Engineers must step up as thought leaders

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, goes back in time to reflect and try to predict the engineering profession’s future. He remembers the first engineer known to history, Imhotep, responsible for the Step Pyramid in the Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. “So great was Imhotep’s creation that he was worshiped as a god for the next 3200 years,” says Finkel.

Coming back to the present, Dr Finkel recognises some of great achieving engineers of today as ‘the Pharaohs of the third millennium’: “from Jeff Bezos at the helm of Amazon, to Sundar Pichai at the helm of Google, to Xi Jinping, President of China. So much of their success comes down to the ingenuity of their crack teams of engineers – teams with global impact out of all proportion to their size.”

The Future: 2025

When looking into the future, he believes it’s natural for engineers to think of ways to improve public life, but they do need to be encouraged. “I know that I don’t have to persuade engineers to take an interest in public policy problems. It’s not in an engineer’s nature to sit in a traffic jam and not emerge with a prototype urban congestion plan. I do want to encourage engineers, and those who train and mentor them, to raise the aspiration for the contribution we can make to public life in Australia,” he writes.

In his vision for 2025, he sees the Master of Engineering being the new MBA, the “premier qualification that head-hunters for corporate boards want to see.” He believes engineering jargon will not only be used, but fully understood in Parliament and the media, and he see engineers being “encouraged and supported to step up as thought leaders in business and government alike: knowing how to make their knowledge useful at the tables where decisions are made.

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