Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Personal Book Recommendations for Engineers

Hello everyone.  I hope y’all have been doing well.  Nothing new has happened with me – I’m still just looking for work and trying to keep up with my engineering skills.  I will start substitute teaching again, but it’s only going to be a day job.  Today, I want to take a break from writing about engineering topics to share some books that I would recommend reading.  They will focus on career and also some personal finance; along with that, they will vary from history/documentary type narratives to lighter, anecdotal narratives.

Books for Engineering/Business

These are books that apply to engineering or teach lessons that can applied in the practice of engineering.

“Don’t Throw This Away! The Civil Engineering Life” by Brian Brenner, PE

http://goo.gl/3BQpzj

This is a book that most civil engineers would enjoy.  It’s pretty much all stories of the authors experience as a civil engineer.  There is a fun aspect to the book which makes it a very enjoyable read.  It also does a good job of have a relevant moral to each story.  Some morals are just a humorous observation of the engineering practice and some pertain to practical lessons he has learned.  It manages to strike a good balance between educational, informative, anecdotal, and fun.

“The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World” by Daniel Yergin

http://goo.gl/2IWUW9

This book is the opposite of the previous in tone, writing style and length.  This will be slow read and at times very dry.  However, if I were to recommend a book that could answer almost any current question on energy sources and production this would be it.  It pretty much is a history and analysis with a bit of trend prediction for all areas of the energy sector; be warned – it can feel monotonous at times.  However, my recommendation is that you break it up into pieces – that’s how I did it.  By the end, you should have a basic picture of how the energy sector works, why that is, and the likely future of the market.  As a civil engineer, I am glad I have read this book and have that knowledge because I feel like it affects our industry a lot.

“Standout” and “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham

http://goo.gl/I2NxOm

http://goo.gl/6AJWMt

These two books are recommended for different reasons.  I grouped them together because they are written by the same author and essentially complete the same goal – find your ideal job and position within a company.  And I recommend you read both because they address different aspects of finding the right position.  The first one called “Standout” is much shorter than the second and focuses on the role within your specific position you would be best at.  For example, my standout traits are stimulator, advisor, and innovator; this means that what ever I feel called to do I like being the resident expert that stimulates thoughts and ideas and my preference is to always breaking new ground or trying something new.  And then there is “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” which focuses on skills.  So my skills are that I am good at analytically thinking through a problem and coming up with a practical solution – not surprising, engineer lol.  These two combined should help you find the skills you are good at doing along with the role you like to fill in applying those skills.  There are others he has written too but I haven’t read them.  Based on these two, it probably wouldn’t be a complete waste of time but I can tell you for a fact that I found these two very beneficial.

“Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design” by Henry Petroski

http://goo.gl/QDMBMr

This is a book that outlines several basic examples of how design is improved through the correction of failures.  It starts kind of slow but once you get past the first couple of chapters it picks up.  It doesn’t try and advertise itself as a book that makes some epic or life changing assertions.  However, it does a good job of showing some examples of how you can improve a design after analyzing a failure and the similar lessons that you can apply in regards to preventing failure before it happens.

“Crush It: Why Now is the Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion” and “The Thank You Ecoonomy” by Gary Vaynerchuck

http://goo.gl/Lv1pjP

http://goo.gl/WQHLFh

I recommend both of these books because they will teach you how to use social media to build your personal, company, and apply hometown style customer service principals.  From the initial perspective of the civil engineering practice it may seem like these concepts may not be applicable. However, if you look at engineering entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, it seems like there ways these concepts can be applied.  And not only that, his energetic personality comes through when he tells his stories and describes the takeaway message which makes it a fun read.

Books for Finance:

These aren’t engineering or business books; however, these are some recommendations for money management which is knowledge everyone should have in my opinion.

“Million Dollar Portfolio” by the Motley Fool

http://goo.gl/m4d8m9

I recommend this book because it teaches you how to pick stocks and maintain a solid portfolio.  This does have one glaring hole in that it doesn’t talk about mutual funds, but the techniques it explains for picking stocks and managing a stock portfolio can be applied to mutual funds.  I don’t recommend using this as your only source if you’re investing on your own; however, it will educate you on the basic principles an investment advisor would discuss with you.

Any decent book on personal and estate finance

I don’t have specific book to recommend on this.  I read a book that my friend had on this but can’t remember the name.  It covered the basics of a stock portfolio, money saving rule of thumbs, and the different types of wills/trusts.  The reason I recommend this is that having this knowledge when it comes time to plan for your future finances and estates will help a lot.  That way, when it comes time to start discussing personal finance and plan for your future with your advisor, you can understand what he is trying to achieve and the financial mechanisms involved.

Those are some of my recommendations.  Have you read any of these books and what are your thoughts? Also, are there any books that you think should be added to this list?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

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