life work, yet it is a conservative estimate to say that out of ten graduates from the Engineering School, only three are practicing engineers five years from the date of their graduation.
Engineers Are in Demand
This does not mean that the other seven have been failures, it merely means that the trained engineer's mind is demanded by all branches of activity; that the professional training is used as a stepping-stone to other great things.
The trained engineer's mind can be found in all walks of life. Herbert Hoover was trained to be an engineer. He is today one of the world's outstanding authorities on economic problems. There are any number of similar examples, and the reason is that the engineer's greatest asset is his ability to think straight; to recognize facts. He is not gailty of the twisted reasoning that incites revolutions and riots. He realizes that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points even when it is couched in unfamiliar terms. He does not run wild on fantastic theories. Everything is subjected to analysis. It must be able to satisfy a mind that takes nothing for granted.
There is a large film which manages some seventy public utilities in the United States. Few who are not engineers are able to obtain employment with this company, yet these engineers rarely have an opportunity to practice their profession. They become the heads of departments, the superintendents, and the managers.
Some Start as Salesmen
When they were first employed, some were made salesmen. Undoubtedly they looked back upon four years of hard college work as wasted effort, but they soon saw their error in the rapid advancement which they enjoyed.
A typical case can be quoted. A man with the training of a chemical engineer was employed. He became the head salesman of the industrial gas branch of one of the small companies. In a short time he was made the superintendent of the fastest interurban railway in the world. A position fraught with great responsibilities for an inexperienced young man. The firm, though, has perfect confidence in the young man, for they realize that the engineer's mind will not make any serious error. In a short space of time, the young superintendent will be thoroughly acquainted with all matters dealing with interurban railways and will, in all probability, raise the service to a higher standard than it had previously possessed. A man without the engineering training would not have been chosen for this position under any circumstances.
The greatest trust company in the world is demanding young engineers to be trained for vice presidencies. This certainly is not a branch of engineering practice.
As these young men progress, they draw slowly away from their chosen profession until it becomes merely the background of their success. They can be likened to the sky-scraper that rises majestically above its surroundings, yet if it were not for its foundation it could not be an actuality.
There is one thing than must be kept in mind. The cut and polished stone has a far greater intrinsic value than the one in the rough.
Why an engineering training? It teaches a man to recognize the obvious, the rarest and the most desirable ability that can be created
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.