Dr. Joel Orr
VP and Chief Visionary
Cyon Research Corporation
Some of my best friends are engineers. Four of my grandchildren either have, or are on their way to having, an engineering degree. I am not one, but have always admired engineers, and been drawn to the profession.
After many years of figuring out what I do best - so I could decide what I wanted to be when I grew up - I think I've found my niche: I'm a helper.
I love to help people. I do it through consulting, through speaking, through writing - on the phone at 3 am, to crowds of thousands in huge auditoriums, in small conference rooms, in the pages of magazines, blogs, and newsletters.
I used to focus on helping engineers and their organizations with technology; I still do that, but I've been struck by an even greater need, one that nobody else seems to be addressing: Teaching the engineer how to be a whole person.
Most engineers love their work. They love learning more and more, solving problems, making things, breaking things, and delivering stuff that works.
Interestingly, most engineers love their families, too. The engineering profession is reported to have lower divorce rates than many others. And I've read several sources that recommend engineers as husbands to women seeking stability. (My guess is that women engineers make very stable wives, too.)
However, being thinkers, and working, mostly, in medium-size to large organizations, engineers run into daily conflict: Work doesn't see them as family people, and their families are not generally encouraged to get close to their work.
So the typical engineer lives in two worlds: Work and home.
Happy is the engineer whose two worlds share values-moral, ethical, political, religious. But this is often not the case.
The engineer may be around speech and behavior at work that would not be acceptable to him or her at home. There may be profound differences even in what constitutes courtesy. And at worst, the engineer may discover that the organization paying his or her salary is making decisions and acting in ways he or she finds abhorrent.
To put it mildly, this is a stress-inducing situation.
This is where my help comes in.
I encourage engineers. I remind them about things they already know in their hearts, but may have forgotten, or have trouble holding on to in the daily taffy-pull. I articulate things they believe, but had never been able to put into words. I say things like, "Listen to that 'something' inside you, the Voice you refer to when you say, 'Something told me to take an umbrella!'"
When my CAE Magazine column, The Computer-Aided Engineer, was in print medium, the most popular article ever was called, "A Clear Path." It defined "duty," and described its role in the life of the whole-person engineer. (It and many others can be found in The Victorious Engineer: A Joel Orr Reader, available on Amazon.com.)
My most recent book, Structure is Destiny: The Dandelion Paradox (www.structureisdestiny.com), addresses the inherent conflicts between most organizations and the individuals who make them up, and offers strategies for reconciling them.
My book, Every Man a Hero, Every Wife a Coach - now in its final edit - suggests a functional model for a joyful, fulfilling, and permanent marriage. Engineer friends tell me they love the pre-release excerpt on the website (www.everymanahero.com).
I still write about CAD/CAM, simulation, productivity, PLM, knowledge management, and more, mostly in the publications of Cyon Research Corporation (www.cyonresearch.com).
But this is where my heart is: Whole-hearted living for the engineer. So that is the recurring theme of this column: How to maintain human wholeness under the two-world stress of the engineering profession.
Tell me what you think: [email protected]. Ask me questions. Take issue with my advice. Tell me if I've helped you in any way. Remember, I'm a helper. I'd love to hear from you.
is an author, consultant, and public speaker. He consults to Fortune 500 companies, high-tech startups, and government agencies on CAE issues. He is the founder of the League for Engineering Automation Productivity (LEAP) and has been an Autodesk Distinguished Fellow and the Bentley Engineering Laureate. A long-time Computer-Aided Engineering columnist, in the CAD/CAM Monthly e-mail newsletter, Dr. Orr will continue with his reflections on all aspects of engineering. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his Web site: www.joelorr.com