This is a guest blog by Manny De La Cruz
Way before I decided to go back to school, I worked. I worked a lot and mostly in jobs that required customer service. I did door-to-door sales, telemarketing, and finally food service. I enjoyed being a server. I was good at it and always had cash in my pocket. I had two goals at that time: pay rent and have fun with the rest.
Through these jobs, I learned about customer service and in those days, how the customer was always right. I won’t claim to have been a poster child for great customer service, since on several occasions the human in me and all that was going on would catch up and a customer might get the short end of the stick. Customer service is something that has become synonymous with hospitality and entertainment. It is easy to spot bad customer service at a drive-through or a check-out line, when you are trying to ring up your own groceries only to be met with an error and no associate around to help you (we have kind of lowered the bar, folks). But what does this have to do with engineering?
Funny you should ask. If you are in an engineering role in outside sales, consulting, or contract engineering, perhaps your customers are pretty obvious. But what about in other engineering roles, like plant support, manufacturing, or research? Perhaps those customers are not as obvious. In reality, regardless of where you work, more than likely there are some internal customers who are relying on your service, and not being aware of who they are could cost you dearly.
Here Are Five Things To Consider When Thinking About the Not-So-Obvious Internal Customers You Work For:
1. Your Coworkers
Playing nice in the sandbox will only go so far. Helping others succeed in their endeavors will go a long way in really marking you as a team player and useful among your peers. If you find yourself with extra time, perhaps seeing how you could help your “equals” could prove to be beneficial.
2. Your Senior Engineers
Whether they have supervisory responsibilities over you or serve only as technical resources, your senior engineers have expectations as well. In some cases, your shortcoming may mean more work for them or require them to jump through hoops to “catch up.” Get them involved early, aka know when you need help but be prepared. Nothing irks a senior engineer more than an early career engineer who does not do some level of homework prior to seeking their help. Consider that maybe there is such thing as a stupid question! (What, Manny! This can’t be!) Well, in reality, if you find yourself asking the same question over and over, then perhaps you have crossed the line from curious to inept.
3. Your Boss
This one should seem obvious, but is often missed. I see a lot of commentary on what a good leader should do and how they should get to know the employee and so on. All very valid and required qualities of a good leader. But what about you? Do you have an understanding of what your boss’ expectations are of you? Without having a direct conversation about it and periodic calibrations on services provided vs expectations, you may be working in vain. Sure, a good leader will initiate this, but a “manager” might not (YES—there is a difference!).
4. All of the Above but Add “in Other Departments” To the End
More than likely you are in a role that either supports or works with other departments. Just because you are in the same company does not mean you get some sort of free pass on your reputation or expectations of your role. Taking the time to get outside your immediate work group and understanding what you or your department can do to make both your jobs easier can be a worthwhile activity. Your ability to work across departments or even better influence those departments in the absence of direct authority is a huge deal! In many cases, these other departments may become your new home one day or their input may positively affect your performance reviews.
5. To Make This Work, You Must Start With a Servant’s Heart.
The one thing that will blow up in your face fast will be not being genuine. Fakeness is a trait that can be spotted from a mile away. Coming at this strictly from a selfish place or doing it only to “look good” may work, but eventually this approach will run out of steam.
About Manny De La Cruz
Manny De La Cruz is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of Texas-San Antonio by way of San Antonio Community College. He currently works for the ExxonMobil Corporation as an Optimizer in the ExxonMobil Chemical Company. For nine years, he has been heavily involved with underrepresented minority recruiting and coaching of engineers. He shares his advice and the stories of other engineers on his podcast Manny Talks, available on any podcast platform. Manny is also a family man, woodworker, bass player, and TV watcher.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the thing you consider when thinking about your not-so-obvious internal customers.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success