Engineering is evolving as quickly as technology itself, even though this is the profession creating that literal future. What will the engineer of the future be like? How will the job itself and the people who perform it change? We’ll address what jobs and life will be like for the engineer of the future.
In a world where code libraries eliminate the redundant creation of code across many different businesses and code-free app development is commonplace, computer science engineers will still be needed. However, their job will be much harder, though it is the basic definition of engineering.
Their job will be to solve problems and improve designs. They may need to find the variable handoff or variable name confusion that is causing code to fail. In the case of mechanical designs, their work will focus more on failure analysis of products that failed testing or broke during use. They’ll also still be needed to find solutions when a product doesn’t meet key specifications and the artificial intelligences combining various designs to create a “best of” recommended design doesn’t understand how its proposal isn’t feasible.
Engineers are already seeing the need for new media literacy. You need to know which data sources are reputable, and just as important, which ones are safe to cite in a paper or the files that are safe to use in an open source project. Another evolution is personal search engine optimization, the deliberate creation of social media profiles to promote personal skill sets and expertise. You’re essentially managing your personal brand online to guarantee a stream of work in a world where salaried jobs are being replaced with a string of consulting and one-off projects.
Another variation of this theme is the acceptance of online education, whether for continuing education or degree programs. The University of California-Riverside offers a master’s degree in engineering. In fact, UC-Riverside Online has several masters of engineering programs like data science, bioengineering and mechanical engineering. The UC Riverside campus and many others offer some continuing education courses online that aren’t formal degree programs, while micro-degrees are starting to be recognized in the profession.
Another shift is the acceptance of digital collaboration with people all over the world. A design team in India may write the code while engineers in Israel design the microchip; engineers in California may be designing the hardware that houses that microchip and sensors that connect with it. On a macro-level, you see inventors sketching out a product design on a piece of paper and hiring an engineer to create the 3D CAD model based on the scanned image. Whether that engineer is in the India, Indiana or Poland is irrelevant.
Cultural competencies and fluency in other languages are increasingly valued, whether you simply work with project teams on the other side of the world or broaden your career by working internationally.
The engineer of tomorrow will need to be highly adaptable and learn how to use a new set of tools. One thing is for sure though, and that is those who fail to embrace these new tools will have difficulty competing in the marketplace.