It's taken me years, but I now feel that most engineering roles can be broken down into design, manufacturing, or testing. This is probably more applicable to hardware than software, but it's not limited to hardware. To summarize:
- Design - People at the start of the product lifecycle process, who design the thing to meet requirements.
- Manufacturing - People who build the product.
- Test - People who make sure that the product meets the requirements.
|Design, Manufacture, Test|
|The general flow of engineering information.|
And again, this image is a simplistic understanding of engineering. However, for the purpose of this article, this is really about organizational structure, schedules, inputs and outputs. It's not possible to do everything at once. Many things can be parallel pathed but you can't drive a car without wheels. You can't drill a hole without a tolerance. You can't weld two plates together if you don't know the materials. Hopefully this small overview gives non-engineers a little more context into the different areas of engineering, as well as perhaps new engineers information about different roles that I didn't understand until I had years of experience engineering. My advice to new college graduate engineers, get your hands dirty doing a little of all three. It doesn't really matter what you do the first two years of your career, just learn how things are designed, manufactured and tested. You can figure out which part you like best when you understand the engineering industry better.