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What it Means to be an Engineer

by Phillip Luan

April 19 1999

Today wasn't a very exciting day. Yes, just like any job there are days when you have paperwork and just plain work to do. Someone from an audit team came this afternoon to check our work procedures and make sure we conform to International Organization for Standardization, ISO, codes. This means I had to make sure our reports are in order and that we are documenting our work.

But even though today I won't get to discover anything interesting or get to make something useful, I still have work to do. Today I'll also be working on the Automatic Balance Calibration Machine Upgrade project. I joined the team about a year ago, but others have been working on it for more than 10 years. The project is almost complete now and a lot of people are excited its finally done and that it actually works. But the outcome wasn't always clear. At times it has been frustrating and consisted of long hours of troubleshooting and days of labor intensive tasks. Today was the second of four days we plan to collect comparison data for evaluating the accuracy of the new machine. We need to collect enough data to determine the repeatability of the machine and of our process. What this means is a co-worker and I will spend half the day setting up and collecting data.

Today might sound pretty boring and maybe even like a day in school, but it's work we have to do to finish our project. For one hour of inspiration and dreaming about an idea it takes a 100 hours of careful planning, experimentation, documentation, troubleshooting, making mistakes, correcting your mistakes, getting off track, getting re-focused, and not giving up. But that's what it takes to bring an idea to life. And I think that's what it means to be an engineer.

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