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World Bank Careers

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Doing One’s Job: Engineering Ethics

At the beginning of June I was invited to help lead a tour to China by the World Bank’s ‘Environmental Community of Practice’ (COP) which would be visiting the Hubei Yiba Highway Project. This was a major 172 km long expressway which I prepared for the Bank in 2007/8. It traversed a very environmentally sensitive area and my team and I put great efforts in trying to minimize the negative environmental impacts.

I was grateful for the opportunity to revisit China and see the project as I considered it to be one of the highlights of my professional career.image To be able to escort over 100 environmental and social specialists from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Australian Aid, Japan, Korea and China to the project was an added honour as it would give me the opportunity to share a number of the unique innovations on the project. I’ll do a separate write up later on the project and what I found…

It was wonderful to catch up with old colleagues, but I was particularly humbled by the generosity of the Hubei Provincial Communications Department who gave me (and later the team) a special award for our contributions. I felt it was very undeserved since all we had done was to give the Government the best advice and support we could to achieve their vision.

The award gave me pause to think about the meaning of doing one’s job. After all, if all one is doing is what one is asked to do, then why the award? This led to reflections on the ethical obligations we have as engineers towards our clients and society because all my team and I were doing was fulfilling our duty to help as best we could. So I’m going to be a bit reflective here and share some thoughts on the issue of ethics and the engineer. Not a best selling subject, but an important one to all engineers.

clip_image001A Family of Engineers

I come from a family of engineers. My father and his brother were Civil Engineers. His sister married a Civil Engineer (from my father’s university class). My uncle had three children. All engineers. My aunt had three children. The son is an engineer. Both daughters married engineers. This continued to the next generation.image For example, my cousin Hillary has two children: both engineers. I am helping sponsor my brother’s son to study Civil Engineering. So when I say that there was a certain trajectory in my career choice towards engineering from an early age, that would be an understatement. But I do think I’m the only one of us to take it to the extreme of getting a PhD (which stands for ‘permanent head damage’ as one has to be mad to do one!).

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