What problems do you have man?? You easily earn over a lakh for a month. You have bought a flat in Bengaluru. You have married the girl you loved. You have a car. You ride that monster bike which easily costs over a lakh. What more do you want? Well if you are an engineer, you would have listened to this statement at least once. And you would be feeling the same if you are not an engineer, or if you could not become one. I was watching a Hollywood movie from 1996, Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal starrer “Executive decision”. They have this role for a system engineer, mostly an aeronautical guy. He designs an aero plane for the US army which can transfer people from one flight to another midair. Truly a genius act. But the way they pictured him is very cheesy. They portray him as a fat bellied bastard, with high blood pressure and maybe even cholesterol. He profusely sweats and keeps pulling his beltless pant over his fat belly and is a coward who fears about being killed. The movie ends up with a great climax and Kurt Russell wins our hearts as a hero who successfully lands the plane in a makeshift aerodrome where he got his pilot training. Well written and well directed. The movie makes a name. BUT!!!!! Engineer!! Ha-ha Poor guy.
It’s a common notion among people that life is very easy for engineers. You don’t have to sweat, you don’t have to get wet. All that you need to sit in AC rooms in front of a computer. Travel in AC cabs, have pizzas, burgers and live a lavish life with girls and alcohol. At least that’s what they feel when they look at what’s said about them. Some of the parents want their child to be an engineer because of this reason. Well what they say has a point right. I come to office in BMTC Volvo. Or an AC cab, at times in bike or car. I come at around 9, switch my laptop on, go to the E-cafe for a cup of coffee and then come back talk to my colleagues, talk about the last nights football match, scold the cricket team for losing the game, and then curse the politicians and politics, check out the share market and see which shares can I sell and which new ones to buy. When I actually sit to work it will be 10. I take another coffee break at around 11, loo break at 12, lunch at 1. I come back at 1.45- 2, and take one more coffee break at 3. One loo break at around 4, and finally leave the office at 5.30 or 6. Wow! I hardly work right. At least it appears like that right?
Now let’s actually see what the reality is. And how exactly this system works. There are a few thinks which you need to know before that. Try this today. Workout for an hour .And try to understand what “Divergent of a vector” is. Try explaining it and make another person understand it. Simple exercise. (Take linked list if you want, or anything related to engineering.) Now see what was more energy consuming? You think gym? Hell no! Teaching someone about data structures is! And it’s not just about understanding data structures, making it work is also a job that you need to do. And there is one more thing the nature of the job, and the nature of problems that we face. I work in R&D (research and development.) We start with version 0.0 and by the time the final product is out (beta version!!) my code version will be somewhere around 1.9 to 3.2. There will be so many code changes, system changes, updates, bug fixes, inspections, QA analysis and so on. And is that job well done?? Nope!! Then comes support. Once the product is up and running we have these customer complaints, and we need to deliver temporary code fixes and meet customer deadlines. That is where the real challenge of the job comes in. That’s where an engineer starts to really feel the heat. You at times work round the clock 24 hours a day, and even then miss deadlines, the problem gets escalated. That is the time the amount of cool head that you have over your shoulders really starts mattering. You will have to take a pen and paper, trace every line, understand every bit of code, analyze what it is doing, and assess its usefulness there. Once all this is done, you may finally see it was not your mistake that the code didn’t work, or it was a misunderstood logic, or even an incompatible hardware. Whatever it is, your brain will have stormed by the time you figure out all this. This may have made you a hero by now, or even would have screwed your ratings very badly. That is when and why engineers have to find a way to go out and relax. A muscle cramp can be healed with a pain killer, but you can’t keep taking antidepressants to help you out of mental stress of working round the clock. Another aspect everyone talks about is about having only 5 working days. But the point here is, if you have another desk job you will be having to work 8-10 hours a day. But with us, it’s a different case. For me, we have a parallel team working in USA, we need to coordinate. We will have late night and early morning meetings, and it is kind of thing which repeats once in a while. And these are simple things. We will have to handle some other stuff as well. Some criticals, some escalations, some missed priorities and deadlines and so on. And yeah! Like everyone else you will have to spend time with family and friends. We will also have to deal with girlfriend issues and misunderstandings.
But there is one thing that you need to realize, one thing you need to know. Everything that you fancy upon, everything that you need to lead your life has someone like me behind it. Let’s start with the early morning wake up call, yeah your mobile alarm. Do you know it takes at least 3 pages of code to run it nicely without bugs? What if I was very much ignorant and your cell phone didn’t buzz the day you had an interview, moving on, the next thing that you see is the car that you take to office or work place or simply anywhere. Right from ignition control to air bags, ABS breaks to cruise control everything is engineered. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention, Lost somewhere? “Use Google maps bro!!” There is a very highly engineered and efficient algorithm which runs in the background and is a brain child of some engineer. Can you just appreciate the beauty of the work? Right from home security systems to ATM vending machines, multiplex ticket vendors to billing in malls, we control and coordinate everything.
And one last thing. There is a lot of fuss about us working for MNC’s. Oh yeah! People speak about us, taunt us. The typical lines will be, “You get educated in India, you get your shelter, food and an identity for yourself from India, and you finally end up working for a foreign company, for some unknown nation. ”But I have one question to all these people. How many of them honestly file returns and pay their taxes like we do. Yes we work for foreign companies, but we are the reason why development is happening today even in India. We travel in AC buses, but we put efforts to get technology at a cheaper cost so that a kid which doesn’t know what AC is can still afford to go to schools and get education. We are the people who have made the life of a soldier who patrols in border safer, and the races of Formula 1 accident free. We are the people who lavishly drive SUV’s but in the meantime burn our asses in search of a future renewable source of energy. We have plump, sweaty cholesterol rich people with us, but we are the people who make medical science more accurate and error free. We may not be vital physical forces, but when situation arises, and the need calls, we can be a cyber-army which can make and take any economy. You may laugh at us for being plump, or for being nerds, but you will forget even to breathe if one day we all stop working. That “I love you, babe ” text message that you send, the online gifts that you order her, the honeymoon locations that you book for, the groceries that you buy online, the TV channels that you see, the people that you vote in reality shows, the live streaming of The FIFA, The online games that you play and the chat rooms that you flirt: everything has thousands of lines of codes and millions of transistors inbuilt, it’s a network of energy and intelligence so uniquely and smartly built so that no matter how much you fuck up, it will let you connect to the ones you want and to do what you want to do. For me to write this, for you to read this, and for someone else to comment and laugh at this, there resides an engineer somewhere in some part of the world so humble and so dedicated who kept weaving a nice platform for countless number of days, taking care of every minute details. So the next time you make fun of an engineer or try and troll him, remember you couldn’t even breathe had it not been someone like him who put countless hours of his life in making a beautiful world for you to live in. We truly are the ambassadors who make “This world a better place, for me, for you and for the entire human race 🙂