A good choice for creative thinkers

When you hear the word ‘engineering”, you might conjure up visions of men in overalls with greasy hands, sparks flying, chugging machines and exhaust fumes.

This harsh, noisy and unfriendly environment is definitely no place for a woman, you might think. But the engineering environment has undergone dramatic changes, moving from factory floors to designer offices and corporate conference rooms.

The modern engineer is more of a problem-solver, planner, organiser and facilitator than in the past. As industrial engineering involves so many diverse industries and depends so heavily on excellent interpersonal and creative problemsolving skills, it has become evident that women are ideally suited to industrial engineering as a career.

They have the knack of being more creative when it comes to generating possible solutions, they can easily incorporate empathic and other ‘soft” skills when working towards a solution and, above all, they have the elusive skill called multitasking.

The new face of engineering naturally allows for more flexibility and creativity—skills particularly relevant when it comes to the industrial engineer.

Industrial engineering is where engineering meets business and where technology meets real needs. It involves designing and managing systems, as well as making existing processes more productive by integrating people, machines, materials, energy and information.

Industrial engineering also focuses on systems and considers the entire life cycle of products and services.

So how would you know if industrial engineering is the career for you? First, industrial engineers enjoy solving problems.

Figuring out how things work, or how to make them work even better, generates within them a great sense of accomplishment. As well as engineering know-how, industrial engineers have good interpersonal skills.

They are able to work closely with people from a wide variety of professions and feel comfortable as part of a diverse team where the focus is to develop systems that others are able to use effectively.

Industrial engineering is the perfect career for those who enjoy solving practical problems in a wide variety of working environments. Developing systems to improve productivity, quality and competitiveness is one of their primary concerns.

They work just about anywhere because their work involves improving existing processes and designing better processes. These processes can be found all around us: in factories, service industries, banks, hospitals, government departments and airports.

And how many other professions do you know of in which you can wake up each morning with the certain knowledge that you will face a new challenge during the course of the day?

Industrial engineering brings a new dimension to engineering as a career—for both male and female engineers alike.

Professor Neels Fourie and Liezl van Dyk are senior lecturers in the department of industrial engineering at Stellenbosch University

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