Engineers: the unsung heroes
Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE is the Executive Director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), an organization consisting of over 141,000 civil engineering professionals worldwide. Nations across the globe benefit from the research and expertise of ASCE members, who use their knowledge to create innovative and economical solutions to problems such as transportation, water management, construction, energy, and many other areas that benefit society. ASCE promotes the spread of knowledge and innovation through its publications, conferences, and educational initiatives, and is, in fact, one of the world’s largest producers - and champions - of civil engineering research.
According to Natale, one of the best parts of working for ASCE, and of being in the civil engineering profession, is the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people through better and safer applications of scientific knowledge.
“Engineers. ... help make the world a better place,” Natale said. “[They] improve the quality of life for people.”
It is easy to take for granted that the infrastructure surrounding us - clean water out of the tap or roads to drive on, for example - was designed and built by real people who took their love of learning beyond the classroom, beyond imagination, and into the real world. But the same infrastructure, built by everyday people like you and me, cannot sustain itself forever.
“We have well-built systems today,” Natale said, “but who’s going to make sure they maintain the level of service?”
Roads, bridges, buildings, technologies - all will require that knowledgeable workers exist to rebuild, redesign, or perform maintenance over time. With former engineering professionals continually reaching retirement age, the workforce will constantly require bright new minds to fulfill these roles. Furthermore, the world will continue to require innovative ways to keep up with a rapidly growing population, a changing environment, and the ever-changing face of technology. That is why it is so important that young people continue to pursue education - to find creative ways to use their minds to make a tangible difference in the world, now and in the future. In many ways, society relies upon engineers to carry the torch for the next generation.
Because of its broad impact and global necessity, civil engineering will continue to provide a rewarding career for those who are up to the challenge. To prepare for the challenge, students should devote time and planning to their education, including classes outside of science and mathematics.
“Math and science are tools to help us do what we do,” said Natale, “but we need to also be better at communication, to be better at understanding finance, public policy. A broad background is important. ... In high school, I started taking more courses in the arts and the science. ... I learned more about people so I can better serve people.”
When education becomes a priority, the doors to a successful career in engineering - or in any field for that matter - will open. After that, you need only the imagination and courage to step through them.
In the words of Pat Natale, “Dream it and figure out how to do it.”