Isambard Kingdom Brunel, imaginatively named by his French father, and English mother. Staring nonchalantly, ignoring the camera. Scruffy shoes and trousers (like mine) hands in pockets with time piece hanging low. Cigar held Clint Eastwood style in his right lip. He was a powerful and influential captain of industry of the 1800s.
Q: Do I compare? Me: No where near.
Q: Am I French? Me: No.
Q: So why suggest this French label?
If you must know, it is my love of words.
Born and bred American, I am half Polish and half English. Even my English side is diluted with Irish. So Polish and Irish seems to make a good blend for crazy joviality. Isn’t everybody a big mix of stuff? I think they call it DNA.
So, Je Suis un Ingénieur sort of says, I have an engineering slant. I’ll get back to this in a minute, let me give you some background to explain…
I was born and bred in the USA by this mix of Anglo/Polish immigrant parentage. As an American child, I was awestruck by the moon launches of the 1960s and ‘70s. Little more in our age can surpass this technological achievement. Never mind how the west was won, America won the space race!
From the age of 12, I grew up in the UK, and became indoctrinated to the metric system and many other noble values. If I was any good at school, I would have become an astronaut, or an inventor. I wasn’t, so I didn’t, if you catch my meaning. Instead, I had to imagine such things.
Now take this little kid and his love of technology, and imagine him in the UK – the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Men with flat caps, dirty overalls, and over-sized spanners slung over their shoulder. Ready to fix, fettle, make, or perform ingenious tricks to get the machinery working. Not to mention the many industrialists such as Brunel.
I was introduced to many heroes and heroines. Charles Babbage, the inventor of the analytic difference engine – also known as a mechanical computer.
Ada Lovelace, regarded as the first computer programmer. The original breakage of the glass ceiling? Not many women in engineering these days.
Even the modern electronic computer was first implemented in the UK in the 1940s by Alan Turing. All of these (and more) became great heroes and heroines of mine.
Nowadays, this would be Silicon Valley, Frederick Terman, Russell & Sigurd Varian, to name but a few. You thought I was going to mention the late comers like Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs.
Don’t despair, engineers are not total geeks, we also love the arts. There are other heroes of mine, such as Igor Stravinski, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page, The Who, but that’s music. I can’t even whistle.
Despite being so dimly useless at school, I eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and computer communications. This led me into a career in software development for consumer electronics, my focus was primarily digital TV – satellite, cable, IPTV. Yes, I helped to bring those hundreds of channels of trivial poop to your living room.
This also allowed me to travel the world.
OK, so that explains the engineering side. But what about the French slant?
Good question. Should I not forget French creators? Gustave Eiffel, or Louis Le Prince (who incidentally preceded the Lumière Brothers).
The point I’m trying to make is to do with language.
In the English language, the word engineer, has it’s root in the word engine. I suppose because the Brits invented all kinds of engines.
In the French language, the word Ingénieur has its root in the word ingenuity (the ingenious one). I suppose because the engines of industry were already there, the French had to figure ingenious ways to use them?
So I am an engineer, but I do not invent engines. I am the ingenious one, who works with engines in new and novel ways. I have proved myself to be a ‘cunning artificer’, or person of unique ‘ingenuity’. Therefore, I like to identify myself with the French root phrase of ingenuity rather than the English root word of Engine.
Je Suis un Ingénieur, is my way of saying, ‘I am a creative one.’
I have left my lucrative career of engineering behind me in order to explore the creation of stories.