Recently I met a young engineer who told me that he had worked on some control software for Airbus A380 during his past tenure with Smith Aerospace. When an A380 aircraft was put on display at the Hyderabad Air Show a few years back, he was invited on board to explain that functionality to visitors. The pride that he felt, and the gleam in his eyes, when he narrated his experience is still fresh in my mind.
In our day to day work, we very often concentrate only on the assignment on hand, on completing it well. Once the work is accepted, we forget about it. Just imagine how different it would be if we tried to delve a little further and looked at the big picture. Where will the component that we worked on finally be used? For example, it may be an aero engine component that may be used in a new version coming out in the next couple of years. How would you feel if one day you fly in an aircraft that is fitted with that new version. How would you feel telling your family and friends about the component in that engine which you have designed?
Seeing the big picture makes us take greater responsibility for our work. A few years back, a Vice President from engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney was addressing a group of about 300 engineers on the terrace of the company I used to work for. An airplane flew above us and all of us looked up intuitively. The speaker paused for a few moments and said, "One day an aircraft will fly with engines that will use the parts that you are designing. I hope you realize that the lives of all the passengers in that aircraft depend on the quality of your work. Never lose this perspective when you are doing work for us." It was a strong message. I have no doubt that all the engineers present there came out of that session with a very different outlook on the importance of their work.
Seeing the big picture gives us the real life perspective of the impact that we make on the world with our work. It gives us opportunities to take pride in our contributions.