BS versus legitimate excuses
After showing up 45 minutes late for a client inspection in New York City, the junior engineer said to me without the slightest hint of sarcasm . . .”Sorry I’m late, the subway was crowded this morning”. Are you kidding me?!?! This is New York City and the subway is crowded every morning during rush hour so he should have known to leave earlier.
I’m not an unreasonable person, but when you fail to accommodate for expected delays, then the fault lies squarely on your shoulders
Your grandparent passing away? Not that’s a legitimate excuse for delays.
Sleeping late because you were out late partying? Sorry, that’s on you.
Taking responsibility for your time is something that falls under the “habit” category and is not really a specific non-technical skill. There are no classes that will teach you the habits I list below as there are for public speaking, writing, or any of your technical classes.
Rather, these are habits that you can develop over time and eventually become second nature. Adding these to your existing technical and non-technical skills is another way to take you to the next level in your quest for engineering success.
1. On time every time – daily & tasks/projects
There is possibly nothing that annoys a manager more than someone who can’t meet task/project 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.
Similarly, 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.
2. Checklists – So simple, yet they really work
Day in and day out, surgeons do the same surgeries, so you might think that a checklist is pretty worthless. After all, these are seasoned professionals. However, in his book Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande talks about how implementing a very simple checklist of steps prior to beginning any surgery reduced the rate of complications drastically.
Especially on project tasks that you perform repeatedly, I highly recommend you add a checklist to quickly review as you move through your work. 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.
3. Document your work – It will help you AND the next guy
Do you ever look back at an old project and wonder “Why did we use that approach?” Well, if you had some project notes, then you can easily have a look and know that this was done due to a specific site situation or client requirement.
Similarly, 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.
4. 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 AEC Daily 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.
Long story short, getting in the habit of always seeking new ways to improve your educational basis is going to be a plus. Your engineering degree is a great foundation, but you need to have continuous learning as well as hands-on experience to take it to the next level.
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Senthil J Prakash says
Nice article and great website. I would say the most important trait should be continuous learning as an Engineer.
Thanks for reading. Btw, don’t limit yourself to only learning engineering skills. As you can see from some of the books I recommend, https://www.theengineeringmentor.com/book-recommendations/, I make sure to focus on building some of my other skills as well.