Workforce Development

Continue education, improve attitude, use engineering tips, communicate effectively

Career update: Top areas of advice offer by respondents to the 2019 Career and salary survey from Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, are education, attitude, engineering tips, and communications.
By Mark T. Hoske and Amanda Pelliccione May 22, 2019
Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Lifelong learning, positive attitude, use of engineering tips, and strong communications are among the top areas of advice offer by respondents to the 2019 career and salary survey from Control Engineering, CFE Media and CFE Technology. Seven topical categories and “other” were offered to respondents to pre-sort their advice. A total of 358 pieces of advice were offered, ranging from short reminders to sets of wisdom that may take a full career to achieve proficiency, depending on individuals’ talents and experiences.

The survey question was: What engineering career-related advice do you offer to others? Some replies were edited slightly for clarity. But even if you think you have the answers, this advice is worth review. (See also, table.)

Figure: Three top skill sets to get ahead are engineering, project management, and communication/presentation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure: Three top skill sets to get ahead are engineering, project management, and communication/presentation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Education

  • After a bachelor of science and engineering degree, get credentials: Project Management Institute (PMI), Lean, Six Sigma, reliability.
  • Always keep learning.
  • Always try to widen your knowledge.
  • Bachelor in engineering
  • Bachelor of science (BS) degree is the easiest path.
  • Bachelors in engineering or computer science will still be valuable.
  • Be a lifetime learner.
  • Be somewhat flexible.
  • College degree
  • Continue your education.
  • Continuing education
  • Do what you like.
  • Don’t go to college expecting a job title; go to college to learn a skill set.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Education never stops. Start with an internship.
  • Education: YES, definitely.
  • Electrical
  • Electrical engineering
  • Emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
  • Finish your education.
  • Focus on what you like.
  • Get a Bachelor degree and MBA.
  • Get a bachelor of science degree, then keep learning what you are interested in.
  • Get a bachelor of science in electrical engineering (BSEE).
  • Get a degree.
  • Get a mainstream engineering degree rather than a specialized one.
  • Get a masters degree related to your workplace and training in control and automation.
  • Get an internship in junior and senior years of college.
  • Get an MBA if realistic; don’t ever stop learning; and use sources available to you, no matter how small.
  • Get as much education as possible, especially relevant certifications.
  • Get as much STEM as possible, and learn to code.
  • Get at least a 2-year electrical/mechanical technical degree.
  • Get at least a BS and add experience with internships before graduation.
  • Get certified: Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP), Reliability & Maintainability Implementation Certification (RMIC).
  • Get education as you work.
  • Get knowledge in multiple programming disciplines.
  • Get multiple engineering degrees.
  • Get necessary degree(s) but be sensitive to corporate structures, changes.
  • Get the best you can afford and enjoy.
  • Get the degree that gets you in the door.
  • Get what you need, not what others THINK.
  • Go for highest level you can achieve.
  • Invest a bit more time to get technical and economical/distribution education.
  • Just do it.
  • Keep on learning on the job.
  • Keep up with current technology.
  • Keep up with latest technological advances.
  • Learn as much as possible and keep learning.
  • Learn technical skills.
  • Learn technology.
  • Maintenance engineer (electrical).
  • Mechatronics degree
  • Mechatronics engineering
  • More is always better.
  • More university education doesn’t always make a smarter person. Sometimes trade schools are a better option.
  • Networking
  • Never stop learning, technically and interpersonally.
  • Never stop learning. (2)
  • Obtain a degree.
  • Read and learn all the time.
  • Solid grades from a school accredited through Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is enough to lead to a rewarding career.
  • Start earning your degree. Even if it takes you 10 years like it did me, you will be 10 years older with or without the degree. The choice is yours.
  • STEM careers are rewarding in many ways.
  • Trade school can go a long way in your career.
  • Trade school is a good choice.
  • Web interface integration skills at all levels.
  • Work hard on your technical basic skills; consider an MBA down the road.
  • Yes, continue education and keep up to date within your field.

Attitude

  • Aim high and start low.
  • Always be positive and look for solutions not where to place blame.
  • Always remain curious.
  • Always try to prove people wrong when they say it is impossible to engineer.
  • Attitude: YES, definitely
  • Be eager to learn and know more than most.
  • Be flexible and positive, but stand up for your values
  • Be humble and respectful of everyone.
  • Be part of the solution not part of the problem.
  • Be positive and confident.
  • Be positive. (2)
  • Be the change you want to see in the world.
  • Be willing to adapt.
  • Be willing to help.
  • Can do, will do, have done: I am here!
  • Control your emotions as saying one wrong thing these days to any coworkers can result in immediate termination and/or potentially being blackballed from other companies/industries as a result.
  • Customer first
  • Do what you can and document in detail what you cannot.
  • Don’t be afraid to take career risks when you’re young.
  • Find a team and contribute.
  • Focus on the things within your control. Gossip and negative commenting have a detrimental effect on a team’s morale.
  • Get along with others. DON’T bad mouth anyone, ever!
  • Good health = good attitude despite the BS imposed on you.
  • Have a learning attitude.
  • Have a positive outlook.
  • Have the best.
  • If your company is better now than when you joined due to your efforts, you’re winning. You’ll never achieve perfection.
  • Keep a stiff upper lip.
  • Keep open mind.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Maintain an attitude of acceptance.
  • Never say can’t, won’t or no.
  • Obviously remain positive, but more importantly be a contributor to solutions not just problems.
  • Open, dynamic and positive
  • Positioning
  • Positive (3)
  • Positive attitudes go a long way!
  • Positive towards your work.
  • Positive, self-starters needed
  • Put your work aside to help customers (internal and external). It will pay off even if you have to work extra hours to make up the time spent on them.
  • Share the positive things you learn.
  • Stand your ground, but be open to compromise.
  • Start everyday positive.
  • Stay curious, my friend.
  • Stay focused on the work at hand.
  • Stay positive but honest.
  • Stay positive. (3)
  • Stay positive. Be proactive.
  • Stay positive. Do your best.
  • Stay upbeat and positive.
  • Stay willing.
  • Strong
  • The glass is half-full (not empty).
  • There’s ALWAYS something that can be learned.
  • Try to keep a positive attitude.
  • Understand that you are not an expert, and learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
  • You are not always right, and you do not know the best way to do a job.
  • You can always learn more.
  • Your attitude will be remembered as much as your skill level.

Engineering tips

  • Actively stay current in your field.
  • Always keep learning.
  • Apply creativity – fear not the sense of failure.
  • Apply only what is appropriate to solve a problem, not what is eye catching.
  • Be a lifelong learner. You can learn something new every day if you just keep your eyes open.
  • Be open minded and think outside of the box.
  • BE PREPARED TO WORK HARD.
  • Be ready to learn from those old timers.
  • Become an expert in something.
  • Build a peer network to share problems and learnings
  • Continuous learning
  • Develop resources for engineering info outside your core.
  • Devil is in the details and paperwork. Drawings need updated before the project is complete.
  • Do as much front-end engineering as possible in a project so you aren’t scrambling at the end.
  • Do not be ashamed of asking stupid questions.
  • Do what you do well; stay in touch with new and developing.
  • Don’t forget about the obvious.
  • Experience: see as many plants/mines as you can. Seeing makes all the theory relevant.
  • Fail early.
  • Gain knowledge in electrical and mechanical.
  • Get ideas. Find what did not work.
  • Get on challenging projects.
  • Get out of the office and onto the floor.
  • Identify the unknowns before presenting an answer.
  • If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
  • Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturing execution systems
  • Iterative refinement
  • Join professional societies and get your professional engineer license.
  • Keep current.
  • Keep innovating.
  • Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Keep it simple where appropriate.
  • Keep updated.
  • Know many ways of doing jobs and use most of them.
  • Know your limits.
  • Learn CAD, learn instrumentation.
  • Learn your basic physics!
  • Listen to others.
  • Look at new trends, but remain cautious.
  • Love your work.
  • Mind the details, but don’t drag it out.
  • Minor in automation.
  • Not everything can be programmed away.
  • Nothing is accomplished until much is done.
  • Pay attention to those who DO know what they’re talking about.
  • Present options with data and benefits and options.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Save examples of your work. Don’t let perfection be your enemy.
  • Share but keep your skills close to your vest.
  • Specialize early.
  • Stay sharp, always think outside of the box.
  • Strive for excellence.
  • Think outside the box; there is always another way to do things.
  • Triple-check work for accuracy.
  • Understand the engineering in context of the project and process.
  • Watch, learn, read, ask questions.
  • YES, definitely collect and use engineering tips.

Communication

  • Assume other don’t know what’s going on – ask the question.
  • Be accurate, timely, and positive… consistently.
  • Be clear and direct.
  • Be direct.
  • Be honest and positive.
  • Be modest to earn your workers hearts.
  • Be open, honest, and take responsibility for achievement.
  • Be open.
  • Be patient, be consistent and never talk down to employees. If possible show management more than one solution to each problem. Never stop explaining hierarchy of value in the options you present as solutions to problems.
  • Be pleasant.
  • Be proper and professional and choose your words wisely as they can come back to haunt you otherwise.
  • Be succinct and stable in form.
  • Be willing to listen because that is where communication begins.
  • Communicate well.
  • Communication is a must.
  • Communication is good.
  • Communication: YES, definitely.
  • Develop people skills and presentation skills.
  • Develop your own network.
  • Do what you say predictably, without obfuscation.
  • Don’t say much, but when you do, make it worth listening to.
  • Engineers are salesmen for their entire career. Diplomacy!
  • Keep an open door policy toward information. Share information with others as applicable.
  • Keep the explanation simple.
  • Learn to do it well. Join Toastmasters.
  • Learn to speak the truth with respect.
  • Listen and ask questions. You will get more useful information that way.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Listen to others.
  • Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Listen, then speak.
  • Make sure your communications are clear. Use proper English.
  • Makes teamwork easier. Courtesy goes a long way.
  • More communication is always better.
  • Nothing is more important than communications.
  • Open
  • Open and transparent
  • Open communications
  • Over communicate, sticking to the facts and not emotions.
  • Practice being both a good listener and humble presenter.
  • Professionalism
  • Sharpen your skills by using them.
  • Short and concise
  • Speak clearly and look people in the eye when speaking to them.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Speak the language.
  • Talk about what you could have been done for the better.
  • Talk to everybody.
  • Talk to the workers.
  • There’s no such thing as too much communication. Don’t ASSUME!
  • Use clear concise communications; we don’t have much time.
  • Use clear graphics, recognizing you won’t always be talking to engineers; keep [Microsoft] PowerPoints simple and direct.
  • Use writing skills instead of cryptic tweets.
  • Work on communication skills and effective writing skills.
  • Work on your communication. This skill has the biggest impact on your career.

Project management

  • A must
  • Avoid projects for those who were once engineers.
  • Be on top of things, go the extra mile to ensure you’re 110% on top of everything.
  • Be smart about time management.
  • Communication, communication, communication all help with project management.
  • Course work on the subject of project management is a must to be professional at it.
  • Creative
  • Detail focus daily.
  • Direct involvement with peers and subordinates
  • Do a self-review of organizational skills and communications skills and work on deficiencies.
  • Do not over promise or under deliver.
  • Do your best in all cases and learn from your mistakes.
  • Don’t skip steps.
  • Encourage supervisors and managers to handle the financial part of project management.
  • Everyone has a place and part to reach the goal.
  • Figure out what’s important to your stakeholders. Overcommunicate on that.
  • Find the roadblocks before they happen.
  • First make it work, then control costs and schedule.
  • Follow the “Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK) from Project Management Institute. It works.
  • Get your sh*t together.
  • Help out in project management.
  • Hold yourself accountable and your team accountable; be quick to praise and slow to criticize.
  • Keep up on your tasks and get help when needed.
  • Know when to ask for help.
  • Lead a project.
  • Learn
  • Maintainability should trump “on-time and under budget.”
  • Make a plan, work the plan, adjust to the unexpected, work the plan.
  • Multitasking is a necessity.
  • Need basic internships before doing projects
  • No one loves a procrastinator.
  • Number one issue in manufacturing today is project management. It probably always has been and always will be.
  • Own the responsibility for that which you delegate.
  • Paper work / drawings need updating before the project is complete.
  • Prioritize constraints (time, budget, performance) to find correct path.
  • Project management: optimal
  • Project management: try it.
  • Project management: YES, definitely.
  • Scope creep – make sure that your project outline is to the point and expectations are clearly outlined by both the manager and the team.
  • Stay in communication with all of the team.
  • Strive for excellence.
  • Talk to everyone.
  • Team work skill is essential in any project.
  • Today’s world is non-stop. The old way of managing won’t cut it. Be original.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Understand the rules and priorities.
  • Understanding the financial makes customer relationships better.
  • Use project management tools and methodology.
  • Worry about the elements that can cause the most damage if they are missed.

Workplace strategies

  • Be flexible, know your discipline, be open to others.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Be open to new ideas but don’t throw away what works.
  • Communicate well.
  • Continuous improvement
  • Discipline
  • Don’t burn bridges. Competition is healthy as long as you realize everyone is on the same team.
  • Don’t move jobs too often; find good bosses and stick with them.
  • Empathy is an asset.
  • Even temperament
  • Figure out who does and doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
  • Find mentors.
  • Help others, and you will be rewarded.
  • Improve planning and reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), and have a continuing automation/controls improvement plan and process to implement the same.
  • Keep a good work-life balance.
  • Keep your ears and eyes open while learning.
  • Keep your mouth shut!
  • Learn anything they will let you/teach you.
  • Learn as many different skills as you can where you can.
  • Learn as much as you can about your business.
  • Learn the process.
  • Look for a company that deals well with teams.
  • Network
  • Network, network, network with members in your immediate work group and in all aspects of your plant.
  • One team, one direction.
  • Peer review – multi-level
  • Practice
  • Rotate through all aspects of company, sales, marketing, manufacturing, customer support, technical and administration.
  • Some coworkers require an open mind – in one ear and out the other.
  • Specialize.
  • Start early, stay out of office politics.
  • Take the time to mentor others.
  • Team work development
  • Teambuilding with peers, supervisors

Leadership skills

  • Be nice to everyone.
  • Be professional at all times.
  • Bring in interns and challenge current staff.
  • Brown-nosers and hyper-aggressive types get ahead.
  • Collaborate: we’re all on the same team.
  • Don’t be afraid to network with those outside your core engineering discipline.
  • Fair and equitable treatment
  • Know your resources.
  • Lead others.
  • Learn to deal with conflict in a civil manner.
  • Look for mentors.
  • Remember that everyone is your customer, inside and outside.
  • Seek employment with high integrity companies.
  • Set goals, work to accomplish goals and don’t worry about what others do.
  • Update your leadership skills.
  • Work for the team’s success.
  • YES, definitely develop leadership skills.

Other

  • Be always professional but let your personality shine through!
  • Do what you enjoy.
  • Empower team members: what’s YOUR plan to solve this issue?
  • Enjoy the good working relationship with co-workers
  • If the company sucks, find another one.
  • Keep learning, be aware of the new and embrace what makes sense.
  • Look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and discernment.
  • Mentor others.
  • Personal and process safety should always be your top priority.
  • Quality of work
  • Read, ask, listen. Cut back on valueless entertainment.
  • The most difficult thing is to deal with your co-workers rather than the machines.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com, with assistance from Amanda Pelliccione, CFE Media research director.

KEYWORDS: Engineering career advice, education

Life-long education was the most popular type of engineering advice in the 2019 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey report.

Attitude, engineering tips, and communication also are very important.

A total of 358 pieces of engineering advice appears in eight categories.

Consider this

Measure, review, and adjust your career goals and progress at least quarterly.


Mark T. Hoske and Amanda Pelliccione
Author Bio: Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media; Amanda Pelliccione, CFE Media research director.