Successful engineering in the 21st century

It was once both necessary and sufficient to be technically competent; now it is only necessary.

04/05/2011


When young engineers begin their careers, they should realize that their education and skill-building has not ended, but is just beginning. Learning is a life-long endeavor and not just confined to school. Young engineers should develop a plan to amass a well-rounded set of skills to be successful in the future. Mid-career and veteran engineers could use some reminding, too.

While engineers need to develop their technical skills, they also need to develop a set of soft skills, business acumen, and awareness of the environment in which they practice. As more effective leaders, they can better clarify what matters to them and their businesses, so that compelling visions, goals, and strategies emerge. They must realize that they are operating in a world that is constantly growing more intricate, and they must develop the skills that will allow them to succeed.

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. Engineers need to be comfortable with change to effectively address it, and they must develop the following three skill sets.

1. Vision and the world

Tomorrow’s engineers must be more aware of the world around them and how they have to interact with it.  To do that well, they need to:

  • Understand that leadership is an art
  • Know themselves and define their personal leadership framework
  • Lead a company that adapts to the world around it
  • Examine the changing environment, global issues, and trends
  • Interpret and apply public policy and its importance to engineering.

Spend time exploring the world beyond engineering. Read about foreign affairs, participate in your local government, or get involved in a charity.

2. Situational leadership, strategy, and systems thinking

Both the world and the engineering industry are dynamic. Tomorrow’s engineer must be well-versed on how teams work and interact with others. They must develop knowledge of organizational psychology and how it applies to everyday life. It is essential to work on situational leadership, team alignment, vision, core purpose, and core values. Observe how others carry out leadership.  Did you know that the movie 12 Angry Men is a great example of situational leadership and strategy? Learn about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for personalities.

3. Organizational leadership

Finally, engineers must be intellectually curious and continually develop their knowledge, their understanding, and their own models for professional practice. This may include master strategies for value creation, new pricing strategies, program management, alternative project delivery, and project integration. They should learn about lean thinking, sustainability, accountability measures, and human resource management.

To be effective engineers in the future, they must actively manage their careers and develop a skill set beyond technical abilities. They can no longer rely on “on-the-job training.” 

There are many ways to acquire skill sets, such as educational seminars, multi-session programs, college or university courses, advanced degrees, and in-house training programs. In addition, leadership skills and a vision of the industry can be acquired by participating in industry groups and associations, where the engineer will be exposed to other leaders and will learn from them.  By taking an active role in such groups, engineers also will be giving back to their industry.

Hennessy is CEO of Turnstone Energy Solutions, and the former chairman of the board and CEO of the Syska Hennessy Group. He is chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the New York Building Congress, chairman emeritus of the New York Building Foundation, past president of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York, and 2008-2009 chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies (nationwide).



The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Controller programming; Safety networks; Enclosure design; Power quality; Safety integrity levels; Increasing process efficiency
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Controller programming; Safety networks; Enclosure design; Power quality; Safety integrity levels; Increasing process efficiency
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Controller programming; Safety networks; Enclosure design; Power quality; Safety integrity levels; Increasing process efficiency
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me