Engineering is the most common undergraduate degree of Fortune 500 CEOs. It has been for some time. Approximately 1/3 of CEOs majored in engineering and only 11% from business school. The Harvard Business Review has a list of the 100 best-performing CEOs on the planet. So why do engineers make great CEO’s?
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos topped the list. Bezos earned a Bachelor of Science in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is an engineer. General Motors’ Mary Barra as well. Carlos Ghosn of Nissan and Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing also have engineering backgrounds. Ursula Burns, the CEO and chairman of Xerox Corporation started her career as an engineering intern. In fact, 24 of the top 100 CEO’s have a Bachelors or Master’s degree in engineering.
Engineers are a little bit different. Sometimes introverted and always good at math they build and fix things; complex things. They have a unique way of looking at the world. The qualities below make engineers exceptionally good at leading companies.
Attention to Detail
Engineers pay attention to details. It’s in their blood. They spend their career understanding the unique details of a problem, while also understanding how it relates to the big picture. Imagine building the international space station. The tiniest mistake could mean complete failure and the loss of lives and billions of dollars. CEO’s demand the same perfection. They think about the end user and consider the tiniest mistake and its consequences.
Engineers possess strong skills in problem solving, math, risk management and analysis. Whether it’s a problem with a machine, bridge or a business engineers have the training to fix the problem. They produce successful outcomes by determining cost versus performance. These principles are essential for successful leadership. The high rate of engineers that make it up the corporate ladder suggest that the skills and training that engineers practice is great for business, too.
Engineers Know Other Engineers
Engineers must work in teams to be successful. These teams perform huge tasks and oversee millions if not billions of dollars. Without the right people on the team the entire project could be a total failure. What’s that mean? Engineers are outstanding at picking talent; top talent. So, do great CEO’s. They build a company that can attract and sustain top talent. They work with people who “get” it.
To build a great company you must know where technology is going. You don’t have to be an engineer to do this, but most financial CEOs don’t have the experience. To be a great company you need to have a state of the art product. Who makes those? Engineers.
Engineers love to do things better, faster and cheaper. They love testing out a new widget to find whether it can improve production or productivity. They are obsessed with optimization and efficiency.
Engineers have a hard time blaming others. The quality of an engineer’s work equates directly with his or her reputation. Engineers must leave digital trails as proof of their work. There’s no getting around the fact that if a problem arises, you can find who caused the issue.
Engineers are likely to be in a position that is critical to a large organization. These key roles provide excellent experience for a future management position.
Engineers are constantly up against a wall. They’re constantly told it won’t work, the market is too small, or an idea has been tried before. To succeed within this environment, engineers by nature must be stubborn and enjoy solving problems; difficult problems. Similarly, getting a company off the ground and making headway takes an unbelievable amount of perseverance.
When a problem arises, they must be comfortable with dozens of opinions coming at them at once. Everyone telling you that you have done poorly and how to fix the issue. That can be difficult.
Why do engineers make great Leaders? Is it because engineers are CEO material. They have the stuff that CEO’s are made of.
“When I think of an engineer, I think of someone who looks at the world as a dynamic, ever-changing force that requires innovative professionals to make the most out of what they are given. The ESRG LinkedIn group proves an excellent example of up and coming young engineers taking their careers into their own hands, learning from each other, the latest industry trends, and best practices. As a Corporate Communications Specialist at Aubrey Silvey Enterprises Inc., I am impressed with the tenacity of these group members and their willingness to use technology to further their engineering goals.” – Kelsey Asher Aubrey Silvey Enterprises Inc.
“Thomas and his Engineers, Students, and Recent Graduate (ESRG) community has been a big help and inspiration to me personally. He supports thousands of young engineers with advice, and when someone needs help, I’m always happy to see the level of engagement in the group. It takes years for engineers to recognize the skills required to have a successful career. It’s group’s like ESRGs and leaders like Thomas who help us have a better career!” Jake Voorhees – The 1% Engineer Society
Here we are, a couple weeks away from one of the biggest tests of your life, the Principles and Practices of Engineering Examination (P.E. Exam). Is it your 2nd, 3rd or greater attempt? That is okay. Why, because life happens. I’ll highlight some key points from my story as encouragement and lessons learned for you as you prepare. On a quick note, a personal goal throughout my career has been to be a licensed engineer, for the ability to build trust with others and show technical capability to solve their technical challenges.
In college I studied mechanical engineering, then focused on energy systems engineering during my master’s degree and began working in an electric utility doing electrical power engineering. More recently I have been working with SCADA and cyber
I studied alone a couple of times a week for a couple of months leading up to the exam. I used the NCEES practice exam, referred to my engineering textbooks from college, tabbed what I referenced. Preparation was set for my first and only attempt. However, by the end of the exam I did not think I answered more than half the questions intelligently. It is a good thing I did not pass the exam that first attempt. I was (a little) arrogant, and I had not put in the necessary time and effort to plan and practice thoroughly, especially given my experience background compared to the exam I choose to take.
Now, I thought I was under a time crunch with my state board (Pennsylvania). I thought if I did not take the exam within 1 year from my original application request to sit for the PE exam, then I would need to reapply if I took the exam more than 1 year after. This later turned out to be a wrong understanding. If you do not pass your first attempt, check with your state board about how long an application is valid for license applicants. I signed up for the next exam NCEES PE exam, only 6 months later. However, nothing changed with my situation, I didn’t prepare well, I didn’t seek out support in studying and preparing.
What changed for me the 2nd time because I was not diligent in preparing, was that the Mechanical exams changed from having a general breadth a.m. session and specific depth p.m. session to being fully depth focused. Over half the books I brought were not useful, and again I floundered. Additionally, I had the birth of my second child only 1 month prior to sitting my 2nd attempt. I do not advise anyone in their right mind to attempt to sit for the exam one month following a major life change.
It took almost 2 years to work up to taking the exam a 3rd time. I learned that I needed to use a preparation course. I chose an online self-paced program given my family situation. Preparation started almost 6 months in advance, and diligently for at least the 4 months prior. I knew there were no changes to the exam format. I knew my state board requirements for application (which is when I found I did not need to reapply with all the forms and references, I only needed to provide proof of passing the exam). With my resources consolidated to those I knew and practiced with, created a couple of reference binders with material I copied and printed from other resources. And while I still studied alone, the online course tracking mechanism and the accountability of my wife and friends kept me working hard.
Passing the Exam
· Know your strengths, what you know and work with often enough, and identify areas you do not work with consistently
· Find a clear and methodical way to study for the exam and use it
· Practice, Practice, and more practice of problems
· Give yourself time, think months
· Life happens, show your adaptability, adapt your study, adapt your timeline and more importantly your own expectations
· Stay humble
· And if you don’t succeed, get up and try again, and again.
We need engineers who know how to persist to overcome the challenges because the problems we tackle are not easy. That is just one of many reasons why it is rewarding to be an engineer. And after my 3rd attempt, I am proud to have the mark of a P.E.
Author – Nathaniel Nichols, P.E.
Senior Engineer at PECO, an Exelon Company
His background includes electrical capacity planning, project engineering of electric distribution, electric distribution reliability engineering, customer service, and a master’s degree in energy systems engineering.
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Speaking with classmates and other young engineers that are looking to land an engineering job has brought up a very common question: “How did you find your first job?” It’s a tough question to answer because it isn’t just one thing. After months of filling out applications and hearing nothing back, I decided to take a step back and evaluate what I was doing wrong. Through this reevaluation, I was able to reinvent myself in several ways to give myself an edge over other applicants.
1. Cast a Wide Net
After graduating, almost every engineer will have their dream job laid out and want to immediately focus on that. While a dream job is a great long-term goal to have, it should not be your only goal. In the short term, your focus should be on securing an entry-level position.
With this in mind, don’t just apply for one specific title or company. Use job search websites or LinkedIn’s jobs page to find companies and positions that match your skill set. Cast a wide net and apply for any job you satisfy the requirements for and think would be interesting. You very well may find yourself happily employed in an industry you previously didn’t even know existed.
2. Build Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to job hunting and a strong profile is a cornerstone. LinkedIn does a great job of suggesting where to add information to make your profile stronger. Adding a summary, detailed descriptions of your work experience, an appropriate headshot, and all your relevant skills are all crucial elements to a standout profile.
There is also an option in LinkedIn to open yourself up to contact from recruiters and career coaches. Doing this, along with actively posting and sharing articles, lead to me receiving around 1-2 calls a week from recruiters. LinkedIn is also an incredibly useful networking tool. Follow relevant hashtags and request to join groups to meet, connect, and network with other, like-minded engineers.
3. Cater Your Resume and Cover Letter for Each Application
An extremely quick and easy way to make your application stand out against the rest is to customize it. So many people will use one extremely generic and broad resume and cover letter for every application. Unfortunately, nowadays, this won’t even get you through the first phase of the application process. Especially with large companies that receive hundreds of applications for a single position, a specifically designed computer software will run through each application and scan for keywords. If an inadequate number of keywords are found, your application is discarded without ever even coming in contact with a human.
The thing is, these keywords aren’t a secret. They are all neatly and conveniently listed in the job posting as recommended skills or requirements. Personalize each resume and cover letter you submit to highlight the skills you have in common with the job listing.
4. Use Your College as a Resource
Most students graduate and leave behind one of the most valuable job searching resources they have without even knowing it. Career services is a resource with a plethora of information to offer completely free of charge! You can schedule a meeting to go through and improve your resume or schedule a mock interview to practice answering questions. However, there is so much more information available to you if you know where to look. In most cases, career services will keep records of companies that have hired students in the past. Usually, they’ll also keep the contact information of recruiters or representatives that have built a working relationship with the school.
Use this resource to get in contact with people in the engineering discipline(s) you are interested in. Even if it does not immediately lead to an opportunity, it is extremely important to network and make connections to land an engineering job.
5. Attend Career Fairs
Career fairs are a great way to connect and network with a wide range of employers in an extremely time efficient manner. In just a few hours you will have had the opportunity to lay the groundwork of a solid professional relationship with easily over a dozen potential employers. In most cases, colleges and universities host annual career fairs with local employers that have hired students in the past. If your campus does not host a career fair, suggest trying to start one to your career services office. However, a lot of major cities will host public career fairs with hundreds of employers at a time.
6. Attend Networking Events
Joining engineering organizations like ASME, IEEE, or ASCE have benefits ranging way further than a membership card and a free t-shirt. Joining one of these organizations connects you nationwide with professional engineers in every conceivable industry. All of these organizations host networking events nationwide. Look for one in your area and try to make some new professional connections. You never know where you will find new potential opportunities.
7. Stay Organized
After applying for a few dozen positions, it is extremely easy to lose track of where you have applied and when. Create an excel document to keep track of each application and key information about each listing. Be sure to include the position title, job reference number, the date you applied on, and any contact info you can find on the job poster to follow up. Not only does this keep all of the information in one place, but it allows you to stay organized while applying for new positions.
8. Don’t Be Discouraged By Rejection
Unfortunately, the reality of searching for an entry-level position, especially in engineering, is that rejection is extremely common. In some cases, you may simply never hear back at all. Don’t let this rejection discourage you from continuing to apply to positions. In my own experience, as time went on without any successful leads, I saw the number of applications I was completing sharply decline. To counter this I set a recurring alarm to set aside time to look for new postings and apply for 3-5 new positions each week. Being able to stay focused motivated is key to achieving your goal of securing an entry level engineering job.
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Retention rates among students studying engineering are among the lowest of all majors. Around 60% of students that study engineering will either drop-out or change majors and 40% of those students will do so in their first year. So why is it that so many students drop-out?
1. Engineering is Difficult
Engineering majors are incredibly difficult because they have a rigorous course load and are very time-consuming. Often students underestimate the amount of work outside the classroom. Moreover, they are not ready for physics, advanced math courses, or discipline specifics like thermodynamics, machine design or fluid mechanics.
One thing I remember from freshman year, for each hour spent in class learning, it was expected to spend two hours out of class reviewing, reading, and studying. That is a very daunting expectation and a wakeup call to many. You need to be ready and willing to dedicate a significant portion of your “free time” to studying and coursework if your goal is to succeed.
2. Poor Work Ethic
As a high school student, classes like physics, chemistry, and mathematics were basic, tests were straight forward, and teachers were lenient. As a result, you could pass easily by studying the night before or even not at all. That does not work in college, especially in engineering. In fact, it’s a recipe for failure. You must learn to adjust and adapt your studying techniques and most importantly, focus on priorities. Last minute studying will leave you way behind in class. Once you fall behind, it is incredibly hard to catch back up. Keep an up to date calendar or a list of all due assignments to stay organized and allow for better time management.
3. Inability to Deal with Failure
Failure is unavoidable and it’s a part of life. It happens and you need to deal with it. Many high school graduates lack any real experience with failure. An overwhelming percentage of engineering drop-outs do so because they either lack academic success or can no longer see themselves being successful. Their fear of failure is enough to convince them to give up. Failure shouldn’t be feared. It should be a learning tool. Recognize a problem and learn from it. It’s key to excelling in an engineering program and becoming an engineer.
4. Lacking the Engineering Mindset
A degree in engineering is extremely enticing. The demand, prestige, and the salary are attractive to both students and parents. However, many students are drawn to engineering disciplines without taking their interests into account. Students need to ask themselves questions like “Why do you want to be an engineer?” and “Who do you want to help?” Do not just focus on the title or salary. Engineering is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. If you do not have the desire or an interest in the subjects, you are not going to have the motivation or drive to succeed.
5. Stress Overload
The course load of an engineering student can be overwhelming and it causes students to burn out. One common complaint among engineering students, as well as the leading causes of dropouts, is feeling overworked and stressed. It can be managed by keeping your life balanced between school, work, and social life. Especially in engineering, free time is limited. Use it effectively and be sure to set aside time for yourself and enjoy everything that college has to offer you. Above all, set your priorities and stick to them.
Author: Jack Horbacewicz – linkedin.com/in/johnhorbacewicz
Want to learn more about landing an engineering job?
Check out the Engineer Your Career book: a complete guide to landing a job in engineering HERE:
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Mental strength plays a key role in any engineers’ career. Particularly engineers in leadership positions or those looking to gain a leadership role. Often engineers spend time contemplating factoids or solving particular problems and miss how their mental strengths or weaknesses affect their careers. Mental strengths are key contributors to their working relationships and career advancement.
How do you become a mentally strong engineer?
Accept and embrace change.
Engineers that are mentally strong, embrace and welcome change. They fear becoming complacent and stagnant. Without change, a business is doomed to fail. Mentally strong engineers know this and embrace changes. Smart changes.
Nourish a positive attitude.
The mentally strong don’t complain about difficult problems, design circumstances, customer changes, lost production, or even other people. They recognize that these factors are generally beyond their control. They do, however, recognize what they can control and make the best out of a bad situation with a positive attitude.
Please others, the right way.
Have you met anyone that tries way too hard to please others? Or worse yet, displease others to reinforce their strengths? It’s awful. An engineer that is mentally strong strives to be fair and kind to others but is able to speak up when necessary. They navigate difficult situations with grace and poise.
Have you ever seen a strong engineer feeling sorry for themselves and dwelling on ways they have been mistreated? Strong engineers take responsibility for their actions and understand that life just isn’t fair. They emerge from difficult circumstances and treat them as learning experiences.
Take calculated risks.
A mentally strong engineer is willing to take calculated risks. Not foolish ones. With their experience, data, some confidence and a great team they weigh the risks and benefits and assess the worst case scenarios prior to taking actions.
Look toward the future.
There’s strength in acknowledging the past and learning from your experiences, but a mentally strong engineer avoids wasting time and energy on their mistakes. They avoid the “glory days” and spend their mental energy creating a better future.
Learn from mistakes.
Do you know the definition of insanity? Repeating actions and expecting different results, right? A mentally strong engineer accepts responsibility for their mistakes and uses them as a learning experience. Keen self-awareness is perhaps the greatest strength of successful engineers and executives.
Celebrate others’ success.
It takes true strength to feel genuine joy and excitement for other engineers’ successes and mentally strong engineers have this ability. They’re not jealous or offended when others succeed. They may, however, take close notes on what they did well. They are willing to work for their own success, without shortcuts.
Refuse to give up.
Failures are learning experiences. Even the greatest of engineers admit their failures. They are also willing to admit them. Mentally strong engineers are willing to fail again and again as long as they are learning from every failure. As a result, they use these hard lessons to help themselves and others.
Mentally strong engineers know that the world does not owe them a salary, benefits, or even a comfortable life. They plan to succeed on their merits and excel at every stage along the way. They accept their blessing and treat their situation and those around them with gratitude.
Whether it’s a design, a license, an educational goal or even a promotion mentally strong engineers are in it for the long haul. They are not fooled by immediate results. They apply their time and energy in small doses and celebrate each achievement. Certainly, genuine change takes time.
How do you practice mental strength?
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There are a ton of myths about engineers. Often, not-so-flattering. Try a search result for “engineers are” and see what comes up:
- Dull people
Thanks, search engines! Young engineers are often stereotyped. We are different. It’s important to understand engineers. After all, you are one.
MYTH: Engineers do not communicate well.
The myth is true for some, but if you want to be at the top of the ladder, you need to have excellent communication skills. More and more engineers are becoming leaders. Communication is the key.
MYTH: Engineers mostly do calculations.
A day doesn’t go by that I don’t use my calculator, but I rarely do high-level calculations. This is not true for all engineers. Your specific role dictates how many calculations you complete in an average week. Remember, you may be calculating the same thing over and over based on different parameters. Why not use a spreadsheet? Most of my time is spent problem-solving, reviewing designs, checking budgets, attending meetings, and completing paperwork.
MYTH: Engineers can fix anything.
Most engineers can tell you principles of how your toaster or microwave work, but engineers are not your local repairperson. They are designers using the principles of science to solve problems.
MYTH: Engineers love math.
Engineers need to be good at math, but it does not mean they like it. Math is a critical part of engineering—but certainly not all of it.
MYTH: Engineers work is boring.
Boring depends on where you are working and what you are doing. Sure, some parts can be boring, but it depends on what excites you. If you are using creativity to solve complex problems, you aren’t likely to be bored.
MYTH: Engineers work is tough.
Engineering is relentless. Day-to-day, project-to-project—the tasks, duties, challenges, and parameters change. Engineering is a constant problem-solving process. Many problems happen at the same time.
What myths have you heard?
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A master’s degree is awarded when you have completed a graduate-level program. Before you can enroll in a master’s degree, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. Most master’s degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete. However, there are accelerated programs that can be completed in a shorter time.
There are many different reasons to consider earning a master’s degree.
- Advance your employment
- Earn more money
- Work in research
- Obtain a PhD
Will a master’s degree get what you are looking for? If you increase your education will you reach your career goals?
Certainly, anyone with advanced education has added potential to achieve more. However, some tend to get their master’s degree for the wrong reasons. Here are some examples of the wrong reasons:
You have obtained a bachelor’s degree and cannot find an entry-level job.
This example is too common. Recent graduates feel the burden of the job search and decide to invest more time and money into their education. The truth is… Once you complete your master’s degree you are competing for the same job as others with a bachelor’s degree and likely paid the same. Why? You don’t have any experience. Try addressing your career goals. What type of engineer do you want to be? What are your passions? Do your goals require a master’s degree?
You are stuck in your current position and want to move up the ladder.
Essentially, there is nothing wrong with this approach unless you fail to ask your employer. Many professionals obtain a master’s degree without determining if it will help your advancement. Ask your company for assistance. They will appreciate your effort to continue your education—and may pay for you to do so. It’s well worth the conversation, and often companies have allocated money for their employees’ continued education. If not, take a deep look into your career goals. Is it necessary to have a master’s degree to obtain those goals?
You want a different job.
When I speak to professional that are dissatisfied with their current role they often ask, “Should I get a master’s degree?” My response, “Will a master’s degree allows you to obtain your career goals?” The question often befuddles engineers. Why? They haven’t addressed the problems with their current situation, an alternative solution, or even spent time to find their goals.
How do you decide?
Prior to enrolling in a master’s degree program ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it align with my career goals?
- Does it align with an opportunity?
- Is it a personal goal?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, go for it, but be cautious. An advanced degree will help you obtain the knowledge and skills for career advancement, but it’s up to you how you use them.
How to Choose a Program
Finding a master’s degree program can be difficult. There are thousands of schools offering even more specialized programs. Consider the following when choosing a program:
- Cost: How much is tuition? How do they compare? Can you get financial aid?
- Location: Online or in class? Close to home?
- Selectivity: How many students are accepted each year? Do you meet the admissions requirements? Do you need to take the Graduate Record Examinations?
- Accreditation: Is the school accredited. If so, by whom?
- Specialties: Does the school specialize in a field you work or want to work in?
- Career services: Does the school help you get an internship while you are in school or a job after graduation.
- Curriculum: What will you learn? How will it prepare you to achieve your goals?
- Faculty reputation: Who teaches the classes? Are they leaders in their field?
- Program reputation: What do employers and recruiters think of this school?
Tell me your thoughts below.
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A technical recruiter is a valuable asset, even if you’re not looking for a new position right now. Technical recruiters are focused on specialized industries—like IT or engineering—and are hired to match the brightest talents in technology fields with the companies that need their expertise. How do I find an work with technical recruiters?
The employer pays a technical recruiter once they hire a candidate. Recruiters don’t work for job seekers. Recruiters are generally delighted to work with young professionals, whether those professionals have qualifications that meet their current assignment or not.
Search LinkedIn for technical recruiters who typically place professionals with your skill set. Most will advertise themselves as “Technical Recruiter.” Some will be specific, focusing on engineering, programming, or another technical field. Most will gladly accept an invitation to connect.
Make it easy for technical recruiters to find you by making yourself visible:
- Create a professional presence on LinkedIn.
- Be active in trade and professional associations.
- Be active in your community.
- Consider writing articles, or starting a website or blog.
Once you have connected with a recruiter, tailor your communications to each recruiter’s preferences. An exceptional résumé will always put you in good standing with recruiters, but check with the recruiting firms you contact for their résumé preferences. Ask how they prefer to be contacted (phone? email?) and stay in touch periodically…but don’t be a pest. An initial follow-up call after you submit your materials, and then again two weeks later is a good rule of thumb. If you update your résumé, resubmit it, or contact the recruiter to relay the new information.
Ask key questions as you decide whether or not you want to work with them. Ask about their experience with your industry. Inquire about the recruiter’s process. Then conduct research, including among members of your network, to get a feel for the recruiter’s reputation, and decide whether to proceed with this recruiter. You need someone that will understand your needs and desires.
Below are general tips to use when working with a technical recruiter:
- Once you are in the process of applying for a job with a recruiter, don’t contact the employer directly. Doing so is going over the recruiter’s head.
- Don’t back out of your commitment once you have agreed to be a candidate. Be willing to see the process through.
- Trust the recruiter. They have the experience and wisdom to give you the best advice as you work through the process.
- Discuss your offer. Recruiters have great advice and can help you determine if the offer is fair.
- Thank your recruiter at the end of the process. A simple thank-you goes a long way toward cementing your relationship.
- Be open to contact from the recruiter even after you’ve landed a job. You never know when you might need the recruiter again.
- Serve as a resource to recruiters after you have the job. You may need their help in the future. If you help them, they will return the favor.
- Never work with a recruiter that asks you to pay for their services.
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The official definition of what an engineer does is to apply science and mathematics principles to develop technical solutions. Solutions used to solve complex technical problems. However, the truth about engineering is that we are at our core are “Problem Solvers” and “Fixers”. We learn how to think analytically and approach ANY problem from a logical perspective. We use the most reliable information we have (and validated) to develop a solution. My journey has been interesting and also life fulfilling! You never know where your journey will take you!
My journey has taken me from being a single mom studying Industrial Engineering at eighteen, to being a Nuclear Engineer by twenty-two to deploying modern manufacturing techniques in organizations, and starting my own consulting business when I was thirty-four. As a consultant, I have enjoyed the journey of re-engineering a Community Hospital to improve their competitive position, establishing a Health Plan, working with a plethora of non-profit organizations dealing with children, women, and schools. I also founded a retreat and was the Chief Inspiration Officer and worked to develop a Mechatronics Program at a local community college. All while working with a local Zoo. My current stop in my journey is working with therapeutic horses that develop inspiring leaders as well as teaching Project Management for Engineers at a Major University. You may question “Is this what engineers really do?”.
The truth is that you may guide your career based on your passions. But beware – you can never leave your engineering mind at work. I have found that, just like gears, engineers are always thinking. We typically see an improvement no matter where we are. There are problems everywhere! I have found myself being on the School Board, solving friends and family member problems. We truly are “Problem Solvers”. However, one of the Truths about Engineering is that we think with our heads first and our hearts second. However, most engineers I know have huge hearts and passion for their priorities. The Truth is we will always put problem-solving first. Enjoy your journey!
Written by Patricia Kelly Lee
Often, I hear the question, “Does ____ industry have opportunities right now?” And, while I don’t say it, I want to answer: “Who cares?” Is this the deciding factor on where you will take your career— what’s available now? Sounds like a great way to find a career you may hate. Your career choice is an important decision that will have a significant effect on your life. (Remember that there is little or no relationship between earnings and job satisfaction.) You must target industries for a successful career.
Before you decide to pursue a particular industry within your engineering discipline, ask yourself this question: Can I see myself performing these duties all day, every day? When you choose a specific industry, make sure it’s a good match for your interests, abilities, and purpose. You certainly don’t want to design meat processing facilities if you’re a vegetarian, or fire protection systems if you’re a pyromaniac. Find an industry that matches your interests.
Be sure to complete extensive research about the industry you are considering by reading company websites and asking your contacts in-depth questions.
I have had great luck on LinkedIn finding and asking questions of other engineers about their industries. People love talking about themselves, so be sure to ask.
Once you have found an industry that suits you, it’s time to look at some companies. It’s important to consider not only the reputation, but the size of different companies, the projects they work on, the problems they solve, and the culture.
Identify a few companies you would like to work for and do some research. Find these companies’ career pages and regularly check for openings. Think about what about these companies inspires you to work for them.
Do careful research. How long have they been in business? Try contacting employees of the companies which you are interested in. How do they like what they do? What about past employees? Why did they leave? Has the company hired and let go numerous young people? Is the culture a fit for you?
Identify the job requirements
Once you’ve identified some companies that interest you, it’s time to figure out if you have the qualifications and skills to handle the position. Where do you look? Job descriptions.
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In my conversations with young engineers, one question prevails over the rest: “I’ve filled out hundreds of online applications, and I have only gotten a few responses. How do I land my first engineering job?” It’s too common. Young engineers often do not know how to obtain contacts in the engineering industry. So how do you network for an engineering job?
Networking can be intimidating—and to some, debilitating. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. It is challenging to put yourself out there and be vulnerable in an uncomfortable space. Networking is hoping for the best and generally expecting the worst. Networking, however, is necessary to land and create an excellent career. According to Hubspot:
- 85% of jobs are landed by networking.
- One out of four jobseekers don’t network at all.
- 41% of networkers want to do so more frequently, but don’t have enough time.
- 68% of entry-level professionals find face-to-face networking more valuable than online.
- Only 11% of LinkedIn users have more than 100 people in their network.
The numbers say it all. Eighty five percent of jobs are filled through networking! This has also been true in my career. Every job I have landed has been through my contacts and networking.
It pays to be uncomfortable. You learn from the experiences that frighten you, and over time, networking gets easier. You gain a routine that helps you feel comfortable. It allows you to shine during networking events and limits second-guessing.
Networking, at its core, is relationship building. You send yourself off to make friends just as your parents did years ago. You are creating a mutually beneficial connection. Sounds a lot like selling, right? Many of the skills you need to build and maintain a network are the same ones you use to sell a product or service. So, it’s also an excellent opportunity to work on your sales skills. Here are some tips that have helped me to overcome my networking fears.
Networking events and conferences can be intimidating. Try to start small. Start by networking on LinkedIn. Try to connect with someone new by sending him or her a note. Introduce yourself and tell the person why you’re sending a message…and why you’re worth a response.
Example: Hi, I’m Thomas. I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’m curious how you landed your position at your current company? How you selected a career path?
Make personal business cards, whether you are employed or not. Why? How are you going to easily exchange contact information without them? They are so much fun to make, and cost as little as $10. Include your name, email, phone number, website or social media, and a phrase for people to remember who you are. Better yet, add a professional photo, or they may forget your beautiful face. A picture makes a significant difference when someone is sorting through numerous business cards.
Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to meet local business leaders. Organizations like these are designed to promote business networking. Industry conventions and engineering organizations, clubs and societies are also a great place to meet and greet potential contacts. Every attendee is a potential hiring manager—or at least someone who knows one in your field .
When networking, don’t let the conversation center on you. This is not always easy when you are excited about the discussion. Ask questions to get to know the other person. Starting a dialogue that fosters a relationship is much better than merely presenting yourself. Asking questions makes you more memorable because people love to talk about themselves.
Make it a goal to be open, friendly, and honest to everyone you meet, not only those in your field. Kindness is an attractive quality, and it’s something people will remember about you.
Try to discover the value in each person you meet. Ask questions and listen—really listen. Don’t make the mistake of pulling out your phone. Remember, you are providing value to each other. Push yourself to make some lasting connections. Make the event worth your while.
When you meet someone who is a great mutual connection, go beyond exchanging business cards and determine who is going to reach out and how. Make sure to agree to another interaction. It can be a phone call, email, LinkedIn contact, meeting, or whatever you choose. Make sure to agree to the next step before parting ways to avoid missing an opportunity.
What makes a great engineer? Why did Edison go on after 1,000 failures? Similarly, why did Ford pursue his idea of a motorized car while everyone was satisfied with horse-drawn carriages? What led Leonardo Di Vinci to become the biggest visionary of all time?
Great engineers are responsible for many of the best inventions and technology that makes our existence possible.
Do you have these traits?
Strong Analytics – Analytical skills are required to examine problems and think of ways to improve.
Passion – Passion, drive, and motivation all lead to an attitude about your career that will lead you to success. Want more passion? Find something you enjoy.
Communication Skills – Complex problem-solving requires concise and accurate communications. You need to be able to translate your specialized knowledge into terms everyone can understand.
Attention to Detail – Engineering projects are complex and a small mistake during planning, development, or construction can lead to failure. As a result, a failed project may lose money or worse yet, injure someone.
Creativity – Solving new problems requires creativity for solutions. Try thinking outside the box. It’s critical to solving complex engineering problems.
Logical Thinking – Great engineers can make sense of complex systems. They understand how things work and how problems arise. Hence, they are great at using the principals of science.
Team Player – Engineers rarely work alone. Working with different types of people is an everyday event. Applying team skills to communications helps to simplify and prioritize issues. So, you need character and integrity to allow people to trust and rely on you. This way you can all work together efficiently.
Technical Knowledge – A great engineer has vast amounts of technical knowledge. They use this knowledge and apply it to different circumstances and issues. Great engineers use their past experiences to solve new problems. Be sure to document your findings.
Lifetime Learning – Great engineers stay on top of the latest technology. Changes happen rapidly. The most successful engineers know new research and ideas. They use the latest technology to improve designs and processes. As a result they are at the top of their game. What technologies are you missing?
What do you think? Let me know what it takes to be great!
They spend a tons of time figuring out how to do something the “easiest” way. Smart engineers are lazy. That’s why they automate. When we are lazy, we look to do things in the most efficient way possible, so we don’t have to redesign, and we have time for other things. In a sense, being lazy is being efficient and productive.
Future Skills Outlook 2022
1. Manual dexterity, endurance and precision
2. Memory, verbal, auditory and spatial abilities
3. Management Of financial, material resources
4. Technology installation and maintenance
5. Reading, writing, math and active listening
6. Management Of personnel
7. Quality control and safety awareness
8. Coordination and time management
9. Visual, auditory and speech abilities
10. Technology use, monitoring and control
1. Analytical thinking and innovation
2. Active learning and learning strategies
3. Creativity, originality and initiative
4. Technology design and programming
5. Critical thinking and analysis
6. Complex problem-solving
7. Leadership and social influence
8. Emotional intelligence
9. Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
10. Systems analysis and evaluation
Source: Future of Jobs Report 2018, World Economic Forum
Fake job posts are everywhere. They anger, discourage and disappoint job seekers. As a result, job seekers become discouraged about the job market, their capabilities, and may change their career track.
Why? Because job seekers believe that the lack of responses to online job applications means there are no jobs in their field.
For recent graduates, fake or unfilled job posts can be even more discouraging. They apply to hundreds of online applications, get a couple, if any, responses and take the first job that comes along. Even if they are not interested in the type of work. The beginning of their career is very important. Starting with a job you dislike can lead to difficulties in the future.
So, why would someone create a fake job post and waste the time of all the applicants? A fake job post can be intentional or even unintentional. For instance:
- Employers can use fake job posts to gauge the talent pool
- Employers don’t always fill open jobs
- Recruiters can use your resume to stockpile information
- Employer can leave job posting up long after the job is filled
- Some job posting are ads for recruiting firms
A lack of feedback from an application sucks, but it’s going to happen. Before you invest your time applying online do your best to determine if the job posting is genuine. A little research today can save you a lot of time and frustration. Remember, online applications are fraught with scams, ATS software, fake job posts, and advertisements. So, be careful and don’t get stressed out.
Have you experienced fake job posts?
This podcast is a discussion around everything that affects women in STEM fields and hosts interviews with women in STEM. The purpose of this podcast is to support women in their STEM careers and provide a community for them
In this episode, Elisabeth and Jess discuss “10 qualities that get young professionals hired.” The post they discuss was originally made by Thomas A. Anderson on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-qualities-get-young-professionals-hired-thomas-a-anderson-p-e-/
Your engineering career and professional reputation can take year’s even decades to build. It can be tarnished very easily and difficult to salvage. Below are my best tips to keep you career a fruitful one.
Back Out of a New Job
Once you make the decision to accept a position, stick with it. Keep your word. If you burn that bridge, your employer will chat about you among their industry. Be sure to conduct yourself with the greatest professionalism.
Quit without a notice
When you leave a job without two weeks’ notice, you’re burning the bridge. Always give your employer a heads up. By leaving smoothly, on good terms, you increase your likelihood of a positive reference. What goes around, come around.
Problems Without Solutions
You’re an engineer. Your job is to solve problems. Often those problems are not calculate this or design that; they are how much does this cost and how soon can we get that. If you are an engineer that consistently complains and you dedicate your time to being the “devil’s advocate” your co-workers and even your boss are going to get frustrated. Everyone has different problems to solve. You need to put effort toward solving yours.
Ignoring Emails, Calls, or Meetings
Things happen. We all get busy, but if you are someone who doesn’t respond to emails, ignores calls, or skips meetings when people are counting on you, they will stop counting on you. Be reliable, not a nuisance.
Never say never and keep an open mind. How long will a business last that doesn’t change? How long will you last if you don’t change? “We have always done it this way” mentality will only get you so far. You must embrace new ideas and perspectives to keep from descending into nothingness.
Over-Promise and Under-Deliver
If you can’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Manage your time well and turn in your work on or ahead of time. If you feel overwhelmed or may not be able to complete a task on schedule, speak up. Keep communications open and make sure you and your manager are on the same page.
Don’t play the victim. It gets old fast. It is not anyone else’s fault you missed the mark. Be a problem solver, not the problem. Learn from your mistakes, and take responsibility for your failures.
Honesty is a fundamental characteristic that always has value. When you make a mistake own up to it. Caught in a lie is much worse than admitting you are wrong. Your boss would much rather hear you own up to a mistake than try to cover it up. The cover up always makes a problem worse.
Sending an Angry Email
You are upset and you want to send an angry email to tell off a co-worker who wronged you. You want to let everyone know what happened. In reality, you’re coming off as immature and reckless. No one wants to work with those people. Cool off before you hit the send button.
Also, read: 10 Qualities That Get Young Engineers Hired
If necessary, write out some of the angry thoughts to yourself and revisit them after some time. If you still think they are valid, figure out your next steps from there. Ideally, you will reread them and find a better way to handle the situation.
An engineering coach is proven to work when two factors are present:
You are willing to grow
There is a gap between where you are now and where you want to go.
That is all that is necessary for you and me to solve problems, create a new life, turn your career around, increase sales and profitability, and design and implement a plan of action. or, whatever else is called for to ensure that you get more of what you want.
WITH AN ENGINEERING COACH, YOU WILL:
Take more, better, and smarter action
Because you set the goals you really want
Our first task together is to find out exactly what you want for yourself. Once you create objectives that are clearly in line with your personal values and professional vision, you are much more likely to naturally succeed.
Have a balanced life
Because you designed it
Professional success is maximized when you enjoy a sense of personal fulfillment and life balance. We will discuss how to be selfish yet responsible, and how to carve out enough time so your life outside of work is exactly the way you want it to be.
Make more money
You are worth more than you’re making
Most people are worth more than they are making. Are you happy with your financial situation? If not. you and your coach can look at your beliefs about money and address whatever is keeping you from experiencing financial abundance.
Reach for more, much more
And not be consumed in the process
When you have a partner you trust, you will reach for much more because you can afford to. Are you ready to think big and really live your life fully? An engineering coach is a partner who will enable you to take your life wherever you want it to go.
Make better decisions for yourself and your career
Because your focus is clear
Your coach will help you become focused as you share ideas with him/her. A coach will understand you and be subjective enough to want a lot for you, yet objective enough to not be biased or self-serving Just talking about your options with someone who really listens is often not enough to clarify things.
Have more sustainable energy
No more chugging along
Your engineering coach will help you to identify the things that drain your energy and create a long-term strategy to
Eliminate them. In addition, your coach will focus on the things that give you energy and explore how to
maximize their impact. When you’re happy, productive, and free from tolerations and problems, life is a lot more fun!
Interested in coaching? Reach out the me at:
Have you ever wondered what engineers do? Engineers answer the question how. How do we get to the moon? How do we cross a river and how do we fly like a bird? Engineers design, create, and innovate. We solve problems using the scientific method; a set of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring or correcting knowledge. An engineer works between scientific discoveries and the applications that meet societal and consumer needs.
We are problem solvers.
Engineers have specialties such as mechanical, electrical, civil, aerospace, and many more and each of the specialties can have subdivisions. Civil engineering, for instance, includes structural and transportation engineering. Mechanical engineering includes machine design, thermodynamics, fluids, and HVAC. They may specialize in one industry, such as automobiles, or in one type of technology, such as steel or steam turbines.
Engineers use the tools of science and mathematics to produce and analyze designs. We simulate and test how a machine, structure, or system operates in order to create technical specifications. All to monitor the quality of products and to control the efficiency of processes.
Engineers design many products from strings to satellites.
Engineers design products used in our every-day lives to missiles that launch into space. In addition, we apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. To develop products, engineers must consider several factors. For example, in developing an industrial robot, engineers must determine and specify the functional requirements precisely. They must design and test the robot’s components and integrate the components to produce the design and finally evaluate the design’s overall effectiveness, cost, reliability, and safety. Subsequently, processes like this apply to the development of many different products, such as metals, phones, power plants, airplanes, and children’s’ toys.
Many engineers work in testing, production, and maintenance. They supervise factories, determine the causes of component failures, and test manufactured products for proper quality. Moreover, they estimate the time and cost required to complete projects.
Engineers are quite possibly the most underrated occupational group.
We build homes, offices, roads, bridges, hospitals, communication lines, waterworks, power systems and other infrastructures. Almost all the modern world uses computers; that were created by engineers. Furthermore, engineers created our modern society. As a result, we are important, very important.
What will engineers do next?
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In order to obtain a PMP certification you must first adhere to the educational requirements. A four-year degree (bachelor’s or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500* hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
OR a high school diploma with 7500* hours leading and directing projects. Experience may NOT go back more than 8 years.
*experience must be non-overlapping.
You will need to send PMI the details of this experience and/or education, so it’s best to gather and prepare this information before you open the application.
Once you’ve determined you meet the eligibility criteria, it’s time to apply. Collect the following information and then use the PMI website to guide you through the process.
Contact information — email, address, phone number
Education attained — school attended, level of education attained, degree date
Domain experience — details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, reference, and experience summary. Be sure to include specific project details and use terminology from the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge). Your overall experiences must cover ALL five process groups (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing).
Domain education — names of courses completed, institutions attended, dates, qualifying hours
Once you open an application, it will remain active for 90 days after which time it will close.
Tip: in order to complete the application quickly, gather all of the information and documentation beforehand. Otherwise, it will likely take you multiple sessions to complete.
Once PMI receives your application, they will verify that you meet the eligibility criteria and that your experience and/or education is valid and consistent with the guidelines stated in the certification handbook. Typically, the application review period will take 5–10 days, depending on the certification. Once it’s complete, they will email you to move on to the next step.
Tip: Join PMI, as it will save you money on the exam fee and continuing education (PDUs), give you access to a wide range of products and knowledge, and also provide you with opportunities to network in the project management world.
Your test will occur at one of Prometric’s worldwide testing sites. Schedule your appointment online at Prometric.com/PMI using your eligibility number.
Know what to expect
200 total questions, 25 of which are “experimental”. These questions are used by PMP for the purpose of creating future tests and are not considered in your test score. You will not know which questions are experimental and which are not. It is a computer based exam in which a numeric result is not given and the score needed to pass is not disclosed. Immediately upon completion of the exam, you will receive a pass or fail
Most questions are based on information directly out of the PMBOK. However, the exam may also contain questions related to “common” PM knowledge and processes that are not included in the PMBOK. A good exam prep course (see below) will cover this information.
Review the certification handbook and the exam content outline — they’ll explain the exam format and topics that will be covered. Read current books and articles in your domain topic areas. Know the project management domains, process groups, and ITTOs (inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs)
Consider enrolling in an exam prep course and forming a study group with your colleagues or friends.
The PMP exam is more about one’s knowledge of the PMI project management process (domains, process groups, and ITTOs) than it is about how effectively one can manage a project. Success on the exam is largely based on memorization of this information, but the exam will also expect the taker to be able to apply this information to real-world scenarios. In addition, the PMP exam is also a test of one’s test-taking ability. In other words, one must read the questions VERY carefully to understand exactly what the question is asking. Often, questions will be asked in such a way to trick the reader into thinking it is about one topic, when in fact it is about another.
A good PMP exam prep course will explain this in great detail and provide numerous sample questions, as well as a sample test, to help one get accustomed to the types of questions that will be on the test. I highly recommend taking one of these courses, regardless of other forms of study that one is planning to do.
Understanding your exam results
An overall pass/fail result is generated based on the number of questions you answered correctly
You will also receive a proficiency assignment for each project management domain (Initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing). There are three levels of proficiency: proficient, moderately proficient, and below proficient
PMI defines three levels of proficiency
Proficient – indicates performance is above the average level of knowledge in this domain
Moderately Proficient – indicates performance that is at the average level of knowledge in this domain
Below Proficient – indicates performance is below the average level of knowledge in this domain
Apparently, as of August 2017, this is changing. PMI will now provide more information to help the exam taker identify areas of weakness, along with a different proficiency rating for the process groups: Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.
Special thank to those who helped me with the article:
Rob Obrien, Lindsey Wilson, and David Yung
Looking for more great articles?
First off, let me say that if you are considering or already enrolled to take the P.E. exam, good for you. It will help your career tremendously. Your potential for advancement will increase and you will find avenues for career growth you never considered before.
For more on why you should take the P.E. Exam visit my article here:
My Top 5 Reasons to Get Your P.E.
To pass the P.E. Exam, I went to PPI for their 18-week preparation course. The course is offered online and live, but also allows you to view the recordings later. I watched each recording repeatedly.
Plan, plan, and plan some more. Nothing will help you more on the P.E. exam then having a solid plan. Lay it out on paper and follow through. This will ensure your preparations are complete. This is another reason why the PPI course is so valuable. They do the planning for you with their weekly lectures and homework assignments.
I completed every portion of the course. The course has a guarantee that if you follow all the guidelines you can take the course again for free. I made sure I followed all the guidelines to be absolutely sure I was adequately prepared to pass or to take the class again.
This is what I took with me for the Mechanical – Thermal and Fluids exam:
- Mechanical Reference Manual
- Practice Problems book
- Quick Reference Guide
- Unit Conversions Book
- Notes and Homework from the PPI course
- Copy of the FE reference manual
- Heat transfer book (depends on which exam your taking)
- Mollier Diagrams 11×17 (depends on which exam you are taking)
Tab your reference manual, guides and notes diligently. I had labeled / color coded tabs at each section that I used on the PPI homework. My ability to quickly find the right equation was critical to completing the exam on time. I even pasted equations directly in the reference book in the correct section. If I rearranged an equation to complete a homework assignment, I wrote it in the reference book. I even highlighted and tabbed any conversion factors I used during my preparation in the PPI Unit Conversions Book. My ability to quickly find the correct information was critical to completing the exam on time.
Bring only what you know
I noticed a lot of students hauled in a ton of books to the exam. When I spoke to them after the test they did not use many of them. Simpler is better. Bring what you know and nothing you don’t. You don’t have time to rifle through a bunch of books to find the right equation. You need to have the information readily at hand.
Prepare for the worst
I arrived at the testing site the day before the exam. I checked into a hotel and walked the path to the exam location that night before. Being able to visualize the route in the morning gave my brain some relief.
Do not study the night before the exam
This may sound counter intuitive but the test is 8 hours long. Your brain needs a good night’s rest before the big day. If you are not as prepared as you should be the night before the exam, a few hours of studying aren’t going to help you anyway.
Always guess. If you do not pick a solution you will always get the question wrong. I don’t recommend giving a pure guess, I would try your best to eliminate an answer or two and then guess from there.
If you prepare accordingly, the test will be easier than you thought. The amount of anxiety prior to the exam is enormous. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the exam weeks prior. Sometimes I’d find myself making wrong turns on the way home from work. What I found was that the test was easier than I anticipated. I over prepared, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. When I was complete I had all the confidence that I had passed and sure enough, I did.
For more PE exam advice visit:
If you have had an interview it is best to send a note the same day. If you have travelled to the location make sure you send the note within 24 hours. It’s important to contact the person (or group of people) who spoke with you during an interview, since it’s an effective way to reaffirm your interest in the position you’re applying for, and to provide one more opportunity to convince the decision maker why you will be the candidate they want to hire.
Subject line: Thank you for your time
Hi [persons’ name] ( if you met several people in an interview, be sure to send a unique message to each person, and include a topic that was specific to a comment that was raised),
Thank you again for meeting me [today or yesterday]. I enjoyed our conversations, appreciate your time, and look forward to learning more about [company name].
[insert a couple lines from your conversation about why you would be good for the company. Example: “As we discussed, I am interested in a position with ____. I feel that my skills would be a nice complement to your _______ department.” Message should include a topic that will let the reader know you paid very close attention to the discussion.]
If you have any further questions feel free to ask. Thank you and [make a reference to one of your conversations. Example: “have a good time at the baseball game”].
Your first name