image credit: http://gacc.ump.edu.my
In our society, Engineers are mainly engrossed in the operational parts of things. We like to make things work. We design, plan and implement and do the maintenance of many systems. Hardly do we look into the business of things, hence, it became very hard for Engineers to develop managerial capacity. No doubt, Engineers are the ships on which development sails but they hardly get the fish when the pilots cast their nets into the ocean.
In the early Nineteen century, while Tesla and Edison were busy researching and challenging each other to determine which electricity supply was better; AC or DC, J.D. Rockefeller, a business guru, came in with his money and bought Edison’s plants. Today, Edison is known as a great Scientist while Rockefeller is known as businessman and philanthropist. His wealth is still growing. I still ask myself why it was not possible for Edison to be both a great Scientist and a wealthy businessman.
These days, there has been little or no major innovation in Engineering but we are having businessmen sweeping in a large number of monies through engineering ventures. I recently found out a trend; many businessmen are either building production plants or investing heavily in them. Various new Engineering plants are being built across the country, sadly, I have never seen an Engineer own any of them. It seems that we Engineers only have the capacity to find solutions to equipment, give ideas, which many times we give freely when it could have cost a lot to dish out. We spend countless hours at night to crack something and make sure that it works. Many times, what we get is a “thumbs up” and maybe an “increase in salary”.
My thoughts quickly go to the richest man in Africa – Mr. Aliko Dangote. The greatest African businessman of our time whose intelligence keeps growing with the identification of technological deficiencies and investing in building many Engineering facilities across Africa. As we all know, a manufacturing firm can simply be termed an Engineering firm simply because every other staff apart from the Engineering team are performing support functions, Dangote has made and is still making fortunes by riding on the horse of Engineering. From building Sugar plants across Africa to building cement factories, pasta plants and more recently a state of the art Petroleum Refinery. Somewhere in all these plants are Engineers whom we do not even know their names, we only know the business leader.
Our society is developed in a way that the person who controls the budget or the person who talks the loudest wins. The society should be moving towards Engineers having a major share in the society. Enough of falling into the back seats. The Engineering profession has provided fortunes to many businessmen and women. I would expect that in this time, Business and management courses should be a major core of the Engineering curriculum, graduates should have the idea of making into business and managing their expertise.
Just recently, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) got the news that the Nigerian National Council has upgraded and approved the entry level of Nigerian Engineering graduates into the Civil service to GL 09 as against the GL 08. This would not have been possible if not for the countless efforts of leaders of the NSE to ensure that Engineering graduates also get the preferential treatments that Law and Medical graduates get. A Law and a Medical graduate enter the Civil service with a level of GL 09 and GL 10. Safe to say that the National Council does not feel the impact of the Engineers in the society. Well, the Nigerian case is a story for another day.
A Dutch friend of mine once said that not until Engineers go on strike in Europe and there is no heating supply, no power supply etc before the Engineer’s role would really be felt in the society. But the majority of Engineers just find joy in making things work, no sense of business desire to have more.
I really think to move our world forward than it is, our Engineers need to develop a desire for business. The desire to make money and fortune from what they already have a passion for can only bring more innovation and competition. Afterall, we all want to work smarter and not harder. So, Mr. Tesla, I believe the present and the future can both be ours and while we are here, we can understand the truth. We can have both the present and the future.
I am David Popoola
ADECO Project Engineering B.V. West Africa Ltd