The advantages of being an Electrical Engineer


I recently talked to a bunch of disillusioned Electrical Engineers and they were bemoaning their fate. They claimed that they were at a disadvantage since they chose Electrical Engineering as their major in Undergrad instead of Computer Science or IT. They even said that they should have joined any other branch… They then said that I had no problems and that my life was made (barring recessions and such)! I asked them why they thought that and they said that since I was a Computer Scientist, all avenues would be open to me. I then disclosed to them my Electrical background and gave them a tirade of abuse and explained to them why they should appreciate their positions.
I agree that Electrical Engineering has been there since ages and that we have hardly any breakthroughs in the last few decades. But then consider Mechanical or Civil Engineering. It has been there since the beginning of civilization. The caveman who discovered the wheel is, as far as I reckon, the first engineer. Noah (of the ark and the two animals of each kind fame) was the first ship builder. But I digress. Fast forward to the 1800s when Michael Faraday was trying to explain his laws. In 1882, Edison built the world’s first large scale electrical supply network and Nikola Tesla had started filing patents on Alternating current and the “War of Currents” was on. By the way, Nikola Tesla was the first hacker! But enough of the history lesson.
Lets consider the Internets for a second. Computer Scientists love talking about packets and protocols and such. To study the traffic on some link, or to check the bandwidth utilization, we use traffic shapers and snoopers at the link, and measure the performance metrics. It all sounds fancy and high-sounding but this is a fundamental task that we electrical engineers do. Consider any electrical network. If we connect a resistance between the two points, we can calculate the voltage and current across it, along with the losses and power at the link just with the help of our simple Ohm’s Law. It can’t be any simpler. Electrical Engineers have been working on networks even before computer scientists. Anyone will draw the parallels between a network and any transmission/distribution layout. We can easily calculate the transmission losses (similar to packet loss) and the distribution parameters (routing towards the sinks). Actually, most of the ideas of communication and networking has stemmed from the existing electrical network.
I went on and on about this. I explained to them the importance of electrical machines in the real world and described something as wonderful as an induction motor being converted into a generator. An induction motor consumes energy and draws power from the grid to perform some task, thereby converting electrical energy into some other form. However, just by varying the slip of the motor, we can convert it into a generator, so that it starts feeding energy back to the grid. And besides, we Electrical Engineers have a broad exposure to engineering. In our Undergrad course, we had to study Electrical machines, Power systems, Transmission and Distribution. We had to estimate the amount of wiring needed for wiring a home and also the cost of building electrical towers. We learnt about hydroelectric power plants, Water and Steam turbines, and nuclear power plants. We even had to visualize the various machines and put it on paper in the form of Electrical Drawing! Oh, those backbreaking days! Anyways, though we cursed those 4 hour drawing classes, I realized that we were taught to visualize stuff and that improved our creative thought flow. Tell me one field which has such a wide scope!And that is something that a computer scientist will never get as naturally as us! They talk about all abstract concepts and don’t actually get an opportunity to discuss them. Sure, they have pretty pictures and symbols when they design their systems, but most of it is pretty abstract and they can’t get to touch something!
So, if you are an Electrical Engineer, and feel that you have been given the short end of the stick, think again! We Electrical Engineers have an advantage over Computer Scientists. Remember… they are scientists… we are engineers! And if they give you any flak, just pull the plug on their systems! Besides, we Electrical Engineers should not whine… We are the world’s largest egoists as we talk about everything in terms of V and I.


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