The obligation of an engineer

Doctors and firemen take oaths when they enter their careers.  Their job is, front and center, to save lives, and the public wants to see them swear they'll carry through.  Accountants and graphic designers aren't accountable in the same way.  But what about engineers?

There is a subculture within the broad field of engineering, particularly among the civil engineers who build bridges and other large structures, where it's explicitly acknowledged that getting it right is not just a matter of money, but sometimes of life and death.  The Engineer's Ring is one such acknowledgement.  When I was in graduate school, one of my fellow students wore one, and told me that the tradition dated back to the deadly collapse of the Quebec Bridge in 1907.  Due to poor design, its collapse killed 75 workers during construction. She told me that the original rings were made of steel from that bridge.  They're worn on the pinky finger of the engineer's writing hand, to drag on the table throughout the day.

It's worth remembering that somewhere down the line, somebody's safety could depend on your work.  Whenever I'm tempted to relax my standards, I remember that ultimately I have to answer to myself.