on December 2nd, 2009

Dear colleagues

In these rather challenging times, it is especially important to value yourself and to extract as much value from your engineering expertise as you can. It is also imperative, however, to continually assess yourself in terms of your ability to indeed deliver true value and improve your expertise. What follows are a few suggestions on how to build value into your engineering:

• Measure yourself honestly and objectively when you execute your day-to-day engineering tasks. This can be done whether you are simply doing maintenance work or engaged on a large project. Ask yourself whether you can improve on what you are doing – can you improve on quality, lower costs, deliver more quickly, and/or make safety upgrades?

• Look after your career. If the work you are doing is mundane and outdated and headed for a brick wall in terms of obsolescence, then actively look for ways to test and challenge yourself in another job or project.

• Leverage your abilities by working with professionals who complement your skills. A good controls engineer may find working with a great process or chemical engineer adds enormous value to what he/she is doing. Your knowledge base will naturally increase too.

• Avoid being declared mentally insane. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. If you are facing the same project problems repeatedly (cost and time overruns, equipment failures, staffing issues etc); it is time to ask where the fault lies. Is it you, the project manager or the client causing the impasse? Respond honestly and fix it. Ensure you don’t get stuck again.

• Test and extend yourself in your work. Don’t be comfortable doing the same old thing and thinking in the same old ways .Move outside of the box. This can be positively uncomfortable, but will make you more valuable.

• Actively listen and learn from your peers. Don’t be afraid to seek their advice. Colleagues are a vast untapped resource of information and knowhow and can be enormously valuable. It is flattering to be asked and your colleagues will be more than happy to provide assistance and advise as a result.

• Thrive on failure. If you fail, honestly admit it and put forward viable solutions. You can only learn from this and even gain some respect (unless of course the failure is as a result of sheer incompetence). Carefully assess what went wrong and learn from the lesson. Build yourself up. You can’t be perfect at all time.

• Are you working too hard trying to accomplish something your colleagues do effortlessly? If this is the case, closely study what makes them successful and build up your expertise. “A bit of short term pain for long term gain” as the saying goes.

• Continuous improvement is the name of the career game. Constantly build value into your skill base. Be conscious of useful experience opportunities and knowledge that can be derived from your day to day work and from your peers. Be aware of training opportunities and books that you can read. Through this investment in yourself you can experiment with new approaches. No one else is going to.

• Complete an outstanding project loudly, but modestly. This is often awkward, but important and can be done, for example, through editorials. The result will initiate the building up of a “brand-you” so that others are aware of your success and expertise and will call on you to assist in future projects.

• Always maintain a strong ethical and principled approach. You may be tempted, at times, to take a short cut or ignore poor work; but above all stick to the highest standards of the profession.

Your engineering abilities are critical and will distinguish you in a team environment - as noted by Mitchell Caplan: “To succeed as a team is to hold all of the members accountable for their expertise”.

Yours in engineering learning


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