Employees & Engineers

In every profession in our modern world, there are two distinguishable types of individuals that surface to the top and drive any industry into one direction or another.

Few weeks ago, I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer – we talked about several things and exchanged experiences in both the software and the legal industries, then I naturally brought up the topic of mediocrity – and whether it has sunk it’s teeth into the legal industry as much as it did in so many others.

My friend said: Every. Single. Day.

As much as I’ve known my friend to be an honest hard working lawyer, standing up for what is right and has a non-negotiable integrity, I had to ask the question: did you have to cut a corner at some point?

My friend said: integrity is not about doing the right thing when you can. Neither it is about doing it when someone is looking, integrity is going the extra mile without expecting any form of reward.

Looking throughout history, I have realized that there have been some instances where people got punished, vilified, and even exiled for the doing the right thing.

But the kind of people that would go the extra mile despite all the blockers, are the same kind I call Engineers in every industry.

They are not engineers in the traditional sense of the word, they are engineers as I define them to be the engines of success in every industry everywhere.

Because these supreme engines will keep pushing for as long as they have power and energy to push, until the last drop of force is gone and there are no other options but to halt.

Halting might be an option for a machinery engine, but not for an engineer driven by the force of passion to push for the impossible, and change the course of human history, once more.

On the other hand, there is this other kind that follows orders without questioning, work just hard enough to get a temporary benefit – these are the very same ones that would try to stop the engineers from progressing, because it goes against their own personal benefit. It makes them look bad in front of their masters to have someone else making a better progress, going further and faster, because they don’t have the energy for it, it requires passion and true belief in a goal that’s beyond the horizon.

This other type is the type I call Employees.

Dictionaries define an employee as a person working for another person or a business firm for pay.

The very definition of the word makes the sole purpose of someone working for a person or a business is to be the monetary benefit. And therefore, engineers can never be employees.

Because engineers have much higher purpose, and more noble goals than the monetary benefits – the monetary benefits are a side-effect, not really the end goal.

Because no matter how much money you make, and how high of a position you have, and how popular you may be, if you are not working towards innovating new ways to improve and maintain the ever threatened human kind and it’s progress, then eventually your money will go away to your inheritors, and your position will be filled after your retirement, and your popularity will start to decline in favor of the new shining star in the arena.

In fact, I have seen throughout my life, people who wouldn’t even bother to look at their bank accounts, don’t care how much they were being paid and couldn’t care less about their “benefits” – all they cared about is to be a part of a larger team to create a larger impact.

It’s the purpose that drives these engineers to become a part of history, to be remembered as the visionary vanguards, who never gave up, never settled for less and worked hard to achieve the impossible.

Someone might ask: how do you distinguish an engineer from an employee?

Here is my two cents …

Throughout two decades I have spent in the software industry, I have noticed few symptoms that may indicate someone has a case of being an employee, it made them very easy to spot compared to an engineer let’s have a look.

Impact Chasers

The engineers that I’m proud to have known, worked with, and proud to be in the same industry as they are, are impact-chasers – they don’t let a day go by without maximizing their impact in so many different directions.

They scale by helping other engineers understand the technology, the tools, and the standards to build higher quality software.

They increase their impact by exploring newer ideas, untapped markets, unknown regions of

the world where improvements can be made, and happiness of the individuals can be maximized.

A true engineer’s goal is to engineer a world where humanity can survive and continue to evolve – it less about themselves, and more about those around them.

An engineer’s ultimate goal to have an impact on individuals they might never meet but would still benefit from their creation.

An employee on the other hand, is a clock-watcher, selfish, lonely creature, feeding off of mediocrity and sycophantism – they chase nothing but their own self-benefit, care less about impact and care more about what their masters think of them.

If they are well-paid, promoted and rewarded, they will do their very best to maintain their positions, but very little do they actually push for a real impact, a serious improvement or a true meaning to their very existence.

And if you ask them, they’d find a thousand ways to legitimize their position, looking around gathering excuses for their incompetence – they would call you crazy, unhealthy or even evil for seeking more, wanting more and willing to do more for everyone.

When you see someone caring more about the time they spend on a task, more than completing the task and making sure the goals are actually achieved, know that they are employees, clock-watchers performing tasks like a cog in a machine without passion or soul or purpose.

An employee will work just hard enough to get rewarded, promoted or recognized, but they couldn’t care less about an actual impact, an achievement, or a true value they would provide.

Engineering is a way of Life

Engineers live the values they believe in. engineering is a way of life to them, it impacts their relationships, work environments and everything they touch.

You will see intelligence in everything they do and everything they have, it’s not just a job to them.

These engineers are the ones you see pushing open-source projects to create a value and an impact, some of them go the extra mile to hide their identities as they couldn’t care less about even a recognition from someone about the amazing work they do to change the world for the better.

They are the very same engineers you will see volunteering to help a small business with a website, or a poor man with his sales or a student with their studies.

An engineer doesn’t really stop being an engineer once they are done with their day job, the continue to improve, innovate, extend and build better and stronger bridges with their communities and families to gain a larger impact, or inspire someone to succeed, change their lives, maximize someone’s happiness or spread their knowledge and experience for the rest of the world.

An engineer is the engine for inspiration and motivation to those around him, regardless of what they are doing and how they are doing it, they invest in everyone’s win, not just themselves.

An employee’s day ends at the moment they leave their workplace. They invest less in their skillsets, and even less in the lives of those around them.

In an employee’s day, there are always those whom they have to work or live with, they make lesser and lesser choices about their own lives like a lifeless, helpless tree branch, pushed around in a raging ocean without a destination – cut away from the tree of the life, lonely despite floating with other cut branches and weak despite it’s size.

Employees are often stuck in a pointless, endless, and self-defeating pursuit – a rat race without a true meaning or value.

Self-improvement, self-growth then expansion and scale is some of the top priorities of an engineer, they don’t let a day go by without pushing the needle forward, learning and teaching, understanding and doing – loving and impacting wherever they go, and to whoever to come in contact with.

Visionary Vanguards

Engineers are the visionary vanguards in every industry they lead, they are always on the lookout for more – they study more, they work more, and they try more.

The history of technology and innovation have taught us a very important lesson, that there is always a room for growth and improvement – if engineers from the old ages have settled for torches, we wouldn’t have lights today.

And if these engineers have settled for horses, we wouldn’t have cars, trains, and busses even airplanes today.

There’s always room to push for more, achieve more, go further, faster and make things better for humanity.

That’s why engineers don’t really abide by many rules, limitations or frameworks drawn by other people, they understand the rules, then they challenge them so they can break them and explore what’s beyond the horizon.

Engineers know that some of the rules we have today are the only blocker between them and exploring the unknown, therefore they never stop challenging these rules, norms, or regulations so they can find out what lies beyond the forbidden.

These are also the very same engineers that don’t quit, settle, or take no for answers – they knock every door, leave no rock unturned and leave no question un-asked.

Their most prominent sign is that they are very persistent, consistent, and resilient.

Day or night, winter, or summer and healthy or sick, they keep pushing, despite all the blockers whatever they are and whoever they are.

An employee on the other hand is a frameworker – they only work within the framework someone else draws for them, their boss, their team or whatever the framework maker may be – they only progress and succeed if the world allows them to succeed, otherwise they’d be more than happy to take a no for an answer – as long as their miserable lives stays the same.

Because they conditioned themselves to be less, live for less and have no existence or ambition beyond what they are allowed to, even if it seemed achievable or possible to them.

The easiest way to spot an employee is when they refuse anything outside of the frameworks their masters drew for them, they can’t see beyond it and they will stop innovation for the sake of pleasing their leaders.

It’s easier for them to follow the rules and stay in the safe side, than taking a risk and pushing for the impossible – these are the very same ones to get rid off when the same leadership that employed them realizes how negatively impactful their incompetence is to the business, the industry and overall value they bring to humanity.

Systematic Growth

Engineering most important pillar is systematic growth, regularly and consistently.

Systemizing growth is a tough job, because it’s a lot easier to settle where things are and allow ourselves to be less and settle for less.

Systematic growth doesn’t necessarily have an immediate impact, it’s a slow process consisting of smaller steps we take everyday to become better and be better for ourselves and for those around us.

Engineers understand that a successful system is in a continues state of change, growth and improvement – they understand that every system must change and grow in order for it to be alive, and therefore they continue to push the oxygen of growth into every system around them to maintain it’s state of being alive.

Growth to an engineer is like food and water, you can’t miss a day without it – it’s intentional and consciously planned for – it’s systematic!

Everything around us is a system, in one way or another, how we invest in our relationships, children, businesses and personal growth, everything is a system that requires careful engineering – true engineers understand that, they see the big picture and they engineer solutions to create or improve existing systems for the sake of growth, improvement and the maximization of happiness.

Growth in an employee’s world is more chaotic, unintentional, and optional.

A nice-to-have at best, it only makes sense if the job, reward or the promotionrequires it, let be a training session, a conference, or a mandatory documentation to understand some other system they have to work with.

Growth can come in all different shapes and colors, from reading a book, to watching a video, to trying something new or simply starting a conversation with someone you look up to, to learn from and exchange ideas.

The diversity of the ways growth can be achieved makes it even easier to systematically plan for it, schedule it, make it a part of everyday activity – weather they are able to walk up to a meeting, making a phone call, reading a book on a couch or even listening to a podcast lying in bed – there are no excuses, growth is a must, learning is mandatory and improvement is an ultimate goal than can only be achieved through growth.

Engineers are our hope for a better tomorrow, they look at the sky and dream to make humanity an interplanetary species – they see the dire need for medical help and they invent new ways to vastly diagnose diseases and automate curing them.

They are also the same engineers that are the reason of every comfort we have today, some of the diseases we have today are less dangerous because of the biomedical engineers who are willing to streamline cures and give someone somewhere a chance to live longer and do more for the rest of the world.

And engineers are the true inheritors of the future, they will be remembered for as long as their innovations live, their teachings, stories and their struggles will always be a torch lighting the way for the rest of the world to follow, to hold up the flag and aspire to change the world … once more.

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