Engineering: Defining and differentiating its unique culture

Mary K Pilotte, Purdue University


The world of work for engineering professionals is changing. At a rapid pace, experienced engineers are exiting the workforce due to retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, while at the same time the problems facing engineers are increasingly complex and frequently global in nature. For firms to protect their knowledge assets, they must ensure that acquired understandings are shared among their engineering work groups. Engineering teaching and learning in the workplace (i.e., knowledge sharing), is a social activity that resides in a social context governed by the professional engineering culture. This quantitative study uses Hofstede's Organizational Cultural Values Model (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, & Sanders, 1990) to examine dimensions of engineering culture in the workplace, producing a central tendency profile of engineering's cultural practices. Further, it explores through hypotheses if demographic differentiators, including birth generation, gender, race, industry sector of employment, and engineering discipline, play roles in forming engineering cultural practices. Results both corroborate aspects of Hofstede's model and assert new understandings relative to factors influencing dimensions of engineering practice. Outcomes are discussed in terms of their potential impact on industrial knowledge sharing and formation of beneficial engineering cultures.




Cox, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Engineering|Science education

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