Sunday, May 10, 2009

Short Essay: Engineering vs Scientist

Engineer vs scientist difference is obscure for many people, me included at the beginning.
Already, during a chat with a research professor in 2001 about the competence war between the engineering and the science department of university of Montreal, I got an initial hint about it, he told me that part of computer science department tension with software engineers was about placement rate. Engineers was much higher than computer scientists. I should have request an explanation. What is this war about, the computer science department request engineer to do some normalization courses even if they have great grades and vis-versa.

In my short carrier, I have observe a major difference that I will try to expose with examples.
After my degree in engineering, I have done most of my graduates courses with scientists. In my first final exam, after some discussions with classmates, I realized that I was the only one that have used an estimation to solve a bottleneck calculus in a problem. Most of the other have lost more than half an hour on solving it exactly and couldn't finish the full exam.
Several times, I add to step in projects to set schedule in order to force people to cut some corners. Perfection is an endless path. If you have to fill a vase with rocks, sand and water, you will most likely start with the rocks then the sand and then with the water if the effort is inverse proportional to the size no? Yes it might be more interesting to optimize cool things and advances features but most likely they aren't part of the basic blocks required to allow your project to move to the next step.

What is the point of having half a perfect solution if you could have done a imperfect full solution. I am not saying that all scientists need of perfection leads them to lose the big picture and engineer aren't perfectionist but simply that bias engineer system vision leads them to gage better when it is time to look for perfection. Time kill projects and over-perfection can drag too much of it...but perfection should remain the goal.
Yes I am generalizing and simplifying but you get the big picture. Define your priorities and assign resource accordingly. So, am I a engineer or a scientist or a little of both? since my manager told my I was more a scientist, I should be a little of both...

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