Broad. It's an IE thing
I thought I knew the meaning of the word. After all, years in newspapers will force a man to run into and write about a wide variety of things: politics, courts, cops, science, society, life, death and everything in between.
But I never heard the word “broad” applied to industrial engineering. To most of the general population, engineering is about specifics: electricity, computers, building bridges, making things out of chemicals.
So when I came to IIE in 2009, I figured I’d be dealing with factories, industry and such. That’s true to an extent – but IEs went beyond those walls long before Pluto ceased to be a planet. As our dear readers know, industrial engineering extends beyond manufacturing to the medical office, from project management to quality control, from facilities planning to human factors, from supply chains to information technology, from ergonomics to work measurement, from … well, you get the idea.
Broad is almost the definition of industrial engineering, and it was one of the first words I heard used to describe the field. The word came back during my recent conversation with Chad Holliday.
Holliday, currently chairman of the board for Bank of America, can define his career with that word. He has been a member of IIE since 1970, a span that included his 37 years at DuPont, where he rose to chief executive officer and chairman. He joined Bank of America’s board before “retiring” from the chemical company and is serving or has served on boards for manufacturing and oil companies. He is one of numerous industrial and systems engineers – a list that currently includes Mike Duke of Wal-Mart, William H. Swanson of Raytheon and Linda Hudson of BAE Systems – to serve as chairman and CEO of major companies.
Holliday convincingly posits the notion that his IE degree, with its broad-based education, led to his ability to move between the worlds of chemicals, manufacturing, banking and service boards for numerous nonprofits. He encourages IEs to yield to no limits in their desire to make the world better and improve efficiency everywhere.
You'll find his ideas convincing. And in a time of economic uncertainty, maybe you'll decide to take your IE career into a new and more rewarding direction.
Michael Hughes is the managing editor for IIE.