What makes a talented reliability engineer?
My dictionary says that talented is “having a natural aptitude or skill for something.”
We learn reliability engineering and those who understand the range of tools and techniques useful for a given situation would be considered talented.
Everything is not solved by running a highly accelerated life test (HALT) or only conducting detailed failure analysis. Knowing when and why to apply a particular tool and using the tool effectively (i.e., when to use a Weibull distribution to model lifetime data and how to use the information to make decisions) are critical.
There are many ways to achieve the knowledge required:
- enrolling in university programs,
- reading papers and books,
- or attending seminars and conferences.
The talent shows up in one’s ability to make an astute selection of tools to assist in solving problems, identifying risks, or estimating life.
A key element of reliability engineering is reliability statistics, given the emphasis in the American Society for Quality Certified Reliability Engineer body of knowledge and my own experience.
Some have a knack for tackling this information and others struggle. Mastering statistics is crucial for those considered talented in reliability engineering.
Over one’s career, a reliability engineer has the opportunity to work on many projects. The materials, designs, and assembly processes all continue to evolve and change.
The basic tools for reliability engineering have not changed as fast as most engineering disciplines, yet the breadth of knowledge and skill required does call for mastery and talent.
Talented reliability engineers apply the right tool to solve the problem in a cost-effective and timely manner.
This takes knowledge of the variety of tools at our disposal along with the foresight to minimize risk and maximize useful information. This talent is acquired with experience and enhanced with intelligence.
How to recognize a reliability engineering professional
The dictionary defines professional as “a person engaged or qualified in a profession.”
Our profession is reliability engineering.
Our career is in the pursuit of identifying what will fail and determine when will it fail. We work to meet or improve product reliability.
Within the profession, there are specialists focused on product testing, risk or life modeling, or on specific industries or types of products. We can work on projects ranging from biocompatible polymers in a medical device to redundant modeling of aircraft flight control systems.
I also believe that professional means acting in a professional manner.
Professional engineering societies often have a code of conduct or ethics standards to guide professionals in their field. [4,5] It also means not working beyond your area of knowledge or expertise nor working in a deceitful or self-serving manner.
Being professional also means behaving with decorum.
Listening to others, understanding the situation beyond the immediate reliability engineering task, and working well with others are all professional requirements. Professionals represent the reliability engineering discipline and need to present their discipline well.
Whereas being talented implies a mastery of a body of knowledge, being professional suggests that we bring to the team our knowledge and skills in a forthright manner.
This is what we do as we apply our skills to solve problems related to reliability engineering.
Let us say you are reporting initial results of an experiment to your boss, and he disagrees with the results. He wants a different result to support a proposal and the data do not support that desired outcome. You did the experiment well and trust your findings. Do you alter the results and support your boss, or do you publish the results as found?
In any field, there are many agendas and desired outcomes. In reliability engineering, the final outcome may not become apparent for months or years. It is our professional standards that guide us to work honestly and report our findings accurately.
Success as a Reliability Engineer (article)
Basics of Reliability Engineering (article)