Sunday, June 17, 2012

Launchpad Engineer

Happy Fathers Day to my friend P. who works at the U where I work and who is an amazing launchpad engineer. P and his husband, who is a professor at U., have two children who went to on-campus daycare and school along with my son.

The launchpad engineer is that person in the family unit who ensures that all of the family members get launched daily, and go out to school, jobs, and life—to explore, play, work, and live as best they can. It’s also the launchpad engineer’s job to help ensure that the landing pad is equipped with sustenance and support when all of the family rockets splash down after their daily adventures. Being the family launchpad engineer is a huge job, and a competent launchpad engineer is a wonderful person to have in a family.

Every family does it differently. In many families, there is a single launchpad engineer who does the whole job with little assistance.  A family can have more than one launchpad engineer. In some families, the job is done by co-engineers who work very well together.  In others there is one person who does the morning launch, and the other preps the landing pad. Families with resources can hire additional personnel to help with launch and landing and all of the other jobs that go along with launchpad engineer. All families go through times when the rockets are all doing great; at other times one or more rockets fail to launch and/or the launchpad itself is in need of repairs. When you start to look at the different ways that families man their launchpads, you may notice that some are more effective than others. Many are inconsistent—sometimes working well; other times not so much.

The one thing that will tell you almost everything that you need to know about my own family’s launchpad is that each of the two adults are convinced that they are the chief launchpad engineer. We both gratefully acknowledge the important assistant engineering role performed by the other. (But I am the real one.)

In many families, the launchpad engineer also has their own rocket to launch. This is often required by economics, sometimes by choice and usually a combination of the two and other reasons too. Sometimes the launchpad engineer job takes a temporary or permanent backseat to the LE’s own rocket. In the Museum of Competence, there should be a large exhibit dedicated to great family launchpad engineers who also do amazing things with their own rockets on a daily basis.

So when I read articles or hear people stating things like
It's better for launchpad engineers not to have their own rockets.
Being a launchpad engineer alone is not enough everyone should have their own rocket too.
Women are biologically predisposed to be better launchpad engineers than men are.
Launchpad engineers are at a disadvantage in math and science intensive fields.
or even 
Wow! I am so lucky to have such an amazing launchpad engineer at home! I  know I'm just not smart enough to do that job! It's a good thing that I'm a science professor instead!

--I think what an assortment of garbage stinky with festering baloney.

Launchpad engineers are individuals, often women, and there is great variation, but don’t forget that our society benefits greatly from its collective unpaid launchpad engineers. Instead of putting down and isolating the launchpad engineers, we—as individuals and society--should be investing our energies to provide support for all of our launchpad engineers so that families can thrive and all of us are able to launch their own rockets to explore as we wish, when we wish.

Our own launchpad is messy and a bit disorganized, but we all land home at the end, share a good meal, trade reports of our days’ adventures, and cry and laugh.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there -

    I arrived via your comment on Dr. Isis' blog, and have really enjoyed your posts to-date. I've added you to my google reader, and look forward to seeing more in the future!

    This post is particularly awesome, by the way.

    Best wishes,