Friday, January 09, 2009

Even old dogs learn new tricks

Many of you may know that I am currently underwhelmed with my job. A lot of that has to do with my current rotation. (A real quick explanation to those I don't always talk to: I am essentially in an engineering training position. Every few months I go to a new office to work under a new boss in a new part of MDOT.) Most of my rotations have been, while not exactly outstanding, enough to keep me occupied. A few of them have been great, allowing me to use actual knowledge I gained in college and at times even challenging me. The one that I leave today... has been far less than stellar. It involved no complex thinking whatsoever and, for the most part, consisted of me driving around and around Macomb County measuring and taking inventory of various aspects of the state roads.

So, begining Monday I head off to a new task; the reason why I'm actually writing this post. I will be working to develop and implement a Pavement History Database. I know, sounds pretty boring. It honestly probably will be. But the part that excites me is that this doesn't really exist yet in MDOT. It's new.I get to figure out what works best, what information is important, how to gather it and format it.

You see.. Civil Engineering is a very old profession. 99% of the things we do have been done before (obviously this isn't true for the R&D aspect of the profession, but that's not where I am). Even when you are doing something as complicated as design work on a bridge, there are several accepted ways to go about calculating what you need to do. There is a generally accepted way of documenting your work. And there is somebody who has done it all before who can point you in the right direction or determine if you're completely wrong. So the fact that I have found a task, even a small one, that has not been done before in my organization.... is pretty exciting to me.

Oh, I have to add something. There is a webcomic I have been reading the past week or so called xkcd. The author is, I am guessing, some sort of grad student in math/programming/electrical engineering or some related field. I came across this comic and could not help but appreciate it. Please note, for every comic there is a rollover caption. I sent it to Damman and his reply made me laugh: Does this validate you? Am I giving him too much credit if I assume he meant "Hey, you shouldn't need webcomics to feel good about your job". Regardless of what Damman meant, I do not worry about appreciating engineering. I don't want to sound like I am bragging, but there are seriously very few things in the civilized world that have not been touched by engineers. What I do worry is that we (engineers) are sometimes the only ones who realize and appreciate that.

(Just so nobody takes this the wrong way... by no means am I attempting to downplay the importance of anyone else's occupations. Obviously I realize that we all do our parts to make the world what it is.)


Jason said...

Yes, where would the world being with brokers in the middle of every transaction gleaming our own cut off of a price?