• Maegan Nunley

Engineers are Human Too

In the spirit of being real, this has been a very hard post to write. I deleted most of the first version and basically started again. The direction just didn’t feel right, but the original was - and this one still is - inspired by what a friend and former coworker said to me after reading my first post: “the post was a breath of fresh air for the voice on an engineering site to come alive with humanity instead of droning on like a robot."

That hit me like a ton of bricks. A lot of people do think of engineers as robotic and calculating. Including other engineers. I’m reminded of the memes with various “what [insert person] thinks I do” photos that are always exaggerated, except for one usually. Engineering websites are full of photos and graphics that basically say “Look how great we are at being engineers!” There usually isn’t much about us as humans. We get lost in the numbers and it's easy to forget that there are actual humans behind everything. If there is content about the people, it's full of buzz words meant to entice new potential employees or clients. It lacks humanity.

We have passions, hopes, dreams, feelings, and burdens.

But yet, most engineers are just people trying to solve problems for the benefit of other people. We just happen to apply math and science to the real world to do it. A lot of us chose our profession because we wanted to serve the public or make life better for other people, but we don't like dealing with them that much. And that's ok. It’s ok to feel completely drained after a 3-hour long public meeting surrounded by people that literally spend the entire time asking technical questions and trying to get answers out of you that aren’t official yet. Some of the kindest people I've ever met with the biggest hearts for other humans have been engineers.

We're also just people trying to make a living in this world by doing what we're good at and what we like. We have passions, hopes, dreams, feelings, and burdens. But, just like other humans, we have lives outside of work. My life outside of work involves spending time with my husband, talking to my family back home on the phone at least 5 days a week (sorry not sorry mom and dad!), showing and training our two Golden Retrievers, serving on the board of my local ASCE Section, writing the bi-monthly newsletters for my local Golden Retriever club (yes that's a thing), working out/riding my bike, and spending time with friends. Most of these things are valuable to me because they involve other humans. Other humans that also have lives outside of work. And dogs, obviously, because they are the best. Golden Retrievers specifically.

L-R: Rocket, Eevee

As a hydrology and hydraulics engineer, nothing brought to life my service to other humans like Hurricane Harvey did. Harvey made it real. Harvey made it even more important than it already was. Hydrology and hydraulics was no longer just running theoretical storm events through various computer models. Lives and homes were on the line. I have also never seen humanity come together in a crisis like they did during Harvey. While we can never plan for everything and we can't design for every scenario, we can do our best with what we're given to help keep more people dry during the next record-breaking storm event.

Speaking of catastrophic events, I can’t write a blog post about humanity and not mention COVID-19. I actually started working at home before everything shut down, but I still got out and saw people. After the shut down though, my husband and I were both working from home, trapped in our 120+ year old house with nowhere to go. No more ASCE meetings, no more GRCCO meetings or dog shows, no trips down the street to the coffee shop in the old church on Friday mornings. I didn’t even realize how much of myself I was losing until I started to get it back (shout out to my Peloton). The isolation made people even better at something that people are already pretty good at: forgetting that others humans are, in fact, also human.


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