×
INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!
  • Students Click Here

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer
26

Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

(OP)
I was thinking recently about the engineers that I know that have been pretty successful. I think they share some common traits, and there's a few things that separate them from the less successful engineers.

I wrote this blog article about what I've noticed. I'm curious what you all think. What have you noticed that's been key to an engineer's success?

https://www.xceed-eng.com/5-tips-successful-engine...

Jim Breunig P.E.
XCEED Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
FEA Consultants

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Quote:

Treat requirements as challenges

Challenge all requirements! In some industries, requirements are copied-and-pasted without careful consideration. That, or they're vaguely-phrased wishes.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

(OP)
TheTick - I like that, that's a very good point.

I've seen, and participated in some pretty creative solutions to customer requirements. That's more what I was going for, but I think your point is a great one. You need to meet the need, which is not necessarily what they're explicitly asking for.

Jim Breunig P.E.
XCEED Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
FEA Consultants

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Become fully competent in your field of endeavor and then do what's necessary to make yourself invaluable to your employer. It worked for nearly 50 years for me.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

3
My key was talking to people. People in different disciplines often have mainstream (in their field) solutions to problems that your field has considered unsolvable. The rest of that key is "listening is more than waiting for your turn to talk".

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

2
Develop excellence in oral, written, and graphical communication! Engineering isn't all technical.

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

5. You are not perfect. Accept it, Fix it, Get Better, Move On!

I'd also add, "Don't get angry." Even though it's natural to get upset at being wrong, don't attack the person who identified your mistake.

During my 25 years as an regulatory engineer, I've had others get angry when their work was questioned (e.g., engineering calculations provided without any base formulae, units, assumptions, etc.). Sometimes the engineer didn't even look at the comments to see if they were justified, it appeared they were upset that anyone would question their work because they were a PE.

As a regulator, I sometimes feel like I'm checking other engineer's work, but if I had a question, I'd always check with another engineer I work with to see if they could follow the submitted information. Also, I would always try to be diplomatic with the engineer submitting the work by stating, that I'm not saying their work was wrong, but I had difficulties following the work provided.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

I never met an engineer that did not want to be successful.
Henry was marginal on that, he just didn't want to be fired.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

(OP)
These are all great thoughts and comments. I think I may write an update with some of these. It's great having some other viewpoints in here.

Monkeydog - I also think everyone has a desire at some level to be successful. Who wouldn't want that? I think it's the few that have something different about them that can execute and become successful.

zelgar - I agree! So many engineers have pride of authorship that they get a little peeved when someone points something out. It's like you're calling their kid ugly.

xnuke - So true. Why is it that so many engineers suffer with written and oral proficiency? Must be a right brain/left brain thing.

JohnRBaker- Sage wisdom. The true top of the pack that I've seen have carved out their own specialties, making them known, and indispensable. I like it.

zdas04 - I like that idea. It's actually one of the reasons this forum is so powerful.

This is great folks! I'll be writing an update later, and I'll include some of these words of wisdom for sure!

Jim Breunig P.E.
XCEED Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
FEA Consultants

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Quote (xnuke)

Develop excellence in oral, written, and graphical communication! Engineering isn't all technical.

At my recent job interview, I was repeatedly praised for my being "very articulate" yet it a backhanded way as if my ability in public speaking undermined my technical capabilities. It's an exciting job though, so I hope i get it!

I don't count myself as successful...yet, but I will say that the trait I've seen among successful engineers is being engaging and approachable. In the plant/manufacturing environment people will go to those they trust and get along with before they go to the "right" person, so if you become the go to person the opportunities to learn new things go way up as you work to solve many problems. It also makes deviation investigation easier when people will actually talk to you tongue



RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

My last in-person interview (R&D/field services group) went the rounds with members of about three different departments. They requested up front that I bring in a PowerPoint presentation of my choosing to discuss in front of various staff members.

After offering me the position, they implied this was SOP for any department head or managerial role for which they were hiring. They wanted to make darn sure that you wouldn't ice up when speaking in front of a client, and that you knew how to adjust your demeanor and level of "tech talk" for a given audience. The longer I've been employed, the longer this has been a critical component of my profession.

To that, I think xnuke hit the nail on the head.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Probably depends on the tone of your organization. Going out drinking with your manager or supervisor might be more important than most of what you do. Others, being a super technical expert is held in highest regard. Other still, might just reward loyalty or years of service with the company. There is always a market for competent engineers but to make head ways inside of an organization in my opinion really depends on what they value.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

7
A few tips from 40 years out:
1) Above and beyond the requirements of management, seek out the feelings and desires of those that will have to build and use your designs. Give them as much of what they ask for as you can. If they know you listened to them they will go out of their way to make sure your design is a success. The opposite is equally true - if they don't want it to work, it really does not matter how good it is. It won't work. Period.
2) Learn to adopt the habit of always asking yourself a very simple question: "How can this go wrong?" You'll be surprised how often you will get "that feeling" that something more is needed just to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks or that things are done they way you want. How many times have I had a conversation where I left thinking this really isn't going to happen the way I want. "THAT" feeling is right 99% of the time! How can this drawing or this paragraph be misinterpreted? How can this common practice now lead to trouble or confusion later? "How can this go wrong?"
3) Be proud of your personal work product, which usually is in the form of drawings. Take the extra effort to make sure they are clear, clean, neat, thorough, as simple as possible, and have a good visual impression. First impressions are formed in the first ten seconds of seeing a drawing, and they're permanent. If the viewer's first impression of a drawing is that its author is a professional and knows what he's doing, they will go to the trouble to find what they need. On the other hand if their first impression is that the drawing is sloppy or overly complicated, it won't matter if it is technically correct.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

> Be stingy with criticism/blame and generous with praise/credit -- while not a direct impact on success, others will tend to support people that treat them fairly and respectfully

> You are not omniscient, so listen to seemingly "stupid" ideas; at least some of them are not really that stupid, and some of those might save your bacon -- BTDT

> Be proud, but not arrogant, of your work; no matter how good you are, you'll still make mistakes -- taking criticism yourself is hard, but so is character building

> Fess up to your mistakes early -- people respect your honesty, and will be more willing to accept your work, knowing that you won't leave stinking turds under the carpets; this also keeps other people from finding your mistakes and crowing about them

> Be honest with the customer and help them overcome their own errors as a team player -- customers appreciate people who don't throw them under the bus

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

'Share Your Thoughts' at the end of the article should be #6 on the list.
Even in areas outside one's experience, express your thoughts and ideas.

My main specialties are electronics and programming but on numerous occasions I have suggested ideas to Mechanical Engineers on fixturing. Sometime they agree and follow up with my approach, sometimes not. We should act as a team and freely share our thoughts.

-AK2DM

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"It's the questions that drive us"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

3
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS check your work. Whether its a two line email or a set of 100 drawings, you will always find things that are not correct or could be improved when you take a second look. The quality of your work is a reflection on you.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

2
@MotorCity My boss has a similar rule. He says to print whatever it is you're working on or just finished working on, and highlight every item/sentence. Green means you understand and agree, yellow means you think it's right but you have questions about it, and red means you don't think it's right or have no idea what it means. It allows you to revise things easily and also ask pointed questions during the review process.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Cool heads and good communicators are vital skills in engineering (and any other profession). More projects die from poor communication and decision-making than by actual bad engineering.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Consider hiding the "Reply All" button in your e-mail client of choice.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Perhaps, but judicious use of the 'BCC: recipient' can help in many situations.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

3
Use 'Save as Draft' when sending emails with potential for controversy or offence. Read them back to yourself half an hour later, then send.

I could also use this feature for my tongue from time to time. winky smile

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Quote:

Say Yes to New Projects

But also learn when and how to say "No" to projects that don't really add value. Early on in my career I took on any project that was offered to me, much to my own detriment as I wasn't able to focus on what really mattered (both at work and with my family). Over time I learned how to be more discerning about what was being asked, and how to (diplomatically) say No to projects that were not worth the time or trouble.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Speaking of saving your emails, a good "Pearl Harbor" file can be very useful...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

I would suggest never using the Bcc... in emails. That was the policy at PPG Industries and I've found it to be an excellent policy. If you are not willing to be open and honest with all people, you have character problems. Not using the Bcc... forces you to think about what you are about to write and the circumstances surrounding it. I've seen Bcc... usage backfire on people, who thought it was the right thing to do. People can get caught up in their own drama using it and get caught up in thinking they're smart for using it. I don't even use it for personal emails. If you get caught using it, what does that say about you? How do you want to be regarding others versus how do you want them to think you are? Edit to insert Cicero: esse quam videri, (to be, rather than to seem to be). One is genuine while the other, possibly, deceptive. But, I'm a duck, so I've been told. smile

I would also suggest to take responsibility for your work and that of your team, if you have one. I've been in situations where taking responsibility for things that were obviously not mine helped stop complaining and started a good discussion on problem solving. Too few people today are willing to take responsibility even for their own actions let alone someone else's. Sometimes things don't work out the way we would all like. Being honest about those times is the best way to be and allows you to move on permanently, quickly. We have an obvious example of how poorly blame shifting and dishonesty works on the world stage now.

Don't establish a punitive environment because that invites negative trouble and instills fear, back biting, gossip, etc.

Establish a professional environment that encourages young engineers to take calculated risks and learn.

Good manners go a long way just like being polite does.

Treat people with respect and dignity by acknowledging their existence and humanity.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

I'll disagree, Pam... Bcc should be an absolute REQUIREMENT for anyone sending bulk emails. The number of "Remove me from this email list!" chains that ran for hours is insane, bringing poorly-designed email servers to their knees.

There is a proper time and place for Bcc. I also suggest Bcc with my own email address. It's often easier to sort incoming emails than it is outgoing, so if I Bcc myself, it ends up in the Inbox, not just Sending.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

I don't see that bcc, in of itself, is bad. As always, it's usually what you write that is the bad thing, not who you sent the email to.

In some cases, I bcc to internal recipients for external emails where the external person doesn't really need to know who else might be on the thread.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

IMHO, Keep you motivated and enthusiastic always, that is the motor for the success...

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

I wasn't thinking of bulk emails and Bcc.... The bulk of my experience has been in manufacturing plants and that's usually my frame of reference. Sorry for the confusion.

Differences abound but I still think, in non-bulk email, it is a good policy to let everyone know what is being written and by whom. It is unnerving to me to be in the Bcc... field because I would prefer the parties addressed in the email know I am in the communication chain, whether I belong there or not. It is rude, in my opinion, to communicate with a specific party and not let them know someone is lurking in the email chain. I've had that experience and was startled and felt betrayed, when I learned someone was in the Bcc... field. I had not written anything inappropriate but I thought the communication was private. That experience made me wary of any communication with that person.

To me, it's like repeating something in a private conversation that you know is private and the teller doesn't intend for you to spread but you do anyway. I was the brunt end of a situation like that. One engineer was leaving for another job and told his inner circle of men prior to telling management. The department gossip was one of those men. The department gossip told me behind my closed office door. Departing engineer saw this through the opera window on my office door and made an assumption, a correct assumption. So, when word got back to the departing engineer, from people outside of his inner circle, that he was departing, he assumed it was me spreading the word and lashed out at me to no end and did so in email. Needless to say, he did not like my response, which was factual and concise. I understood the sensitivity of the gossip's information and kept my mouth shut. Compromising someone gets you a bad reputation.

The departing engineer felt betrayed and was justified in his feeling because he had been betrayed and by at least two men in whom he confided. Gossip told me not to repeat the information, which was ironic to me. So he understood what he was doing was wrong and did it anyway. He had no compunction betraying the confidence of a man who considered him reputable, trustworthy, a colleague, and probably a friend.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Wanna know how to make a small fortune as an engineer?

Start with a large fortune.

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Again, that's because the content of the information was sensitive; as I stated earlier, it is indeed the content of such transmittals, however they are actually propagated that are the culprits. In your specific example, this guy didn't lash out at his gossip, even though he saw the gossip talking to you, and obviously, he must have known the gossip was a gossip even before the incident. Clearly, bad judgement and bad acting for all those around you. Ultimately, it does boil down to judgement, and if one cannot adequately judge the sensitivity and criticality of the content of emails, then one should indeed refrain from using BCC, Reply All, and Forward. But, these are all simply the petards by which one hoists oneself, as one could avoid BCC by simply using Forward, and if one's judgement is faulty, the end result will be the same. Likewise, Reply All, is another way to hang yourself, particularly if you do silly things like badmouth customers or vendors and include them in the Reply All.

As a certain knight once said, "But, choose wisely."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Invest in Amazon...

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer

Be a great problem solver and it helps a lot to be able to articulate your talking points.

God made the integers, all else is the work of man. - Leopold Kroenecker

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Resources

White Paper - PLM and ERP: Their Respective Roles in Modern Manufacturing
Leading manufacturers are aligning their people, processes, and tools from initial product ideation through to field service. They do so by providing access to product and enterprise data in the context of each person’s domain expertise. However, it can be complicated and costly to unite engineering with the factory and supply chain. Download Now

Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close