"I am an engineer. You are an MCSE. He is a train driver"


P.Eng Mail The vast majority of readers who responded to our story about Canadian engineers objecting to vendor exams conferring "engineer" status support the Canadian stance.

The Canadian professional engineers' association has asked Microsoft not to describe Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers - people who have passed the vendor's exam - as engineers. That needs a full P.Eng, they say.

Such requirements are common in some American states, too, you tell us, and in Germany, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

"Engineers develop new products and any holder of a P.Eng is legally liable for any damages that may result from using those products, be it a toaster that catches fire or a bridge that collapses. This responsibility to the public good is what sets engineers apart," writes John Kuhne from Toronto.

"In comparison, someone who holds an MCSE is merely a technician. They know how to use a specific set of tools, and can troubleshoot computer systems that other, more capable people have designed for them. Calling such a person an engineer truly is an affront."

Mike Dixon thinks it's "completely ridiculous and typical of those idiots at Microsoft to just take any term they feel like and embrace and extend it as if they just invented something new," he writes. "I've worked with a whole lot of 30 day 'MCSE' wonders that couldn't even format a floppy disk."

Frank Shute points out the same code of ethics is upheld by "chartered engineers" (C.Eng): "You only become a chartered engineer after some years of supervision following getting your degree be it in electrical, civil, mech, mech/man."

"Calling MCSEs engineers is no worse than my washing machine repairman calling himself a Service Engineer (like lots of other repair technicians). Then
we have Sales Engineers. The conclusion is always that we need a new
word which doesn't have the oily rag associations. Now there's something for your readership to consider...." writes Rob Clive (CEng MIEE), adding "sorry, couldn't resist it".

Texans must fulfill the Texas Engineering Practice Act (thanks to Andrew Mattei
and Tom Tiller for the links), Floridians a similar act (thanks to David Dean), and even in The Beast's home state, it is:-

"...unlawful for any person to practice or offer to practice... engineering...or to use in connection with his name...use, or advertise any title or description tending to convey the impression that he is a professional engineer... unless such a person has been duly registered under the provisions of chapter 18.43 RCW," notes a reader who must not be named.

A PE must have four years of supervised training, while:-

"Engineers do not build collapsing structures or exploding machinery then call it a bug and carry out running repairs until the next attempt," notes T Rutherford acidly. "If people who produce software are seeking a generic title to hide their true profession, they could do worse than look to the men who dug the canals and who were given the ironic nickname of navigators, subsequently shortened to navvies. I anticipate a roar of protest from railroad and construction workers everywhere at being bracketed with bunglers and snake oil men."

Closed shop

But a handful of MSCEs object to being victimized by (in the words of Stefan Banda) "pansy-ass P.Eng cry-baby canucks" engaged in some "little semantic warfare".

"I happen to be an 'MSCE' in Canada, and the fact that some damn group is claiming basically copyright on the word "engineer" is complete BS in my opinion, I don't say 'I'm A Microsoft Systems Certified Engineer'- I say 'I have an MCSE'...it's easy," writes Steven Burtt.

"They have some pine cone stuck up their butt, quite frankly this is one battle I would like to see M$ win."

The most persuasive comes from Herman Oosthuysen.

"I'm an Engineer with a degree from an accredited university which I earned almost 20 years ago: Bachelors in Engineering (B.Eng.(E)) and have been a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for more than 10 years, but according to Canadian law I may not call myself an engineer.

"With this 'non engineer' engineering status, I happened to have worked on military contracts in 3 countries, for different governments, including Canada, but I may not call myself an engineer.

"According to the Canadian engineering associations, Eiffel, who built many roads and bridges all over the world, including such fun projects as the Eiffel tower and Statue of Liberty, may not have called himself an engineer either.

"The trouble is that the Canadian professional associations, have laws behind them, which supposedly protect the 'public', but in practice, it is merely a bunch of guys who want to protect their own jobs - trade unions, by a professional name, who hijacked the word 'Engineer'. Also, the Engineering Professions acts are in conflict with for instance the Universities Acts. Try to tell a University Professor that they may not award a degree in 'Software Engineering' and see the sparks fly...

"As I have a distinct dislike of all things union, I will stay one of the many renegade non-engineer, engineers. It never bothered me in my job and there may very well be more 'non-registered engineers', than 'professional engineers' and the more the professional trade unions rally and rave against non-registered engineers, the more ridiculous they look, so they are digging their own hole.

I have considered calling myself a "professional non-engineer" and ask the IEEE to rename itself to the "Institute of Electrical and Electronic non-Engineers"...

So, as far as I'm concerned: "Go Microsoft! Up and at them!".

Well, Herman - you're obviously entitled to call yourself an engineer. But the point about professional trade organizations and unions is that if you don't hang together, you'll hang separately.

Jeremy Silver agrees with the last correspondent.

"The CCPE is claiming sole rights over the term 'engineer' - much as a copyright holder would. Is every use of that term granted to them by the Canadian government? In the US, I am pretty sure the AMA and ADA do not claim sovereignty over the term 'doctor', which can apply to people with professional as well as academic credentials (from theology to physical education). Maybe the CCPE's problem is that the MCSE is more widely recognized than the P.Eng."

Several MCP says Microsoft was only following the example set by Novell, and one offers this tale:-

"Now back then, when Microsoft Product Engineer actually meant something, those people were/still are, damn fine engineers, who could build servers, design networks, find
bottlenecks, fix problems, roll out a secure infrastructure. Those people are still with us."

"Now, are the exams hard enough to classify someone as an Engineer? NO. Sat down in front of my first NT4 Workstation with a problem, might as well have used the book / exam, as a paper weight," he confesses.

He describes an adaptive TCP/IP exam "so the more wrong answers you
get, the easier the questions you get."

"Would I call myself an Engineer? Maybe now, with 3 good years employment in
the industry.

"Would I call others with MCSE, an Engineer? Some of the people I've had in
to do work, have quite literally, shocked me. Crap. Bona fida crap. But they
got those letters after their names."

One "Thingy" writes:-

"I busted my ass to be a thingy. No boot camp, no dump memorization. I know my shit because I studied and practiced. I am a Business Grad as well. I've seen College engineers who can walk the talk and those that can't and the same is true for MCSE's. There needs to be a vendor/university neutral evaluation of computer/network engineering skills. Fining those who go after M$ certifications is a different approach to straightening out the certification process

"Before I started down the M$ trail I knew it was more about $ than supporting the best OS that could be made. So what about them there college bred Canadian Engineers? Are they not chasing $ like us Thingys? Look in the mirror when you answer,"
writes Joe Fohner, who adds:

"I don't know if I'll call my self an "Engineer" but I will call myself an MCSE for now. At least until it expires. Then I'll be a Thingy for sure."

A witty rejoinder from Steven Franklin, "Senior Thingy" at Maryland Public Television, who has rolled his sleeves up for the doity work:-

"You learn something new everyday. I'm both a Micro$oft Certified Systems Engineer (a weird one who uses nothing but Linux and FreeBSD) and a Certified Video Engineer (by the Society of Broadcast Engineers, http://www.sbe.org). I thought I was an engineer but I'm glad to find
out that I'm just a "thingie."

"This means that all I really need to keep complex television systems on the air is an oily rag and a set of spanners. That should make the digital conversion go much smoother in this country. I'll notify the FCC at once that they should change all mention of television engineers in their documents to "thingie" and issue some spanners and oily rags. Who knows, it might help "lubricate" the switch to digital. Nothing else is working so why not try this?

"I'd elaborate further but our broadcast automation systems are not working correctly with our GPS time system and I need to wipe it down with the oily rag. (If that doesn't fix it I'll give it a jolly good whack with a spanner.)"

Finally one reader, Ralph Grabowski, says that a former Chinese engineering classmate was called P.Eng, and wonders if his business card readers P.Eng, P.Eng; while Jan Van Der Post says:-

"I always wanted to become a member of the Meat Institute so I could put MInst Meat after my name," Groan. Thanks for all your letters. ®

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