Why am I in engineering? One of Aesop's fables explains it best: A bunch of mice sat around complaining about the continual danger posed by a cat. It wouldn't be a problem if they knew where he was. One says, "Let's put a bell on the cat so we can hear where he is." Of course they all agree. Then they start to argue. Should it be a silver bell or a gold bell? Should it be held on with a red ribbon or a blue ribbon? The arguments get long and loud. Finally one old mouse speaks up, "This is all very good, but who is going to bell the cat?"

I finally realized, I'm the one who figures out how to bell the cat. I do it because I love doing it. I do it because I can't help doing it. Even better, I get paid for it!

While I design the stuff, the manufacturing engineers are busy "belling" the cat — figuring out how to make the products and put them together. And we all rely on the work of materials engineers and tooling engineers and it goes on and on. Each one finds a way to bell a cat. Just because they can. Loving their job because it's not just blather and bluster, it's a solid, material thing they can point to with pride and say, "I did that!" They can do it and nobody else can. They know it and can take deep pride in knowing it. That's why I'm in engineering.

My only complaint: When I come in all bloody and scratched up from finally belling the cat, some idiot says, "Let's change it to a red ribbon."

Tell us by visiting Vicki Reitz's blog at forums.machinedesign.comand clicking on "Why am I in engineering."