“The Making of an Expert Engineer” was officially launched in Lahore at the Avari Hotel on March 3rd before a gathering of 120 engineers, engineering faculty, aspiring engineers, and friends. Prof. Fazal Ahmad Khalid, Vice Chancellor of the Lahore University of Engineering and Technology (UET) presided at the launch. The launch was sponsored by the author’s company Close Comfort.
James Trevelyan demonstrating the Close Comfort bed tent with air conditioner.
James Trevelyan speaking about the book
Prof Fazal Ahmad Khalid
Waleed Bizenjo (MC)
Khalid Sharif (Mavra Books)
Book Launch Address
Welcome and thank you all for being here in support of this launch of my book.
We are only here today because of Muhammad Yusof, “Mr Books”, who managed to arrange for this special edition of the book to be printed for us at a special price. I am especially grateful that he has come from Islamabad today for this occasion.
Also, I would like to thank Khalid Sharif of Mavra Books for all his help in arranging this launch today.
And to Prof. Dr. Afzaal Ahmad Khalid, who has just recently taken up the immense challenge to lead University of Engineering Lahore, the largest engineering university in Pakistan. Thank you for being here and also for kindly hosting my first visit to UET on Tuesday.
And to our dear friend Waleed, master of ceremonies both today and in Islamabad two months ago.
However, without the love and support of my father in law, Malik Muhammad Iqbal, and my dear wife Samina Yasmeen, there would not only have been no launch, but also no book either. This book represents three years of omelettes lovingly cooked and served every weekend to keep me writing.
So now I would like to address four questions in just a few minutes to give you some idea of what this book is all about and what it means for you all here today.
- Why do we all depend on engineering?
- Why are Pakistan’s societal limitations actually engineering limitations?
- Why is this book so important for addressing these limitations?
- Why is this book so important for you?
Q1: Why do we all depend on engineering?
What is engineering? I have provided a detailed answer in the book, but in summary, an engineering enterprise is one that depends on technical and specialised knowledge developed in engineering schools.
That knowledge comes to you in two forms.
First, in the form of products where the knowledge is built-in by way of the product design, done by engineers. For example, food, cars, phones, buildings, factories and mines.
Food did you say? An engineering product? Why? At the moment, Pakistan farmers grow three times as much as is actually eaten, and they depend on tractors, fertilisers, irrigation water and electricity, all engineering products and services, to do that. The two thirds of food that is not eaten is lost in storage, processing and distribution, all of which are engineering activities.
Second, special engineering knowledge comes in the form of services where the people who provide the services use their knowledge to ensure you have a good experience with the service. For example, water supply, electricity, transport, communications, even entertainment.
Look all around you. Everything that you depend on is ultimately, in large part, a product or service resulting from engineering.
If you think about it, so much of what you use at home and work is the product of engineering. Your car, your hot water, your shower, your toilet that takes away all that smelly stuff at the push of a button, without any electronics. Without this, you would be so much less effective at work, and imagine spending an hour or more of your day carrying the minimum amount of water you can survive on.
We all depend on engineering every day, everywhere.
Q2: Why are societal limitations actually engineering limitations?
Think of the limitations that Pakistanis endure now, today, as we speak.
Electricity load shedding, one hour in four here, but 18-20 hours in agricultural areas where it might otherwise be used to store and process food without huge losses, and pump water for irrigation. People need generators, UPSs, batteries to deal with load shedding, and put up with damage to equipment from voltage fluctuations. The energy we get from electricity, therefore, at the point of application, costs 2-5 times as much here as it does in Australia where a single instance of load shedding can be fatal for a government.
Water. The clean, safe drinking water in this glass comes here at US$100 a tonne. Just calculate it for yourself. Those 20 litre bottles. Multiply the price by 50 to get the cost per tonne.
Yet in Perth, Australia, the driest city in the driest continent, the same safe clean drinking water is US$2 per tonne. 50 times cheaper.
It was a big shock for me to learn just how expensive it is to live in Pakistan. It hardly matters: take almost any product or service and specify the same quality and availability as in Australia and it will be more expensive. Only mobile phone calls are cheaper, and almost as good. Drivers can be good too, and less expensive, but maintaining and running an equivalent car…..
No wonder people here are poor, because everything they need is more expensive.
Inadequate education, social welfare, health care, security, doctors, lawyers, judges, corruption: all these reflect shortages of money and educated people.
With 50% of Pakistan’s working population required just to produce barely sufficient food and water, life’s necessities, it is no surprise that it’s hard to find enough people to provide social services. Just 2% of working people produce food and water in Australia, and they generate a large export surplus in food at the same time. With plenty of food, Australia can spare so many more people to provide education, health care, security, justice and better governance.
And at the root of this issue is human productivity. Engineers have enabled farmers and so many others in Australia to be so much more productive. Engineers could do the same in Pakistan, but different methods will be needed. What has worked in Europe and Australia needs to be adapted to work as well here.
It’s not hard to understand, therefore, that Pakistan’s societal limitations that frustrate us all everyday are, at the root, engineering issues.
Q3: Why is this book so important in addressing these limitations?
Why is it so difficult for Pakistan engineers to fix water supply and load shedding?
Pakistan engineers are just as intelligent, and receive almost the same education as Australian, American and European engineers. We know that Pakistan engineers can do just as well as Australian, American, British and French engineers when they work in those countries. So, in answering this question, we can rule out differences in intelligence and education.
In the book I explain why it is so hard for Pakistan engineers to achieve the results here that we take for granted in Australia and America. I will explain just one factor now, though it is a major one.
Engineering comes in two parts:
- A) Predicting the future:
Engineering science enables accurate predictions and forecasts, and helps engineers to avoid problems and build sufficient confidence to raise investment capital. (Note that, engineers: many engineers think their job is to solve technical problems. Research shows that good engineers know how to avoid them in the first place.)
- B) Delivering the predicted future: Technical collaboration, organisation and knowledge sharing between everyone in the enterprise, investors, government, regulators, engineers, contractors, suppliers, skilled and unskilled labour.
- A) Is well known, taught and documented thoroughly, though the link with creating investor confidence is not well recognised.
- B) Engineers must be able to deliver on their promises, but few learn to do this. Engineering schools completely neglect this critical aspect of engineering performance. As a result, it is widely regarded by engineers as “all that stuff I have to do, non-engineering, not real engineering, random madness.” and by students and academics as “management”. So it is neither learned, nor taught. Neither in management schools nor engineering schools. And that’s what the book is all about. It involves informal leadership by engineers, a skill that expert engineers begin develop from the start of their careers.
This critical part of engineering relies on collaboration. Pakistan engineers (like their counterparts in India and so many other low income countries) face huge difficulties building trust and sharing specialised knowledge across social, caste and language barriers that simply don’t exist in Australia or America. And without that trust and shared knowledge, the coordinated collaboration on which engineering results depend is almost impossible. Nothing in their education prepares them for this challenge.
While researching engineering practices for this book, I found, even here in Pakistan, a tiny number of truly expert engineers who have managed to overcome these difficulties, enough to provide immense value for their companies. They are noticeable for the amazingly high salaries they earn: they are truly valued by their employers. In cash terms, they earn considerably more than typical engineers in the USA, Germany, Australia and Canada.
This book explains how these experts managed to do that. The ideas, knowledge and skills can be acquired by any engineer who is prepared to work hard at learning. And practically none of this is taught in any engineering or management schools, anywhere.
For engineering educators here today, this is your great challenge and also your great opportunity. I am promoting this book here in Pakistan before most other countries because the ideas in it emerged from my experiences here in Pakistan. This book owes much to the dedication of my mother-in-law, Begum Sarfraz Iqbal (born on what was to become international women’s day), her dedication to the people of Pakistan.
So, Pakistan engineering educators, please take up this challenge and opportunity to give your students a head start and lead the world.
You engineers, those of you who are engineers here today, you have the capacity to learn this for yourselves. Well, some of you may already know a lot of this: I am sure some will be familiar to many of you. But the knowledge in this book, so far, is only available in written form in this book. And that’s been the problem for Pakistan. With so few engineers who managed to work this stuff out for themselves, and most unable to explain what they managed to work out for themselves, it’s been near impossible for any other young engineers to learn it.
This book changes that: now any engineer can learn how to become a highly rewarded expert, but it is not easy. It is hard work, and it takes years.
Just think. If safe drinking water is so expensive, inventing a way to provide water at, say, $5 per tonne, would bring huge benefits for Pakistan and enable you to make a nice profit as well. That’s good for everyone.
So, now I have explained why we all depend so much on engineering, and why societal problems in Pakistan reflect the difficulties engineers face in producing results taken for granted in Australia and other industrialised countries. I have also explained why this book is so important for Pakistan engineers who want to become experts and have truly rewarding careers.
Last I will explain why this book is so important for all of us, especially those of you who are not engineers.
Together, across the world, we have managed to provide about 1/3 of our population with a reasonably comfortable standard of living, and healthy life expectancy sufficient to enjoy their grandchildren growing up around them.
However, we have used roughly 2/3 of the world’s resources to do that, and we are using what’s left at an unsustainable rate. Scientists have warned us that we have burnt enough fuel to put roughly 2/3 of all the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that we can afford into the atmosphere. We are now using up the last of our great oil reserves. We are rapidly exhausting the ability of the world’s oceans to provide fish and food products.
To meet the basic human requirement of equity for all, we have to provide the same for 2/3 of the population of this planet, using less than 1/3 of our resources that are left. A tough challenge.
However, I know that if we have enough expert engineers, we can achieve this together: not just in Pakistan but in India, Indonesia, across Africa and so many other places. This book is just the beginning of what’s needed, of course, and that’s where you all, not just the engineers, where you all come into the picture.
Now you can know what expert engineers can do (by reading the book, and I promise you will find it easy to read without having to be an engineer), you can demand expert performance, and if you do, you will be richly rewarded (even after paying the engineers and all the others earning much higher salaries!).
This last part is for young engineers and students. You represent the future.
If you learn from this book, Pakistan has amazing opportunities for you. The challenges I outlined a moment ago are your opportunities. Pakistan businesses and ordinary people are willing to pay high prices for improvements that bring real economic and social benefits. However, to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to demonstrate that you can reliably deliver results in line with expectations, and that also means you have to manage peoples expectations. If you do that well, you will have a wonderful and rewarding career.
Now I would like to give you a glimpse of how we can provide just one engineering service, cool and comfortable conditions in summer heat, using a tiny fraction of the energy we need with traditional engineering methods. Air conditioning on just 300 Watts, the power needed for 4 old fashioned light bulbs, and solar power is an affordable alternative.
[Screen Close Comfort video – English version:] Urdu version for reference:
If you need further convincing, we have a demonstration unit working outside on the lawn.
This example shows how we can provide something that people want at an affordable price. By demonstrating how we can do that with so much less energy, I think this shows how we could provide food, comfort and convenience for everyone on the planet using much less resources than we do today for just one third the population.
I hope this will be more than just an example of what can be done.
I hope I can inspire all you engineers here today to make similar advances possible and make them affordable for everyone. It takes hard work, though. But is is rewarding and exciting.
And I hope you will all buy a copy of the book (it’s on sale at a large discount here today, just 2000 Rs a copy) and later this month one or more of our air conditioners.
Finally, I draw your attention to my web site, JamesPTrevelyan.com. The web address is on the complementary book marks available to those who buy the book.
Thank you for your kind attention and feel free to ask questions. It probably easier if you write the question on paper and then someone at the end of your row of seats can bring it here. If there is time after Prof Fazal has spoken, I will do my best to answer them, otherwise over afternoon tea which will be served on the lawn outside.