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The Engineer

Among other things, I am an engineer, which is to say that I spend the majority of my work time doing things that most people would be bored to tears by. The problems I attempt to solve can’t be boiled down to talking points, or even really discussed at all without first understanding relatively long and complicated backstories. Many times, I will spend weeks or even months developing something that ends up being set aside unused thanks to a change in the political wind direction, either inside my company or at the client level. Or, conversely, I will spend valuable time rehashing and re-presenting old information to an obstructionist designer or stakeholder who refuses to follow the chain of reasoning laid down in past reports and wonders why Idea X (usually their idea) hasn’t been included, even though it doubles the cost, or provides no measurable benefit, or has already been shown to be unnecessary.

So it may come as no surprise that I have lately found myself scrambling to find a success story, a vision, an Engineer who has Overcome. In doing so, and thanks to the recommendation of my uncle, I’m reading The Great Bridge, the second book by author and historian David McCullough. About halfway through the book, I found this gem, taken from the June 22, 1872 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and written by Thomas Kinsella:

“…He is the thinker who acts. He contributes to his country’s sum of achievements as much as and less expensively than the soldier. His ends, in the elevation of the race and in increasing the aggregate of its capacity and performance, are kindred to the statesman’s. And if there be those who think that the work of the Engineer is only hard and material, that there is no charm of art in its processes, let them read the story of the building of the Bridge.”

The Bridge, of course, is the Brooklyn Bridge, and even though it is couched in the Gingrichian grandiosity of 19th century American English I have to say I love the sentiment.

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