In Praise of Engineers . . .


Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.  ~Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert cartoons)

Recently I spent some time in Detroit with a client, but had some time to visit the Henry Ford.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I.  Everyone knows who Henry Ford was, but it seems very few people know much about his life and especially his reverence for engineers.

The Henry Ford is a 90 acre amusement park dedicated to American ingenuity and innovation.  There is the Ford Museum, an IMAX theatre, a historic turn of the 20th Century village with Thomas Edison’s actual Menlo Park workshop, the Wright Brothers actual Cycle shop, a replica of the first Ford Motor Company factory, the actual house of H. J. Heinz, Henry Ford’s boyhood home, a large library and research centre devoted to American inventiveness, and a tour of the modern Rouge Ford factory (now making F150 pick-ups on a very high-tech assembly line).

Henry Ford founded the Edison Institute (today, known as The Henry Ford) in 1929, photo_henry_ford_thomas_edison-400x341as a place where young people could learn by doing. He believed that studying objects from our past “gives us a sense of unity with our people through the generations, and conveys the inspiration of American genius to our young.”  Today it is alive with hands-on activities for young people to explore their own curiosity and desire to make and build things.

In Praise of Engineers.

The history books are filled with creative people who studied engineering and went on to create inventions and solutions that changed the world.  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who revolutionized modern infrastructure and transportation), Daniel Bernoulli, Gustave Eiffel, Wernher von Braun, George StephensonAlan Turing, Nikola Tesla, James Watt, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and James Dyson to name just a few.  And there have been quite a few women engineers who progressed society as well (Women Engineers). People whose curiosity, inventiveness, creativity, engineering skills and persistence helped shape the modern world.

CEO engineersOne of the places engineers are making a huge difference is at the top of business companies and major corporations.  There is a common fallacy that CEOs (Chief Executives Officers) and leaders who run large and small businesses all have business degrees in either management or finance.

According to recent research, 97% of S&P 500 CEOs earned an undergraduate degree at a college or university and Engineering was the most often-received degree.

Why engineers as CEO’s?

In my experience, those with an engineering background tend to be open to new possibilities and new ways of doing things, curious as to why things happen a certain way, and have a thirst for knowledge.  While engineers often get labeled as “nerds” with thick glasses and poor social skills, the engineer CEOs I have met have been anything but and often display a large quantity of EQ as well as IQ.

Wanna make a difference? Get an engineering degree!

Companies like I.B.M. have offered women scholarships to study engineering for years, and women engineers routinely get higher starting salaries than men.  ~Warren Farrell

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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4 Responses to In Praise of Engineers . . .

  1. I too, am a big fan of engineers as the driving force behind the conception and leadership of companies. First, I would like to add “conscientious” to your list of engineer qualities. Second, I would still maintain that they think in the box rather than outside it – that’s where they tend to need a helping hand to see what’s going on outside. Once the problem/opportunities are redefined for them, they make a fantastic job of maximizing the new box!


  2. Frank Tempesta says:

    Naturally I agree.


  3. Raunak says:

    Proud to be an engineer 🙂


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