Civil engineers (and really any type of engineer!) do some really neat stuff. I remember one of our friends’ kids always won the awards for having the best Science Fair projects. There was one in particular that I got a great laugh about. It was called “Can You Trust the Truss?” You have to admit, that is a very clever title. And, as you suspect, it was all about whether the truss design was robust enough to support the roof.
In my work with the entrepreneurial community, as well as mature businesses, I try to plant the seed about “are you doing enough?” and “what is your legacy?” Short of asking civil engineers to provide me with answer to the question: “What is the meaning of life?”, I think they get the point.
There’s a lot of ways we can teach our young people about “what we do” in a way that makes sense to them.
Yes, we hear about the STEM program and how we need to nurture greater interest and participation in math and science programs in our K-12 programs. The thing is, everything has some relational aspect to engineering, if we don’t ram that point home in every professional and personal discussion we have.
How do you engage young people in your trade? Whether it’s white collar or blue collar, there’s a lot to be learned on both sides of the table by participating in programs that are hands on. Next week, I’ll be leading a seminar in how to sell your technology and ideas to investors. I get to work with university student entrepreneurs. No matter how well I have my seminar planned, I’m on my toes at all times.
I think that’s what our profession should be about.
Yes, we all have the techniques and methodologies and formulae down pat by now. At least I hope we do. That’s where the artistry comes in; that’s where we can assume risk. Often the risk is not necessarily in the design. It’s in the communication; those pesky soft skills that keep creeping into every business discussion. That’s what keeps us on our toes.
Truth be told, I learn from working with clients and students. I learn as much if not more than I give. That, to me, is the beauty of knowing your trade very, very well and being open to the possibility that someone may ask you a question you don’t know the answer to. That question is what leads to personal and professional growth.
Someone recently asked me what I “do.” I told them I travel in the land where engineering and sales meet. They told me it sounded scary. Well, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable place to dwell. But it’s where I learn.
Perhaps you should think about putting yourself in the place where you can learn the most by exchanging ideas. It may not necessarily be where you work. It may be in outreach to Habitat for Humanity® or Engineers Without Borders® or a STEM program. Perhaps you can mentor an entrepreneur.
The technical side of the table is where we keep learning. Because we are constantly presented with the issues that perplex and beg to be solved.
Put yourself there, beyond where you are comfortable. Bring out the best in yourself, which perhaps is yet to be.
This post first appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Civil Engineering Central blog. The article is again presented by the author because it’s applicable to all business communities. BNTH