An engineer with pluck
Meet Tom Divine, PE
Q. When you first wanted to be something in life, what was it?
A. When I was a youth, I wanted to be a guitarist. There's something about big money, fast living, and the adulation of millions of adoring fans that's attractive at that age.
My first serious ambition was to be in business management. Oddly, I didn't have a product or service in mind. I just wanted to be a generic businessman.
Q. What changed your path?
A. It turns out that there aren't really that many openings for rock-and-roll megastars, and the competition is pretty fierce. Also, mastering a musical instrument is a lot of work, and it takes a level of native skill that I really don't have. If I had become a musician, I'd have been hungry and unknown.
I majored in business in my first college career, but never got a sense that I had developed the tools I needed to succeed. I had missed a crucial truth: Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about the goods and services they offer, and they're passionate about being entrepreneurs. I wasn't. I eventually took some time away from academics and reevaluated my ambitions. Electrical engineering was a field that matched my skills.
Q. What life adventures are yet on your list?
A. Most of them are still on the list. I'd like to see a lot of Africa, and I'd like to spend some time in the countryside of Ireland. And, I want to go to a monster truck rally—I've never figured out what happens at those things.
Q. What's your go-to source when you're stumped?
A. Whaddaya mean, “stumped”? That never happens!
My favorite go-to source is the brain of another electrical engineer. Like everybody else, I'll pore over the codes, review projects with similar constraints, and prospect on the Internet for solutions. But, ultimately, I find myself presenting the problem and some possible solutions to a colleague.
Q. What do you look forward to at the end of the day?
A. I look forward to spending time with my wife. She's a particularly good-hearted woman, slow to anger and swift to bless, and she has a very quick wit. On top of that, she seems to like me, which is a quality that I admire.
Q. What do you remind yourself of often, and why?
A. Every project comes to an end. It keeps me from being bummed out when the construction administration process becomes adversarial.
Q. What do you wonder about?
A. I wonder how much invention influences the process of discovery. In the 1600s William Harvey laid the foundation for modern cardiology by announcing that the heart was a pump and that blood circulated. If people hadn't been making and using pumps, I'm not sure Harvey would have figured that out.
Q. What do you want to learn more about, just out of curiosity?
A. For sheer curiosity, I'd like to know more about immunology. I poked around in that field when one of my relatives asked me to help her research cancer treatments. Our quest barely took us into the field, but I was still alarmed by its complexity. It made me wonder for a moment whether people are actually single creatures, or a whole bunch of things living in symbiosis.
Who : Tom Divine, PE
What : Project manager and electrical engineer
Where: Smith Seckman Reid Inc., Houston
Why: In addition to being a quintessential electrical engineer, Tom has an innate sense of humor that makes you want to get to know him better.
About: With 24 years of experience, Tom specializes in the design of emergency power and power distribution systems in healthcare and lab facilities. He holds a bachelor's in electrical engineering from the University of Houston and is a professional engineer in Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri.