Engineers as a group are smarter than other people when it comes to applied technical matters. We are bemused by non-technical people using emotionalism and logical fallacies to make important decisions. After years of working in organizations where decisions affecting engineering projects are made this way, some engineers become bitter. Some engineers feel like the powers that be have foolishly rewarded the stupid and that the only way to assert their own power and dignity is to make their contempt for the pointy-haired bosses known and to make the bosses beg for them to work on an engineering project.
The engineer in this scenario is right that his employer would benefit from giving him more decision-making authority but is obviously wrong in how he tries to make it happen. This is why a book on professional success geared toward engineers is so needed.
Anthony Fasano’s new book, Engineer Your Own Success, provides good motivational material without the sophistry that turns off engineers. The point of a motivational book is to remind you of positive things that you mostly already know that you can do in non-technical matters to realize your goals. Casually listening to curmudgeons, even when they are not giving you new information, has a real impact on how you react to problems and opportunities. Listening to positive ideas, even when they are not new, offsets the curmudgeonly influences and helps you respond to new challenges with alacrity.
Fasano asks engineers to think of some big goals and then break them down into more manageable goals. This is very important because without clearly setting our own goals, we can find ourselves just working for goals other people set for us. People put a great deal of effort into getting a promotion to manager or director. Since the pay is not that much greater for the higher-ranking job, I wonder to what extent the people striving for the job set the promotion as their own goal and to what extent they are responding to a stratagem conceived for the employer’s benefit.
The section on credentials provides good practical information on preparing for the PE exam. Fasano advises taking a review class and using the book you worked out of for the class as your primary reference source. People literally take entire bookshelves on dollies to the exam. It’s more useful, though, to have one good review book. Additional references are just a security blanket.
Fasano explains the importance of networking. He recommends joining a board and trying to get to know the people you meet through such activities beyond just their professional lives and how you can send each other business. There is a nice story about Fasano going to a public hearing where he faced a hostile civic association opposed to the project he was working on. The meeting went smoothly because the president of the association was someone he knew on a friendly basis from a referral group.
Some of the most useful information is on organization: Managing projects, to-do lists, and servicing telephone and e-mail interrupts efficiently. Fasano mentions the two-minute rule from David Allen’s Getting Things Done which says if you receive an interrupt you can process in two minutes you should service it immediately. If it would take longer, add it as a to-do list item. The two-minute threshold can be increased or decreased depending the priority of the task you’re working on. Readers at all interested in this type of thing should read Getting Things Done.
Engineering Your Own Success provides invaluable information for engineers beginning their careers. People familiar with other business books will get a refresher of what they already know to offset the curmudgeons’ influences.