⚙️ What is Engineering?
To start with, I am an engineer myself. Both by academics and by the profession. I never knew what is engineering when I was studying it though. No one ever cared explaining the principles of engineering. I still hope that my college staff knew but lazy to explain it. Not sure if that is the reality. Only when I started working for startups to get better at software for their products, I started learning the basics of engineering and could relate it with real life.
As it is for most of the things in life, Engineering is also not easy to define in few words. It has been part of every activity that we do from ages. Nonetheless, I will try to explain it in my own terms.
It is a process of breaking down an unstructured repeating activity into processes, flows, rules, and giving them a proper structure so that the efficiency of the result depends more on the process more than the skill level of the individual involved.
That sounds simple right? In fact it is. The philosophy itself is simple. Just that the word "activity" is so wide there are so many branches, nested levels under it.
Imagine we are at a time where there is no currency, no country as such, people exchange value instead of money, kings are the rulers, no computers or mobiles, paper at max. Lets say you are interested in boats and sailing the waters. You stay nearby a shore, have access to the waters all the time. Because you desire to be a sailor, you wanted to figure out how to even sail? Maybe there would not be such a word called sail because no one knew it! After spending decades of time, you figure out a way to sail to put up a bunch of wooden planks, a bit of science
(Buoyancy force, I don't want to sound like a nerd now 😬) and here you go, a simple floating vessel that you can row may be to fish, patrolling, as a transit, what not!
Now, you keep sailing the waters and people recognize your work. The word of mouth concept kicks in and in no time, your local king knows it. Of course he gets angry for his people trying all random stuff
(who doesn't 🤔) but then quickly he starts thinking how to get benefited from it
(thats what great leaders do!) He goes into deep thoughts and discussions with his ministers of the kingdom. He quickly finds an opportunity in it that he can use these new fancy sailing objects that can carry couple of men till long distances from the shore. One he can use it for patrolling so that he can efficiently defend or retaliate the enemies, and the second, to increase the exports of fishery. He gets into action quickly and orders his army to get you to the palace for discussions.
The king initially appreciates your efforts and then forces you to make hundreds of such boats. You might as well jump with happiness that your work is recognised to only find out how hard it is to construct so many boats at that scale. King sets up a deadline for this project
(very common for managers, Kings are no exceptions 😜) and forces you to finish by the time. You come back home with loads of questions. You lay on your cot in open air, next to the late night full moon waves. There are so many questions going in your head.
- Alone it took years to build a working modal. How is it even possible to build hundreds of such boats alone? No way! You need a team.
- The current version of boat still has so many issues for example the rowing sticks always fly around, the centre of mass is not balanced etc. You need to come up with a better version of it.
- You need to breakdown all the nuances involved in the process of building the boat. You cannot expect everyone to be with the same skill set or with the same knowledge. Even then, they should be giving similar output as you.
- You need to think about the raw material, resources, a huge land to build up and you don't even know how to organise everything at that level!
By the time you think of other issues, you slip off to the deep sleep. The sharp early morning sun rays hit you. You quickly recap all the questions you had in mind. You decide to meet the king to address all of the issues. You get fresh, walk to the palace and meet the King in his court.
After listening all of your questions and concerns the King and the ministers stare at each other and take a deep breath to start putting out their views. King says
Look mister, your job is not to build the boats yourself, of course that is not going to work out. Your job is to democratize the process of making boats. You need to write down the processes involved, the technical details of each part of the boat, raw materials required, etc. You have access to all the resources of the kingdom. Build a plan so that you can do it with other craft-men in the city.
⏰ Back to the reality
So, when you initially started building the boats out of passion, you did not have to deal with all these issues. It was absolutely fine because you are creator and the consumer as well but that is going change. You need to plan better version of your product
(okay, it can be service also in the current terminology) so that it can be
- built by other people
- serves better for the public
- scales well when required both in terms of building it and serving more and more consumers
- has room for improvement
This entire concept of democratize the a novel idea is what I call the Engineering. I am pretty sure people started framing down such plans for infinite number of activities, let it be building houses, palaces, laying roads, agriculture, traveling, finances, vehicles and what not. Only at later point of time, people figured out there are similarities in these activities and grouped them and tagged like civil, mechanical, computers etc.
I will keep updating this post :)