on March 10th, 2015

It is often considered risky practice in advertising to say something with a negative message; but hopefully you will see the importance of avoiding these damaging items (as listed below) in your engineering career.

Dear Colleagues,

It is often considered risky practice in advertising to say something with a negative message; but hopefully you will see the importance of avoiding these damaging items (as listed below) in your engineering career.

Remain positive and in top problem solving mode

Engineering professionals are generally brilliant at identifying problems but not always so good at creating novel solutions to fix problems. You do not want to be known as the ‘Dr No’ of your organisation who is always finding fault with designs and systems; but someone who is proactive about finding practical solutions to problems – often even before they become an issue.

Fit into the organisational culture

Although you may consider yourself to be a huge asset in your company and who can’t be bothered about all the trivial paperwork; but you can’t simply ignore company procedures and policies. No matter how irritating they may be. Best to fit into the system and comply with the myriad of administrative procedures and requirements and keep your colleagues happy.

Business is a key part of engineering

Costs and financial issues are a critical part of an engineering project. You can’t simply rip out a piece of equipment in your plant and replace it with a new Rolls Royce item because it performs better from a technical point of view. There has to be a justified return on investment. Ensuring that you always consider the financial issues in your engineering career; will add enormous value to the organisation. Profits are what make a company tick.

Communicate brilliantly and with panache

Engineering professionals are renowned for their love of technology. And are not so enthusiastic about the use of English and in communicating well. However, this is a key part of growing your career. Ensure your written and verbal communications are of the highest possible quality. Not verbose or using large complex words – but simple, thoughtful and clear. Similarly, practice your presentation skills  – either one- on-one or to a group. And reflect and check on what you write or say before sending your communications out. Overall, soft skills are a critical part of the successful engineering professional.

Value your engineering career more than your firm

We all want to work for a firm or client we love. Forever. However, often your career will develop in a different direction to your firm; especially as far as doing things you enjoy or excel at. You may decide that you have to seek opportunities elsewhere to optimise your career. Often, a firm may be sold to some other entity and they may decide they don’t need your particular skills any longer. Hence it is critical that you keep your engineering skills sharp and relevant to the marketplace. And keep doing outstanding work which not only your firm values but others in the industry notice.

Respect everyone in your firm and get their support

You need every bit of help you can get in your engineering career - from everyone in the firm. Ensure you are friendly and positive with everyone – from the security guard, cleaners, engineering colleagues, to the CEO.

Your value is communicated more than only through your work

Sadly, your value to an organisation or client is not only communicated by the fine plant, building or piece of equipment you have designed and built. You need to follow up by clearly communicating why your work is of value to the firm.

Email is not so useful

I think email must be one of the worst communication tools for engineering. Try and use straightforward tools such as the phone or in simply walking across to the neighbouring office to chat about a decision. Certainly confirm your discussions (especially relating to deadlines and costs) with a warm and fuzzy email. Never use email for anything vaguely emotional; stick to verbal communications.

Ensure you have all information before making a decision

As we all know, with engineering problem solving – when making a decision one doesn’t always have all the facts. However, you can’t wait forever to make a decision. Try and learn from experts in the field on how they make good decisions. Especially relating to costing and scheduling. Always try and look at the worse case scenario here.

Learning is a life-long love affair

Don’t believe your initial degree or diploma qualification is all the learning you need in your career. While problem solving, conceptual, and financial skills are often timeless; straightforward technical skills often date extraordinarily fast and you have to keep learning to stay up to date. This can be achieved in an informal way by working closely with your peers and mentors and exchanging know-how in this way. Formal training and education is also useful to keep up to date and aware of the latest engineering trends. Remember that change is one constant in our engineering lives.

Final words

So the choice is all yours - you have complete control of your engineering destiny as to where you are going.

As Carol Burnett gently suggests: Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.

Thanks to Dr Jim Anderson of BlueElephantConsulting and the IEEE for an interesting article on a related topic.

Yours in engineering learning,


Mackay’s Musings – 10th March’15 #555
125, 273 readers – www.eit.edu.au/cms/news/blog-steve-mackay


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