99% graft, only 1% of the credit: engineers deserve more

Hot Tyks is a new series where we dive into hot topics with varying levels of spicy takes from some of our passionate Tyklings. This ongoing series will include epic supporting video content, so watch this space for more!

If you like your spice mild, this one’s for you.

Now you’ve been warned, let’s get started…


As we’ve pursued a ‘clean’ aesthetic in our technology, we’ve stopped talking about the labour that goes into its creation. Why don’t we recognise the graft, the toil, the tears? The fact that it exists not because of some lone genius or magical intervention but through hard work, persistence, resilience and creativity is something to celebrate. So forgive me a minute while we talk about ships.

The graft of engineering

Transatlantic liners were once the only way to cross the Atlantic, and back in 1935, the premier choice was France’s SS Normandie. 

She was groundbreaking. With an innovative hull and 29 boilers driving turbines to generate electricity, she had 200,000 horsepower powering her through the icy waters of the North Atlantic. 

This innovation wasn’t easy to deliver. Shipbuilders forged and pressed steel into ribs and frames, three million rivets and three miles of weld formed inch-thick plate metal into a hull. Countless skilled riggers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and fabricators installed engines, pipes, cables and interiors.

Unknown author, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


It was impossible to separate the physical ship from the process of its creation. The improbability of charging through towering, iceberg-strewn Atlantic waves, cocooned in luxury, forced the passengers onboard to ask, “How is this possible? How was it made?”

You’ve likely been there, too. In an airliner 30,000 ft up, scattered clouds and an unknown landscape scrolling silently below. Sitting in a quiet, warm cabin. “What orchestra of material, workforce and knowledge is carrying me through the night sky?”

Just me? Ah well…

Back to the liners – the operators of the ship were proud of the labour that went into it; they wanted passengers to know where it had been built and the experts that made it possible. Every ship sailed from the yard with a brass plaque, visible to all who boarded, with the name of the worksite embossed in large lettering. In the case of the Normandie, “Chantieres de l’Atlantique”. 

Image credit: midshipcentury.com


Give them more credit

But today, the technology that spans the globe has distanced itself from the dirty graft of engineering. Airliners have numbers, not names and manufacturers prefer the myth that today’s feats of tech are, in some way, immaculate conceptions. 

This, dear reader, is total b*******s. Your online hotel booking isn’t a digital hex. It works and works every single time because Laurentiu is working hard to maintain thousands of servers. Servers that unpredictably go pop and crash spectacularly. Teams of people stay up all night, drink coffee, and hack things together, 24-7-365, to make sure 10 billion API calls a day keep ticking over, and you can secure a King Size Double in Cancun.

The real-time congestion data on your phone isn’t a religious apparition; Sophie and her team spent three weeks smashing heads against desks with copypasta from Stack Overflow, trying to get the latest update to work bug-free so that you could avoid the tailbacks on i55.

Royal Navy official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Armies of engineers are taking pure energy and forging those bits and bytes into healthcare, instant communication, space exploration and new forms of artistic expression. They spend long nights bolting code together, launching and maintaining it as it spans the globe. It’s hard, messy work, and the results are astonishing.

We should bolt brass plaques to our digital endeavours and reject the clean-lined myths of infallibility, proud of the thumbprints we leave on the products and the hard work that keeps it all running.

There’s been a loss of romance in the way we talk about what is a blood, sweat and tears endeavour. I’m off to propose to my co-founders to add “Propulsé par Tyklings” to everything we do. Wish me luck.