Letters 01/14/2010

Jan. 12, 2010
Who can call themselves an engineer? Is it an individual choice or is it up to the state in which you live?

The debate continues
Who can call themselves an engineer? Is it an individual choice or is it up to the state in which you live? The discussion on PE licensing continues. And privacy concerns get another look.

More on privacy
I have to take issue with your Dec. 10 editorial, Take back your privacy. You are painting legitimate industrial firms, including those that advertise in industrial magazines, with the telemarketing faults of others. When we contact people by phone, for example, the conversation is along the lines of, “We just noticed you downloaded information or a CAD file. Can we be of assistance?” We are not trying to “close a sale on a query” as you put it. We are a professional technical company marketing to engineers who we respect. We don’t have a predatory marketing strategy. So it is not fair to lump us with telemarketers out of Asia pushing who knows what.

A call asking a prospect “can we be of assistance” is a valid thing in the technical world we live in. For example, I called someone who had downloaded a file yesterday. He thanked me, asked that I send him my contact information and said that he will be in contact with us soon.

No one in our sales staff has ever called someone in the manner that you stated in your editorial: trying to get an order on a query. The worst comment we have gotten was “it’s for reference.” But some of these eventually turned into customers. Many have thanked us for giving them a person to contact.

In the technical sales world we are in, only professionalism wins with engineers.

Steve Pullman
Rino Mechanical Components Inc.
Freeport, N.Y.

You are absolutely right. I should have been more clear about the kind of telemarketing calls I was referring to. Frankly, my use of the phrase “white paper” in that editorial was dumb. I was trying to allude to offers by unscrupulous outfits which share information they collect from Web pages with third parties, all without alerting users of the site about how the information they enter will be used. That’s not the case with the vast majority of industrial firms that provide information on their Web sites.

Clearly there are many instances where phone follow-up is appropriate between a company and someone asking about its technology. Unfortunately what I wrote could certainly be interpreted as lumping the “good citizens” like Rino Mechanical in with the bad ones. That’s not at all what I meant. As with all my editorials, I accept full responsibility for my words and in this case, my lack of clarity.

I am well aware that companies that advertise in industrial magazines typically do not try to close a sale every time someone downloads information from their sites. These aren’t the kind of companies I had in mind and I regret that my words could be taken to mean I was referring to reputable firms like these.

I suspect that because of the actions of the “bad actors” that I was trying to allude to in my editorial, eventually we will see privacy legislation covering the use of information collected on Web sites. That will go a long way toward addressing the environment we have to today where Web site users are increasingly protective of their personal information because they have a hard time telling the good actors from the bad ones.-- Leland Teschler, Editor

The PE controversy goes on
I’ve read many of the comments regarding your column on PE licensing (“Hijacking the engineering profession,” Aug. 6) and I had to finally chime in. I’ve dealt with many incompetent people in quite a few professions who were all licensed. I’ve also worked with people who have impressive resumes with several engineering degrees who could not back them up. We all take tests to get our engineering degrees. The PE test is just another test. I have no problem calling myself an engineer as I design automation equipment and apply the principles I have been taught while earning my BSME. There’s also a lot more to my job than crunching numbers. I feel if you have any kind of engineering degree and are working in a field where you apply what you have learned, then you are an engineer.

Like every profession, there are shining stars as well as incompetent morons (including licensed mechanical engineers). I have interviewed many people for my company and I don’t care if you have a PE or a four-year degree. You must have formal training and above all, be able to show me you can do the job. I am constantly bombarded with questions from family and friends when something breaks and it usually comes down to poor design, either from incompetence or shortcuts for cost savings. There is a much greater problem in engineering than licensing.

Andrew Farkas

Unless one is dealing with civil engineering or government contracts, a PE license is death to your career. I was an engineering manager at two midsized companies. When I ran across resumes of licensed, professional engineers, they went straight into the trash.

I resolve the conflict between degreed and licensed professional engineering by the oldfashioned custom of putting my title, “B.S.M.E” after my name.

The government is not your friend. Its “protection” costs too much.

David C. Dillmore, B.S.M.E.

One of the most frustrating issues concerning this situation is the way the state of Illinois regulates PE licensing. To sum it up, there are four steps required to become a Professional Engineer (PE): 1.) Graduate with at least a B.S. from an accredited university; 2.) Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam; 3.) Complete a three to five-year appropriate “body of work” usually defined as an “internship” or “apprenticeship”; and 4.) Pass the Principles and Practice in Engineering part of the PE exam.

But there’s a significant “gotcha” in this list: for your “body of work” to be acceptable to Illinois, it has to be approved by a PE. This makes it impossible for a lot of engineers to become PEs because they have not worked directly under one for the required time.

Let’s take my company as an example. I work for a midsized company with several engineers. Seven have a BS and one has an MS in an engineering field. But none of us are PEs. Between us, we have over 70- years experience and over 30 patents granted or in-process. So are we less competent than certified PEs? Are we less ethical than certified PEs? I graduated from the top undergraduateengineering school in the U.S., but was my education subpar compared to that of a certified PE? Well, it seems so, according to the state of Illinois.

I fully believe this is where Burt Siegal has his big gripe with Illinois. I have called the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation to see if there is any alternative to having a PE sign off on my work so I can become a PE. Apparently, there isn’t. I guess I am destined to stay a “lesser” engineer, at least in the eyes of Illinois.

I fully understand Mr. Siegal’s struggle and wish him luck in his uphill battle with the state.

Jon Schroeder

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