One thing that is certain to happen in your engineering career is conflict. This isn’t because the engineering profession is more prone to conflict than accounting or that engineers tend to be a contentious lot. It’s because, as in any profession, you’ll find people. Wherever there are people you will find conflict. Because of this, it’s important to develop a basic understanding of the three things you need to know to engineer resolution.
In episode 077 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP, who has hosted several episodes of this podcast. Chris provided a framework that he has used to make many career transitions, and also talked about building the confidence needed to make engineering career transitions.
Here are some of the questions I ask Chris on career transitions:
- Tell us about some of the career transitions you had to deal with?
- What are some of the skills and strategic approaches one should take when transitioning in their career?
- How can engineers build their confidence and adopt a mindset towards taking risks in their careers?
- Tell us about the planning and preparation you did when you transitioned in your career?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode:
This is the last installment of six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
Not every project you undertake as a leader is going to work out, sometimes you may find yourself having to make the decision to pull the plug. You may already have seen this in your engineering career and if not, you will.
According to Project Management Institute (PMI), only 62% of projects met their original goals and business intent. PMI’s analysis of projects worldwide reveals that for every $1 billion spent in projects, $135 million was at risk from failure. Put another way, 13.5% of every project dollar you will touch is at risk.
As an engineering leader, you’re responsible as much for engineering project success and protection of resources as you are for your team’s performance. In fact, in most organizations failure to deliver projects within cost, on time, and within scope on a consistent basis will result in a sacking. However, sometimes a project will far exceed resources or require someone new with the skills to get it back on track.
As a leader, you’re responsible for maintaining awareness about your projects and knowing when to cut losses and cancel a project or ask for help from an outside entity who can get the project back on track.
Engineers Create Success with Performance Measurement and Risk Assessment
One thing that engineers and project managers have in common, regardless their industry or focus, is the need to access their personal project history. This point is being driven home for me currently as I apply for Project Management Institute’s Program Management Professional Certification® exam. The application – like those you’ll complete for the P.E., Project Management Professional (PMP), or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – will require you to provide project- and/or program-specific information: who, what, when, where, and how.
If you have that information locked in your long-term memory and can access it at will, you’re set!
For the rest of us, however, total recall isn’t a reality. While our long-term memory is nearly limitless, our short-term memory is only capable of managing a handful of items. Also, as time goes by, the validity and specificity of one’s memories of the type of details needed for a P.E. exam or job application will wane.
The answer then? Develop and maintain a project portfolio.
Setting Up Your Reflection Process
This is Part V of a six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a recovering perfectionist. It all started when, well, when I was a young child. Blame it on genetics, but I’m afflicted with the ‘perfectionist-gene’; the necessity for every action, every event, and every aspect to be just…perfect.
It’s come in handy in some cases, like developing a logistics plan with numerous stakeholders, target dates, and high stakes outcomes or putting on a 400-plus person multi-national event with a lot of senior leaders. Perfection, or a close facsimile of it, is necessary in some cases. However, it isn’t in most cases.
For those with a perfectionist streak running in them, entering the engineering profession simply reinforces their natural slant towards an error-free life. This was the case for me, and then I added a career in the military on top of it and my preference for perfection was locked
Unfortunately, while there’s a time and place for perfection it doesn’t apply to all situations and at all times. [Read more…] about 5 Tips To Move Beyond Being A Perfectionist In Your Engineering Career
In episode 054 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, Chris Knutson interviews Ken Adams, an expert in the world of contract drafting on how to master the language to create clearer engineering contracts.
Here are some of the questions Chris asked Ken:
- What do you consider is the essence of a contract?
- How do you suggest that civil engineers should approach reviewing engineering contracts?
- What are some challenges you see with traditional contract drafting?
- The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has also produced a series of standard contract documents for engineering design and construction projects, how do these rate with regards to language and clarity?
- What is your opinion of general trade organization contracts?
- With regards to schedule provisions in contracts, how standardized do these tend to be?
- What does an engineer or contractor need to be aware of with regards to imposed contract requirements?
- What are indemnification clauses and what do engineers need to know or be aware of with regards to them?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode on Engineering Contracts:
- A contract gives the parties an opportunity to determine and state as explicitly as necessary what each expects from the other.
- The problem with traditional contract language is that it results in delay and confusion at every stage in the contract process. It also creates confusion that can lead to fights.
- Contract language is limited and stylized. It’s best if you leave it to experts.
- Copy and pasting or inserting information to a contract is probably not the best route to go with standardized contracts. It is advisable to get legal counsel to take a look at the language of the contract and to make sure that it is relevant and applicable to the situation that you are truly in.
- Schedules tend to be different from project to project, but is still part of the contract. If something doesn’t make sense in the contract it won’t make sense in the schedules.
- Hold harmless is a mystery phrase with no settled meaning. Do not use the phrase indemnify and hold harmless, which is utterly standard. Instead, just use indemnify and say what the deal is.
- It’s best to be an informed and skeptical consumer of contract language. Accept that in terms of the prose, most contracts are a mess. Learn to distinguish between what’s clear and effective, what’s not so clear but you can live with, and what’s confusing and could cause a problem and so needs to be fixed.
More details in this episode…
In this episode, Chris Knutson, PE interviews Nader Mowlaee on how to create a winning strategy to build a successful engineering career. They hit on why, and how, to establish your own personal brand and they also dive into core skills development and their importance to engineers, as well as the importance of building and cultivating a network.
This is Part III of a six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
You’re in your first professional leadership role and all eyes are on you to deliver the goods. After two months of 60+ hour weeks you’re running on fumes and the project’s only a fifth of the way done. What’s a person to do? Delegate.
The good thing about occupying a leadership role on a project is that you have a team. For some first time leaders, however, they may not understand the great opportunity they have to spread their load to those on the team. Instead, the team becomes just one more thing that they have to manage.
Many engineers find their first encounter with delegation to be anything but simple. Why? Emotions. Up to this point, they’ve been the doer and now they are in an entirely new environment where they may still be doing, yet need to pass on work to other people so they can be doing. Instead of leveraging team to effectively accomplish a project, many first time engineer-leader’s horde the work. Or worse, micromanage the work that is delegated. [Read more…] about Why Delegating Will Make You A Better Engineer
Over my career I’ve amassed knowledge and skills, and the experience, to manage large programs. This took years. I didn’t step into my first infrastructure program management role until my 12th year as a practicing engineer, managing a housing program in the Air Force. A few years later that program became a nearly $1 billion infrastructure program covering Europe and into Afghanistan.
Did I have any formal training to set me up for these roles? No.
Most of us will step into project management – or even program or portfolio management – positions with little to no formal training. Since most people selected to manage projects, programs, or portfolios have exhibited the basic skills to do so effectively, the lack of legitimate training isn’t seen as show-stopper in companies.
However, in surveys of both public and private sector organizations conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and other project management focused entities, some startling statistics highlight the importance of some amount of formal study: [Read more…] about Developing Program Management Competencies to Excel in Your Engineering Career
This is Part II of a six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
It was the first day as project manager and Ed was sweating the moment he got into his car for the fifteen-minute drive to the office. This wasn’t just any sweat. It was the sweat that comes from fear. Ed figured that he had a lot be fearful about. Selected a month earlier to fill the role as project manager for his first major construction project, he had spent the intervening time with his head buried in the project specifics: the expected technical challenges, special design considerations, the schedule and resource plans.
Then a week ago his mentor and champion, Cindy, asked him how it was going with his team. Had it been assembled? Had he met with them? What did he know about them? What strengths and challenges did he foresee with the members? All good questions, except Ed lacked answers. Sure, the team had been assembled and he’d met with them. But his focus had been entirely on the project’s technical aspects. He hadn’t a clue about their strengths or the challenges that might arise. Although he knew their names and what expertise they were bringing to the team, he had no idea about who they were. Besides, was that really necessary? He was being paid to get a project designed and built, not hold hands.
Yet for some reason, Ed’s anxiety level was increasing the closer he got to the office. Although he thought he had a good grip on the project, he seriously questioned whether he really did after his talk Cindy last week. This morning he was bringing his team together in an attempt to get them more involved in the project as the start date approached and to get to know them personally. But he was stressing big time about this. Were his efforts too little and too late? Worse, would the team see his efforts as genuine? What if they figured out that he was scared about delivering success on his first run as a project manager?