Based in London, I am a structural engineer in...
UK entrepreneur Lord Sugar prompted an outcry when he fired an engineer from his TV show The Apprentice, saying, "I've never yet come across an engineer that can turn his hands to business".
There are countless examples of engineers being successful businessmen throughout time. Sir Robin Saxby BEng HonFIET and FREng, a chartered engineer, was founder, CEO and chairman of ARM Holdings, the world's leading semiconductor intellectual property supplier. An engineer doing more to connect people than many an ennobled entrepreneur.
Going back in time, Cecil Howard Green was a British-born American seismographic engineer and philanthropist. After gaining his masters degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined Geophysical Sciences in 1932. Later, he and two others bought the company, which became Texas Instruments in 1951.
Back in the 19th century, J. Edgar Thomson, the civil engineer, became president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company that did so much to connect America from Philadelphia to the midwest and south as far as Chicago and Norfolk, Virginia. He left $1.3m when he died in 1874.
But people from all backgrounds can become successful business people, irrespective of their educational background. Some will not. In my experience as a director in Arup and a member of the Institutions of Civil Engineers and Structural Engineers, many engineers graduate and then go into the financial sector, where they can achieve much higher salaries.
The real question to ask is: what do we mean by business success? Lord Sugar’s measure is huge profits. But engineers may argue that a successful business is one that solves problems, creates fantastic buildings and infrastructure, improves our social environment, does more to create connections in a sustainable way throughout the world and rewards all its employees fairly.
Are you with Lord Sugar or me? Comments below please!