5 things you should know about engineers

In the last couple of days some journalist I follow on twitter or facebook shared a blog post from 2007 by Tommy Chambers where he collected five reasons why dating journalists is special (or, as some commentators put it, he showed off his big ego). Anyway, I couldn’t resist to put this piece into perspective. An engineers perspective to be precise. As you will notice, some sentences here are straight from Tommy, but this is only to emphasize my point. Which of course is: engineers can be just as arrogant, err, I mean awesome, as journalists. [EDIT: read the ‘original’ post first, my text will make more sense that way!] Here you go:

5 things you should know about engineers

So you’ve been eying that smart engineer you’re lucky enough to know on facebook? Visions of Tony Stark or MyGyver building complicated machinery from the debris behind your house and duct tape run through your head?

Who can blame you, Engineering is a sexy occupation.

But Engineers are different beeings, and you should realize that this isn’t going to be a boring relationship.

Here’s what you need to know:

1 We can figure out how things work.
Don’t confuse this with making assumptions after observation. Understand we’re paid to analyse and deconstruct complicated systems to find, fix and avoid tiny flaws in seemingly unimportant subsystems. We are trained to pick up subtleties, so what you think you are hiding from us won’t be hidden for long. Sure, we might act surprised when you eventually tell us you starred in German porn as a freshman in college — but we not only knew, we already downloaded a copy of it before we first met physically.

We don’t take shit from anyone, so don’t lie to us or give a load of bullshit. We spend all day separating fact from fiction, finding errors in documentations, hacking around them, making use of undocumented functionality in ways never envisioned by their creators. If you make us do the same with you, you’re just gonna piss us off.

Just tell us the truth. We can handle it. And we will inquire further into details you might have considered irrelevant.

2At some point, you will be a topic.
Either as anecdotal evidence for unwitting users or to demonstrate how users can get even the most basic instructions wrong, something you do or say will be a subject. Get over it. Consider it a compliment, even if we’re ridiculing you online.

3 Yes, we think we’re smarter than you.
In fact, we know it. Does that smack of ego? Absolutely — but that confidence is what makes your heart go pitter-patter.

We have a strong, working knowledge of how the world works. That can make us awkward in conversation. We can delve into the intricacies of compiler options for weird computer languages on obscure operationg systems, differences between two long outdated versions of some electronic device you have never heard of, short-cuts into hidden levels of video games, what the Apple CEO really is up to even though he said something completly different in his last presentation and more.

But there are pitfalls.

Guaranteed, when you say “Homepage” we will automatically say “Website” — “Homepage” is a word that was last correctly used 20 years ago when people had homepages hosted on geocities.com. We’re not trying to call you dumb (even though you don’t understand the internet), it’s habit. The same will happen when you say “world-wide-web” when you mean “internet”.

We carry ourselves with a certain arrogant air. Don’t be surprised if we’re not impressed when you say, “I’m a computer freak, too.” No, you are not. The fact that you can handle a word processor, your shiny new iPhone and can add entries to your wordpress blog does not make you a computer expert. Nor does the fact that you “installed a browser plugin all by yourself” or that you give phony computer advice to other people like “when windows becomes slow, you have to format your harddrive and reinstall windows.”

Look, we’re paid to code. Every day. What’s more, our coding matters. It changes perception, affects decisions and connects people with the world around them.

Our works go through three or four cranky verification tools and quality assurance people who make us rewrite before it’s downloaded a few hundred thousand times and distributed all over the world. You don’t do that unless you’re confident, even egotistical.

4 You’re not less important than the job — the job is just more important than anything else. One doesn’t become an engineer to sit in an office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

We do take our work home. If a system we designed or built fails, we’ll drop whatever we’re doing — even if it’s with you — to analyze it. We’re always looking for solutions, so yes, we’ll stop on the street to write something down.

5 You won’t be disappointed.
Engineers are intense, driven, passionate folk. We carry those same attributes into our relationships, making it an extremely fun ride well worth the price of admission. Our lives are never boring and each day is different.

If the pitfalls are scaring you away, consider this:

The fact that we’re inquisitive means we’ll listen to you. Even if it does seem like a lecture, we’re paying attention to what you have to say (see rule No. 1).

We’ll watch you and your usage patterns because you’re an important part of our life and we care about you (see rule No. 2).

Our brains are a great resource. Ever go on a date with an attractive person and wind up wishing you hadn’t because everything they say is just, well, stupid? That’s not going to happen here (see rule No. 3).

Yes, it may seem that we put the job ahead of you, but we’re driven. You’re not with that loser whose life is going nowhere and who’s completely content being mediocre (see rule No. 4).

There you go, five things you should know before dating an engineer. Feel free to add to the list, point out where I’ve missed something or leave a comment. And sorry ladies, I’m taken already. (see rule No. 5).