Engineering career advice: Choose something fulfilling, understand, simplify, teach
The new Control Engineering “Automation System Integration” blog is written by Anthony Baker, a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration. The blog provides Callisto Integration advice in plant-floor controls, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and manufacturing consulting, from the factory floor through to the enterprise. See additional posts at www.controleng.com/blogs.
To advance your engineering career, apply these four tips: Choose a challenging area, understand the job, simplify where practical, and teach others.
1. Pick something hard
Picking something hard to do is fulfilling. It keeps you energized and engaged and stops you from getting bored. Stretch yourself—look at the responsibilities that those around you have and ask, “is there something outside of my current role I can take on?” Make sure this solves a significant problem for your organization, such as, “Sort out an ongoing training program for my whole team” or “understand where the money flows within my current project and use this to make our projects more profitable.” Look at those you respect and ask, “what kinds of things do they do that I don’t currently do—what can I help them achieve?” Talk to your team and sign yourself up.
2. Understand the job
Now, work to really understand it. Not just the input mechanics of “do this and that” but the actual output goal of what that role needs to achieve and how it will contribute to the business. What does “success” look like for this role? This is harder than it looks—you’ll have to spend some time talking to stakeholders and soliciting feedback to ensure you understand the requirements and challenges, or if anybody actually wants this job done.
3. Simplify the job
Next, examine what you are doing—does every action contribute to success? Can you just stop doing some things? Do not over complicate things here.
4. Teach everyone
If you have done step 3 well, then step 4 is easy. If not, go back to 3 and rework it. The hardest part of teaching others is having the confidence to calmly show the world all of your secrets knowing full well this will eventually make you obsolete. The second hardest part is doing this in a way that does not come across as bragging, which is not the intent of step 4. You will know you are on to step 4 when you find you can clearly articulate and teach to others what you are achieving and how you are achieving it.
You will likely run into some people who ask how they can copy your success. Spend some time with those people and help them along. Listen to them deeply and openly when they try to understand the job and question your work. Teaching others will free up some bandwidth, so you can go back to your team and loop back to step 1.
Callisto Integration is a CSIA member as of 3/1/2015