Think like an engineer

by Guru Madhavan

Not ever really knowing what is meant by someone being an engineer, I was intrigued by this book, and it didn't disappoint.

With the feel of an American business book - clean layout, attractive typeface, accessible and readable text - it was fascinating and inspiring.

The format was a little odd in that the author dotted around in his accounts of individual expertise and experience, but ultimately this was a truly enlightening book using anecdotes and stories to highlight the qualities displayed by the most innovative engineers in modern times.

There was an explanation of how grocery stores turned into self-service supermarkets, how disposable nappies were invented, the creation of zip codes and postcodes and Google earth. But the most uplifting and moving account was that of David Koon, a father in the USA who one day was told that his teenage daughter had been murdered. She had been shopping, was abducted and held captive. She managed to make an emergency call on her mobile phone but didn't know where she was being held. The emergency services then had no means of tracking her device. She didn't hang up and her battle with her captors, and her murder was recorded. Her father used his training as an engineer and his grief to find a way by which GPS could be used with mobile phones. He then left his job and used his passion and tenacity to seek a place in government to ensure the technology would be implemented, so preventing a similar tragedy happening again. It was a shocking and moving account.

Engineers are problem-solvers, visionaries and innovators, but they are also practical, persistent and pragmatic.

This is the sort of book that you race through. There's a breathless excitement at all you are discovering, but you also find yourself vowing to return to the beginning as soon as you finish to that you can make notes and savour all the information you've been given.

While this book doesn't necessarily make me want to become an engineer, it has renewed my delight in well-written, accessible, non-fiction writing. How I would love to have a project like this, celebrating forgotten or unknown heroes and leaving a reader moved, challenged and inspired.

Review date: December 2015
Think like an engineer by Guru Madhavan