Nerds, Geeks, and Engineers


Geeky Nerd
Geeky Nerd

Random Observation/Comment #131:  It’s difficult to label people’s personalities because everyone should uniquely try to build their own flair through any range of personal preference.  Obviously, being a person gives you these advantages of choosing the way you dress, the food you eat, your stance on issues, or even the preference of spending your free time.  Granted, some are restricted in their individuality by outside sources, such as religion or income, but your own opinion is what defines you.  It’s that ability to read something and make a judgment call without just relying on some professor or friend to tell you if it’s right or wrong.  Analyzing other’s opinions is highly encouraged, but blindly taking debate topic sides because you follow a specific affiliation (COUGH, politics) doesn’t seem to need any form of intelligence.  You could teach a talking parrot a bunch of phrases, and it seems like you’d get the same response.  In fact, you might lose your job to the talking parrot because of those damn biases.  “We can forgive him for that mistake.  After all, he is a parrot.”

To clarify any and all misconceptions, engineers are not necessarily nerds, yet we are most definitely a type of geek.  The label, “nerds,” has a bit of a negative connotation to it (except for those sweet, crunchy candies), like we wear suspenders, pocket protectors, and constantly speak in partial differential equations.  This is all true to a certain order (that was supposed to be funny because there are different orders in PDEs).

Geeks, on the other hand, are just savvy in their field and spend a lot of extra time pursuing their hobbies to the next level.  Usually, geeks surround their life with the next generation of technology. We look forward to every release candidate and most probably have tried (and probably succeeded in) building our own computer.  Particular computer science geeks will recommend -unix distributions and express unusual and unwarranted fervor for the particular –unix OS everyone should run.

In my definition, nerds are a subset of geeks (which is how you know I’m a geek or borderline nerd), but taken to an antisocial level (which is why I’m probably a dangerous hybrid of the two).  It seems like a nerd would prefer the company of a computer than a human being.  Although there are some cases where geeks may fall into this category from pure frustration with technology incompetence, for the most part, geeks can stay functional in society (like, with normal people).  Most engineers are geeks.  Cooper engineers tend to lean towards nerd-dom.  I am a full-time geek and a part-time nerd.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Engineers are engrained with this passion to invent.  We all hopped on this boat because we thought we would eventually be using our minds to build robots (or contribute to the eventual product of a robot).  That journey becomes complete when we see a project operating at (almost) all of the specifications.  Engineers are not necessarily antisocial, but we are not always actively social.  We are a rare and interesting breed – surprisingly humorous (at least we find many hidden connections and connotations that were never completely intended).

We, engineers, have a certain set of skills that must hold true.  All engineers must be able to work in groups.  Some people work better alone, but sooner or later, you’ll have to relay messages to someone else.  You could have been the chief engineer to land a man on the moon, but if you didn’t study anything else, you would have only gotten to the moon (I think this analogy sounded better when my uncle told it to me in Chinese).  What I mean is that we should be well-rounded and enjoy all of life’s tidbits.  There are too many things to do in this world than to spend it drooling in front of a monitor over some terribly addictive prime time television series.

Engineers must be interested to dig a little deeper than usual.  We enjoy using our analysis and deductive powers to solve puzzles and brainteasers.  I guess we would be the ones that spend drunken nights talking about interview questions, or the person you ask to calculate the bill at the end of dinner.  For specifics on relationship problems or fashion sense, you should probably contact another source.  However, if you have a computer or internet problem, you’ve asked the right people.

Given these set of skills granted to engineers, I’ve always considered engineering a safe college degree due to the moderate injection of common sense.  The work is difficult and you will probably spend more time getting to know how to solve equations than talking to people, but the results are rewarding.  After suffering through the hard work, you would think the logical path would be to continue in a field that supports your degree.  Who would have thought that I would be willing to do something else completely unrelated?   So, did I waste my time if I’m not going to use what I learned about signal processing and programming algorithms?  Nope.  I love learning and I can’t stop – won’t stop.

~See Lemons Eat Nerds

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