Educational

Education, attitude, communication are top tip topics from 2020 salary survey respondents

Career update: Top areas of advice offer by respondents to the 2020 Career and salary survey from Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cover education, attitude, communications. Advice also includes engineering tips, project management, and workplace strategies.

By Mark T. Hoske May 19, 2020
Figure: Leading skills needed to get ahead are engineering, project management, communication and presentation skills, followed by computer, and team building. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Always keep learning, positivity and inclusivity, and strong communications are among the top areas of advice offer by respondents to the 2020 career and salary survey from Control Engineering, CFE Media and CFE Technology. Seven categories were offered to respondents to pre-sort their advice. A total of 580 pieces of advice were offered from 379 respondents from Feb. 26 to March 16.

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Survey respondents were asked: What engineering career-related advice do you offer to others? Some replies were edited slightly for clarity and duplicates removed. (See, table, skill graphic, and related articles.)

The most advice was offered in education, attitude and communication, with more in each category in the online version of this article.

Advice includes:

  • Get as much education as you can; find an employer who will encourage further education.
  • Get a mentor, ask questions and listen.
  • Ask who, what, where, why and how. Define research and execute.
  • Accurate work slow is superior to shoddy work fast.
  • See what is. Engineers never learn how equipment works until they operate it alone.
  • Difficulty does not obviate simple.

Education

The most advice, 119 tips, covered education, including general advice such as “always keep learning” and more specific advice, like degree recommendations.

  • 2-year degree will get you in the door.
  • 4-year degree
  • Advanced high-school classes and Master’s degree
  • Advance yourself
  • Advanced degrees
  • Always keep learning
  • Any engineering
  • At least a Bachelors but if a Masters, stay broad enough to be useful in many industries
  • At least B.S. or B.E., M.E. desirable for job hunting
  • Bachelor of science electronics engineering technology
  • Bachelor of science in electrical engineering (BSEE)
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in a tech field
  • Be an explorer.
  • BS Electrical or Chemical Engineering, if you want a MS get it in Engineering Management, not just a general Business MS
  • BS From Accredited School
  • BS Mechanical Engineer
  • Business and investment
  • Chemical Engineering with a minor in Business Administration
  • Continue embedded systems learning.
  • Continuing education is the key.
  • Continue through your career.
  • Continuous
  • Controls and automation
  • Co-op opportunities are essential to a successful start in your career.
  • Coops or internships
  • Don´t stop certifications.
  • Don’t look back at failures. Move forward.
  • Don’t make your knowledge base too narrowly focused.
  • Education is highly important, so get one.
  • Education of skilled workers
  • Engineering is an engaging profession.
  • Every moment has a lesson; learn it.
  • Experience is worth more than education.
  • Focus on basics: Physics and math.
  • Get a BS or technical degree; more is not necessary.
  • Get a good one.
  • Get a Master’s degree, minimum. Go with a PhD, if you can.
  • Get an engineering degree or trade ticket.
  • Get as much as possible when you are young.
  • Get as much as you can; find an employer who will encourage further education.
  • Get as much as you can.
  • Get at least BS.
  • Get BS in Engineering, industry certifications
  • Get BSME and BSEE.
  • Get hands on.
  • Get into medical.
  • Get into what interests you, such as welding, building, etc.
  • Get it in as early as you can because experience now counts more than education.
  • Get more but get real.
  • Get some type of post high school education, either college or trade school.
  • Get that education. It will serve you well your whole life.
  • Get the best education you can without going into debt.
  • Get the degrees and certifications.
  • Get the most you can from any and all sources.
  • Get the right qualifications.
  • GO all the way if you can.
  • Go get your education/training, and THEN the learning begins.
  • Go to an affordable school.
  • Graduation
  • Important, and capitalize on opportunity.
  • It is essential to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree to make enough money.
  • Keep abreast of current trends.
  • Keep learning.
  • Learn fluid power design as well as electrical engineering.
  • Learn more than engineering.
  • Learn motion control.
  • Learn soft skills.
  • Learn theory and how to apply, learn how to learn.
  • Learn to type and use Microsoft Excel!
  • Lifelong learning.
  • Management skills
  • Master degree
  • Masters
  • Master’s degree in electrical or computer science
  • Math and science
  • Minimum 2-year college can take you far in life.
  • Minimum automation/controls associate/Bachelor’s degree
  • More safety training courses in college
  • Need to be updated every day
  • Need to have right education and certificate but not always necessary to be from top schools.
  • Never stop learning.
  • On going
  • Open
  • Optimal
  • PhD
  • Practical, technical training, none of this liberal arts crap.
  • Project engineering
  • Pursue an engineering degree
  • Read anything that you think might be helpful.
  • Required since there are no longer apprenticeships available
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors are currently the best and likely only guaranteed return on investment given college costs.
  • Study programming languages.
  • System needs to integrate business private sector to public education.
  • Take every opportunity that presents itself to learn.
  • Take time to experiment with other subject areas.
  • Target the right level. Sometimes, higher is not for you… yet.
  • Technology
  • The higher, the better
  • The more, the better
  • There is no end for reaping the dearth of knowledge
  • Trade school or technical degree
  • Trade school over college!
  • Trade schools are fantastic experience, even if you don’t stick with the trade.
  • Train staff regularly.
  • Train in your field.
  • Vocational training is up and coming.
  • You can never have enough education.
  • You need a good foundation in the basics.

Attitude

Attitude accounted for 103 tips, largely positive encouragement.

  • A can-do attitude and an open mind are key to advancing.
  • A positive attitude and high energy will help you get promoted.
  • Accept there are difficult people in every job.
  • Always be positive and inclusive.
  • Always be willing to help.
  • Always have a good attitude. Often more important than performance.
  • Always have a positive attitude.
  • Always be helpful.
  • Always keep looking for a solution.
  • Always smile.
  • At the end of the day try to be positive.
  • Attitude is the way things perceived; be considerate.
  • Be around positive people, no reason to get to upset, remember to take for yourself.
  • Be aware of yourself, bad attitudes can turn off customers.
  • Be best!
  • Be committed to the business and its goals.
  • Be extremely positive and know how to work with difficult people.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be grateful.
  • Be happy.
  • Be humble and supportive.
  • Be kind and humble.
  • Be open to ideas.
  • Be optimistic.
  • Be positive and open.
  • Be positive and passionate about your work. If you don’t love it, find something that excites you.
  • Be positive and realistic.
  • Be prepare to have long work days and even weekends, but also be prepared to enjoy the engineering field.
  • Be team oriented; days of lone developer are gone.
  • Be upbeat. I help everyone.
  • Be willing to seek and provide help.
  • Being positive leads to health and happiness.
  • Can do.
  • Cooperation and collaboration important.
  • Don’t be an a**hole. You can get away with being poor at your job, but as long as you are a good coworker and try your best, you most likely will still succeed.
  • Don’t feel superior; don’t feel inferior, either.
  • Don’t go beyond your capacities or else you will lose your attitude.
  • Don’t take things personally.
  • Fail FAST; fix FAST; learn FAST.
  • Focus on actions and behaviors, not just results and output.
  • Get it done.
  • Good attitude goes a long way for job satisfaction.
  • Gratitude is the attitude that affects the altitude of living.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Honesty and openness
  • It can be done.
  • Keep optimistic.
  • Learn how to learn, remain flexible. Communicate. Do not dictate.
  • Learning
  • Linear increases
  • Love your job.
  • Maintain positive attitude.
  • Make sure you have a positive attitude and look for how you can accomplish a goal instead of why you can’t.
  • Must be good, must care about job.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help or advice. We all need it some time.
  • No one is better or worse than you.
  • Nothing is too difficult unless you make it so.
  • Optimistic and common sense
  • Positive attitude always produces the best results.
  • Positive mental attitude.
  • Positive, outgoing, socially correct, upbeat.
  • Positive: treat people fairly and honestly.
  • Respect. Give it if you want to receive it.
  • See the hill. Take the hill.
  • Smile. This stuff is actually fun.
  • Stay patient.
  • Stay positive. Never say can’t.
  • Stay positive there is always an answer to every problem
  • Stay/appear open-minded and energetic.
  • Strong attitude and willingness to work as a team will be one of the biggest factors in hiring younger generations.
  • Teamwork
  • Think in terms of “what is possible” before saying “no.”
  • Think in the business and then on the business
  • Understand that a job is more than money
  • Understand your surroundings and show positive attitude
  • Very important to have positive attitude, flexible to changes, accept challenges.
  • We will win as a team buying in.
  • Willing to unlearn and relearn.
  • Work as a team.
  • Work hard; don’t be lazy.
  • Your attitude often defines/dictates your performance.
  • Your attitude will have the most impact on your success.
  • You’re an engineer! No roadblock can stop you! 

Communication

Communication-related advice numbered 88.

  • Always be first to listen.
  • Always have something to say, but don’t sound stupid.
  • Always keep clear consistent communication with everyone.
  • Always listen to before the other person.
  • Always try to maintain good communications with others.
  • Ask who, what, where, why and how. Define, research and execute.
  • Attempt to engage with lots of coworkers.
  • Be able to communicate to the technical level of your audience.
  • Be as clear and as concise as possible, and always keep your management informed.
  • Be concise; no one else knows what’s going on in your head.
  • Be honest and transparent, but not cynical or negative. Always offer a solution to the problems you see.
  • Be open and non-confrontational.
  • Be open to other ideas and suggestions.
  • Be open with management about your wants and needs
  • Be positive and agreeable.
  • Be professional, courteous and thoughtful; skills should be practiced.
  • Body language
  • Bring your whole self; don’t be a work robot.
  • Clear and authoritative, but ears open for suggestions from bottom
  • Communicate what you don’t know! And don’t be afraid to ask for direction; I cannot stress this enough.
  • Communicate over phone or in person, not text.
  • Communication is a two-way street. LISTEN.
  • Concentrate on critical items.
  • Develop good communication skills.
  • Document everything and use email confirmation.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Don’t repeat a statement unless asked to do so.
  • Don’t talk to me about this subject!
  • Empathy
  • Give others guideline to communicate with you.
  • Good communication is essential.  Doesn’t matter how much you know if you can’t communicate it effectively.
  • Good skills in speaking and writing.
  • Have many face-to-face communications with coworkers.
  • Honest, open, willing
  • Humble, clear and true
  • Important: Learn how or stay in the middle desk.
  • Important to have good communication skill between among management, co-workers and reporting staff.
  • Improve verbal and written communications.
  • Include everyone.
  • It’s hard. Review your work with other disciplines.
  • It’s vital.
  • Keep it alive
  • Keep other departments informed of your projects.
  • Key to any success.
  • Know the English language and speak it fluently, without dirt.
  • Learn and practice clear communication. Listen!
  • Learn to communicate. It is one of your greatest assets.
  • Learn about personality differences.
  • Learn Chinese and Spanish.
  • Learn effective public speaking and practice it often.
  • Learn skills for speaking and writing.
  • Learn the industry sector jargon.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Maintain humorous communication.
  • Make a sincere effort to properly express yourself in a concise and accurate fashion. Expand your vocabulary and be confident. Language abilities are a better indication of success in programming and logic related jobs than math.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions. Respond to others in a reasonable time frame.
  • Number-one responsibility is communication.
  • Of primary importance
  • Open doors because opportunity awaits.
  • Open minded
  • Overcommunicate. If you think you’re over communicating you’re probably doing just enough.
  • Overcommunicate to limit the opportunity for misunderstanding.
  • Presentation skills are a must.
  • Read more.
  • Realize people are different.
  • Stay focused.
  • Summarize for the audience.
  • Talk to everyone. Everyone has something to bring to the table, even those you intensely dislike.
  • Text, email, phone, but when possible, meet in person.
  • There is no such thing as over-communication. A team that understand the bigger picture will produce a better outcome.
  • This is very important in doing your job correctly.
  • Transparent
  • Truthful, honest, direct
  • Try to keep everyone involved and in the loop.
  • Very important; takes time to master.
  • We all suck at it. Practice and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask, “Can I understand what he is telling me?”
  • Work on improving it.
  • Work to improve these skills; they are critical for your success.

Workplace strategies

Workplace strategies numbered 84, including flexibility, honesty and hard work.

  • Accept low pay starting out to get foot in door
  • Always seek to bring value and promote and protect your boss.
  • Always be professional, and never be afraid of new challenges.
  • Always be willing to learn. Always be open to new opportunities.
  • Always consider the operators’ viewpoint when making changes
  • Always learn new things
  • Always work hard and never give up
  • Be available and stay on top of current developments.
  • Be cooperative and flexible
  • Be curious and insatiable in your quest for how things work
  • Be flexible.
  • Be friendly to everyone.
  • Be honest and friendly
  • Be humorous, be collaborative.
  • Be on good terms with everybody, especially support staff.
  • Be open to change.
  • Be positive.
  • Be proactive, seek advice from everyone associated with your process unit.
  • Be the kind of person you want on your team.
  • Be willing to send employees to remedial education.
  • Coexist with one another.
  • Cooperate with who you’re working with.
  • Develop positive relationships.
  • Dive in with both feet and learn as much and as fast as you can.
  • Do the best job you can, think outside the box.
  • Do you best — always.
  • Do your job and try to standout and don’t “suck up.”
  • Don’t get caught up in the drama
  • Emotional intelligence is important
  • Everyone on the same page
  • Find your passion.
  • Flexible
  • Forget workplace politics; your skill gets the job
  • Fortune 500 companies
  • Get a mentor, ask questions and listen.
  • Get everyone involved understanding the big picture.
  • Hire good people.
  • How to learn to work with others on team
  • Inclusion and diversify
  • Know what differs from large groups and subject matter experts.
  • Lead by example.
  • Learn by doing all of the hourly worker’s jobs.
  • Learn conflict management.
  • Learn from the old working people.
  • Learn to network.
  • Learn to trust others and get them to trust you.
  • Listen and take great notes.
  • Listen to the operators and maintenance workers
  • Listen twice as much as you speak
  • Look for education opportunities.
  • Maintain a good work/life balance.
  • Make a list of things to accomplish in a day that will make the day a success first thing in the morning. Sometimes to-do lists can seem unmanageable, but if you set your daily expectations, every day can feel like a win.
  • Mentor and training programs working with schools
  • Must be comfortable
  • Network with everyone.
  • On-time manufacturing
  • Organize happy hour 1x a month.
  • Participate in a team.
  • Plan-do-check-adjust (PDCA) cycle
  • Plans are useless, planning is a must!
  • Problems will arise, keep calm and work as a team to resolve.
  • Product and consumer knowledge; not just business.
  • Replace workers by automation as needed.
  • Risk hunting
  • Sales courses
  • Start at the bottom and work your way to the top (be humble).
  • Start travelling/startup in the field.
  • Stay humble.
  • Stay organized.
  • Stay out of workplace politics, do the best job you can.
  • Stop and help out when needed.
  • Take classes and seminars.
  • Team building and behavior understanding
  • Team integration
  • Teamwork, accountability
  • Training
  • Upgrade skills always.
  • Use/create/learn tools to be more efficient at your job.
  • Willing to work hours
  • Work as a team
  • Work hard and be safe.
  • Work hard and plan your next move
  • Work hard, pay attention and accept challenges.

Engineering tips

Engineering tips numbered 80, including agility, large screens and software updates. 

  • Accurate work slow is superior to shoddy work fast.
  • Agile is coming of age.
  • Always be learning.
  • Always be will to learn and expand horizons.
  • Always keep learning. Use vendor provided training.
  • Always learn more.
  • Always think of how the customer will use what I am designing.
  • Apply what you know; learn all you can.
  • Ask others for help when needed.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask your supplier network to sort the most relevant innovation for your business.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be open to change.
  • Be the best.
  • Bigger monitors are better.
  • Deep engineering techniques
  • Design it simple. Don’t fall in love with it, but put your heart into it.
  • Develop solutions.
  • Direct contact with users
  • Do not accept the way things are and look for ways to improve.
  • Do not have preconceived ideas.
  • Do the math.
  • Don’t be afraid of looking to others for advice.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. Learning is a lifelong endeavor.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Don’t get overconfident. Listen to the people on the floor who use the equipment.
  • Embrace new technologies.
  • Energy
  • Engineers don’t know it all, they just know where to find out.
  • Experience
  • Focus on economics and communication/presentation skills.
  • Get your PE license as soon as you can after college.
  • Go for right the first time.
  • Good to have
  • Honesty
  • Important to have right knowledge.
  • It’s okay to struggle and admit you don’t know something.
  • Keep an open mind and accept that your approach might not be the best.
  • Keep an open mind regarding alternative solutions to problems.
  • Keep learning.
  • Keep learning, keep your skills current.
  • Keep things simple.
  • Keep up with technology and advancements.
  • KISS
  • Know the numbers.
  • Learn design, programming, quality controls.
  • Learn a script language.
  • Learn everything.
  • Learn from experience then apply in the office.
  • Learn from the old guys.
  • Learn several control programming languages and controls.
  • Learn statistical analysis.
  • Look for the simplest solutions first.
  • Math and symbolic logic are helpful to me. Learn touch typing.
  • More reading and practice on technical things
  • Often times, simple is better.
  • Organization is key.
  • People are lazy. Design for it.
  • Read
  • Read constantly to keep your skills up to date.
  • Read engineering magazines
  • Research and investigate everything,
  • See what is. Engineers never learn how equipment works until they operate it alone.
  • See what others can teach you.
  • Seek the simplest effective solution. Someone will have to fix or replace what you have designed.
  • Simulate accurately.
  • Start young.
  • Stay in top of new technologies and new advancements in the field of engineering.
  • Stay organized.
  • Stretch yourself.
  • Study.
  • Take outside courses or real-world training.
  • Team work is the best, brain storm.
  • Think out of the box.
  • Think outside the box.
  • To remain updated about new developments
  • Update with latest software available.
  • Use available resources such as senior staff.
  • Where possible simplify, use standards.
  • You never know it all, but never give up trying.

Project management

Respondents offered 76 project management tips, including time management, record-keeping and notes.

  • Always be in a team.
  • Always keep everyone informed up to the minute.
  • An under-rated skill: Good project management saves time, money, and stress.
  • Anyone can manage a project; some people can do it well. Be one of them.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be open to outside-the-box ideas but the best foundation is what has worked in the past.
  • Be organized.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be proactive, understand the big picture, but always think of the details.
  • Be proactive, use common sense and manage wisely.
  • Be realistic on resources and budget don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.
  • Budget and schedule. Communication is key.
  • Communication with the team is paramount!
  • Confident with thorough knowledge.
  • Cost reduction
  • Critical
  • Critical to keep projects on time. Take counter measures earlier vs. later.
  • Delegate and keep an aerial view.
  • Details, details, details
  • Details matter.
  • Do not micromanage.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but monitor.
  • Enable and train subordinates; do not micromanage.
  • Find the right tools that work for you.
  • Gannt charts: Got to love them.
  • Get everyone to buy in and get involved, keep it simple.
  • Get PMP Certified.
  • Good and do better.
  • Good for advanced degree.
  • Good, fast, cheap. Pick two.
  • Identify schedule delays, ASAP.
  • Identify the skill set of others and make them an integral part of the project from the outset. Trust in their abilities and make sure they know that you do.
  • Important if you’re working in an engineering and design company.
  • Important to understand
  • Is the key to success.
  • Just as important as engineering skills.
  • Just sucks everywhere.
  • Keep control of projects, both financial and technical.
  • Keep dated records on every conversation you have with a customer.
  • Keep it real. Do not over promise.
  • Know the answers to the questions before they are asked.
  • Lead with high morals.
  • Leadership
  • Learn basic PM (project management) skills.
  • Learn from the veterans.
  • Learn quickly.
  • Learn to balance everything well.
  • Learn to bear bad news promptly and truthfully.
  • Learn to delegate. Review, examine, test and verify.
  • Leave time for issues because issues will always come up.
  • Limit unproductive activities for team members.
  • Make a plan!
  • Manage your tasks as best you can.
  • Mention the bad news promptly to your customers, such as undue delay, extra costs and advise your boss before.
  • Must require PM skills.
  • Obtain PMP certification.
  • Often under-emphasized but critical to executing large projects successfully.
  • Organization is key.
  • Plan for success.
  • Plan, organize, track and document everything!
  • Project management training should be a huge focus for new hires. They should be given responsibilities with small projects to truly master this skill.
  • Remember to follow up with others to keep tasks on time.
  • Skilled project managers can make or break a product.
  • Small meetings
  • Stay focused on what needs to get done, and if you need to shift priorities stay flexible.
  • Stay tidy.
  • Take extra courses. Continue to learn.
  • Talent team is a must.
  • Teamwork
  • Use project management software.
  • Understand business needs.
  • Understand you’re the team leader. Know where you’re going before heading down the road.
  • Watch costs.

Other areas

Other areas included 30 more tips, including jumping on projects that are “firsts.”

  • Actively track company benefits AFTER employment for changes.
  • Adaptive behavior modification to the situation. Results count.
  • Always try to give your best and don’t slack off.
  • Bathe before work.
  • Be a leader.
  • Boldness helps.
  • BTFD [which could mean bear the F*** down: work hard. Or buy the f’n dip, which means invest when the price falls: Applying that stock market analogy to engineering may mean that you should do or learn more when opinions about engineering decline.]
  • Difficulty does not obviate simple.
  • Doing management degree MBA
  • Empowerment of the team
  • Encourage
  • Energy resources
  • Engineers don’t learn much of anything from behind a desk.
  • Get involved with things that are “firsts” there is usually a lot of support, and they are great learning experiences.
  • Hang around with people smarter than you and learn from them.
  • Have fun!
  • Have good relationships with each of your counterparts.
  • Interact with other engineering professionals, attend technical seminars.
  • It’s a beautiful industry! (Take it from someone who didn’t school for this and is learning it on the fly.)
  • Learn Lean Six Sigma
  • Open your mind and soul because there is a fantastic world outside.
  • Pursue your passion. If you feed your passion you feed your soul.
  • Respect your team.
  • Show up on time and work hard.
  • Take opportunities as they come. Your chance will not be long-lived.
  • Treat everyone with respect and put down the phone.
  • Trust each other.
  • Trust in God.
  • Work shouldn’t be a prison, find a place you like to be, with work that interests you.
  • Work various positions if you desire moving up.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com. Amanda Pelliccione, director of research and awards programs for CFE Media and Technology, conducted the research and assembled the related report.

KEYWORDS

Engineering career advice, education

Education was the most popular type of engineering advice in the 2020 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey report.

Attitude and communication also are very important.

A total of 580 pieces of engineering advice appears in seven categories.

CONSIDER THIS

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


Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.