No doubt, you need to have technical skills to be a successful engineer. However, as I have discussed in previous articles this is not enough to really move up in your career. To really succeed, you need to build up other peripheral skills and habits.
I have talked about public speaking, networking, and writing as the “Big Three” skills to learn. Now, I am talking about some habits that build off of these even further
If you want to be a successful engineer (let’s be honest, who doesn’t) then you would benefit greatly from developing these four habits.
- On time every time. There is possibly nothing that annoys a manager more than someone who can’t meet deadlines. You need to make sure that your work is on time, as promised. If you think you are going to be late, then you need to let people know ASAP. Don’t wait until the day it was due to tell them that you will have it in two days.Not only does this go for projects, but also for general meetings. Unless there is really something beyond your control, then you should not be late to a scheduled meeting. By coming late, you essentially tell your associate that the meeting was not important enough for you to prioritize it in your routine.Blaming being late on traffic is a poor excuse! I had a guy who used to tell me this all the time and it was New York City! This is not something unexpected, he should have simply left earlier.
- Checklists. These are a great tool for things you do consistently as well as things you do sporadically. On project you do all the time, you sometimes think you did something, but it was actually done on the project prior. They will prevent you from skipping over something because you are in the flow and don’t realize. For project you do less often, these will jog your memory as to the next steps that should be taken.In his book , Atul Gawande talks about how seasoned surgeons were hesitant to take his recommendation to use checklists for standard procedures. However, the results spoke for themselves and they became believers when the rate of complications dropped tremendously after implementing these lists.Personally, I have added little checklists to the corner of the field collection sheets for my engineers. I have found that having them quickly look at that list before leaving an area has cut down on the info we have to go back and ask for once again. Having the list is such a simple method to implement, but the results are out sized.
- Document your work. If someone picked up your work tomorrow, could they run with it? If you were to take a vacation, would your substitute be able to continue the project without having to disturb you? Having well documented work will help with these transitions.When I create calculation sheets in Excel for my engineers to use, I put notes on the side of the page that detail the master formulas and assumptions. This helps someone else understand my work, but also saves me time so I don’t have to remember why I used some weird variable in this situation; it’s all right there.
- Regular continuing education, aka never stop learning new things. These can be formal courses, attending seminars, lunch & learn programs. Whatever. Just make sure you don’t let your skills stagnate and that you stay on top of emerging technologies in your field.I have no affiliation to them, but one site I have used frequently is as they have courses on a ton of topics. Going to conference is also a great way to learn about new technologies and to hear practical applications from various speakers.
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