Showing the Fun in Engineering
After publishing Progressive Engineer for over 12 years, we’ve learned a few things about the engineering profession. The main one that stands out: the fun and unique jobs engineers find themselves in. As a licensed engineer who worked in industry for many years before becoming a full-time journalist, I thought I knew the various types of engineering pretty well. But every time I venture out to research a story for these pages, I marvel at what a neat job the people I interview have and wonder “where were these jobs when I was looking for engineering work?” The truth is, they’ve been there along, you just have to scratch beneath the surface. This serves to reinforce our original mission more than ever, especially as we hear of the dour economy, bailouts, and stimulus packages every day.
If you’re a technical person, you know why engineers need a greater voice. We hear how our infrastructure has fallen into disrepair over the years and now will require trillions of dollars to bring it up to par. Society needs more engineers than ever before, and we face shortages of them. But the general public and youngsters typically don't understand what engineers do, and people aren't encouraged to enter the profession. Progressive Engineer strives to answer this void.
We differ from other engineering magazines because we take a unique editorial approach. Actually, our editorial slant isn’t new, it just hasn’t been applied to engineers before. Taking a personal angle, we write about engineers as human beings and describe their accomplishments in an easy-to-read fashion devoid of graphs and equations and light on jargon and long words. This way, we can educate a teenager considering an engineering career and at the same time inspire a working engineer immersed in technical details every day. Progressive Engineer does this largely by writing about engineers in the form of profiles that delve into their backgrounds, motivations, and feelings on the one hand, but also describe their technical work on the other. The bottom line: we show the fun of engineering, to inspire engineers, educate outsiders, and encourage young people to enter the profession.
Another aspect that goes hand in hand with being a progressive engineer is environmentalism and sustainability. You’ll notice that many of our stories deal with energy conservation, renewable resources such as solar and wind power, green building, and pollution abatement.
People occasionally wonder, "Where does your revenue come from?" The answer lies in advertising, in particular our banner ads, job postings, and listings in the Engineering Firm Directory and Sustainability Firm Directory. The Engineering Firm Directory has proven one of our most popular pages, and many engineering firms have supported us by purchasing a listing in it. In response to that, our Company Profile column often profiles an engineering firm and describes their engineer hiring needs, which in turn also helps engineers seeking work. Also, our Engineering Firm News, Developments, and Personal Changes column (engineering blog) reports on happenings at consulting firms and further supports them.
Our Humble History
After growing up in upstate New York and receiving a BSME in 1977 from the University of Dayton, I moved to North Carolina and worked as a mechanical engineer for several companies in North Carolina and Virginia. Specialties evolved for me in machine design, hydraulics, pneumatics, piping, and pumping. I developed an interest in writing in college by serving as an editor of UD's engineering magazine and by taking a class in freelance writing. After leaving the corporate world in 1992 and working for awhile as a consulting engineer, I became a full-time freelance writer specializing in technology. My mission: carve a niche making technical material understandable and interesting to engineers and lay people alike. Stories with my byline appeared in publications ranging from Popular Science to Invention & Technology to regional business magazines.
In 1997, I started Progressive Engineer as a merger of my engineering and writing interests. In the beginning, we published it in a tabloid print format with a circulation of 20,000 engineers (some of you may remember getting copies if you were on our mailing list of licensed engineers). Originally, we were based in Roanoke, Virginia and covered only the mid-Atlantic region extending from North Carolina to West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
Then, in the name of being progressive, my wife Jamie Hendry convinced me to take the magazine strictly online in January 1999. This accomplished several things. Most importantly, by eliminating printing and mailing, we reduced our costs by orders of magnitude. For a small outfit, this meant everything, as publishing a printed magazine while developing a new editorial concept -- one especially new to advertisers -- results in tremendous upfront costs before revenue starts coming in. In truth, if we hadn’t gone online, we wouldn’t be here today. We also consider our online format an environmental plus because we're saving trees and other resources. And we can now continually reach a broader audience.
In 2000, after completing most of her doctoral work at Virginia Tech, Jamie landed a teaching job at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Moving operations there allowed us to conveniently expand our territory to include Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and New England states. As our next phase of growth, we later expanded to cover the continental United States.
Far More Than Stories
As Progressive Engineer evolved, we realized it was becoming more than a magazine, in part because of the flexibility afforded by an online medium. We serve as a comprehensive information resource for today’s engineer as well as non-engineers looking for information on engineering. Our Engineer's Job Market helps employers find engineers and engineers find jobs. Our Engineering Firm Directory assists those looking for consulting engineering services and helps firms market their services. High school students can access our engineering school directory to help them choose a college to attend. Engineers can use our listings of organizations and licensing boards to help with their careers. We like to think of it as a one-stop shop for engineering needs.