Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

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Archive for the category “Career Building”

4 Steps for Selecting a New Goal

Hello everyone, I hope you have been doing well in my absence.  I’ve gotten side-tracked lately with work and other stuff, but I’m going to try and get into blogging again – hopefully it will stick this time.  Today, I would like to talk about the process I like to use for determining whether I should set a new goal in current or new interest. There is a lot of advice about how to make a goal SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. However, advice on determining what your new goals should be is not discussed as often.  Hopefully, by following these 4 steps, you can increase your engagement in achieving new goals.

1. Determine whether or not the goal will remain compelling
If you’re like me, you try a lot of different things because you like the new experiences.  However, not all of them will necessarily be something that engages you over a long time period.  Something that is just a for-fun, random experience might be not be a good candidate for a new goal until you try it more often.

2. Determine what some possible end results would be
Try and imagine what the end result would look like. It might sound cool; but if you take some time consider how the end goal fits with your overall life plan, it helps you figure out if this goal is something you truly want to pursue.

3. Determine how much time you want spend achieving this goal and how much time it would take to actually do so
By determining how much time is required on a base level, you can determine if you realistically have the time or want to spend the time achieving this goal.  This goal could be a great idea until now, but the time required might not be practical.

4. Determine if this is something you would like to achieve in comparison to some of your other interests
Compare all of the above to current and new goal requirements. If it makes it past the steps above and any new or current goals don’t similarly conflict with it, you should consider setting up a concrete plan for completion.

The above steps are a basic process I use for determining new goals that I have found really helpful.  Especially since I have this desire to be good at everything and that is not practical on any level.  Hopefully, this helps you in determining good goals in the coming months.

Do y’all have any thoughts on these steps? And do y’all use a process like this for selecting goals? If yes, what is the process?  If you enjoyed my post, hit the like button, follow my blog for updates and share this post with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!


Achieving Long Term Goals Using the Rule of Three

Hello everyone, I hope everything is going well.  Today I want to go off of the usual engineering topic and share a recent idea I heard about from a guest speaker at a church event.  The idea is to basically limit yourself to a few important tasks for the day to meet your short term and long term goal obligations you have selected for yourself.  I’ve heard several variations of this, but the recent version I heard about is the “rule of three” as used by General Norman Schwarzkopf.

The initial step to this is having an overall plan for your life and creating goals to achieve them.  Maintaining a personal life plan has been something I’ve done for a while now.  I learned this process from Michael Hyatt – if you are curious for more information on this it is described in an e-book at the following link:  The basic premise is to figure out what you want to be known for, describe your life around that narrative, and set goals to accomplish that.  The goal setting part is the crux of this.  Most people can tell you what they want to be known for and the preferred life around that vision with a little bit of thought.  The difficult part is setting some achievable goals and completing them.

This is where the rule of three comes into practice.  In accomplishing the goals for this life plan, it is best to focus on doing a few things well throughout the week.  The rule of three is an organized method of doing this.  The method follows as such, set 3 tasks for the day, 3 goals for the week, 3 goals for the month, and 3 goals for the year.  This means that you are focusing on three relatively simple tasks.  However, it also ensures that you are keeping in mind your goals for your week, month, and year accordingly.  Along with benefits in general life goals, it looks better in other areas of your life.  The best example given in the talk is in reports to your boss.  Which sounds better – “I have made progress on 7 tasks” or “I have completed 3 tasks?”  The takeaway from this is that having an ambitious goal for your life is important, but that breaking it up into manageable chunks is critical.  The Rule of Three is a simple system to apply in breaking up your goals into tasks.

What is your preferred method for setting and accomplishing goals?  Do you think the Rule of Three is a practical method or do have something that you think works better? If you enjoyed my post, follow my blog for updates and share this post with your friends.  Thanks for reading and have a good week!

What does it truly mean to be an expert?

Hello everyone! I hope y’all had a good week.  Today I just wanted to share a quote I read online that describes what it means to be an expert in a field of study.  The quote is from Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso is well known for his abstract art that was definitely considering breaking the rules at the time.  Yet he was a legitimately good artist, which means he was technically a professional painter.  It initially seems like a a quote anecdotally reference to his views as an artist. However, if you dig a bit deeper into what is really beings said, it can be applied to a lot of different fields of study.  Think about a business man.  He might have some issues in selling a product.  There is probably a standard process that is followed to resolve the standard issues, but in this case it might not apply.  Therefore, by knowing the rules, he knows when is the right time to break them to achieve the results he desires.  It can be applied to engineering or science type stuff as well.  Every new break through in science and engineering occurred because some who would be considered a pro and studied in their field made a connection that hadn’t been made before.  They succeeded because they went against the norm (“broke the rules”) at the right time and discovered a way to improve a product, project or application.  So with this greater concept in mind, it becomes clear that an expert in any field of study knows not only when to follow the standard rules in a given situation, but also when those rules don’t apply and another solution needs to be found.

With that being said, I am going to leave you guys with this thought and hopefully you can implement it well in your career or life general – never get so caught up in the rules that you forget to break them when it comes time to do so.  As I have told many people before about my job, I have a lot of boring days where people wonder why I need my degree and other technical skill sets to do my job.  However, that knowledge informs me when a serious situation could come up that needs to be addressed, and I used that knowledge to prevent any further issues.  How do you guys interpret the quote?  Is there a particular story and event that describes your opinion?  If you enjoyed reading, like the post and share it with your friends.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Image Source

“Problem-solving is the Problem”, Florian Totu,, August 10, 2012,

Four Ways You Can Improve Your Wardrobe

Hickey Freeman

Hello everyone, I hope you guys are doing well.  Today, I thought I would take break from engineering topics and discuss four important considerations for a work wardrobe.  I know this can get far more detailed and will apply differently depending on the person and job position.  However, by working on these four general considerations, you can improve your wardrobe a lot in regards to looking well put together and professional.

1) Body Type and Fit

This is one consideration that can be applied to all types of clothing and the various situations at work.  If the clothing is too baggy or tight when you wear it, it will make you look unprofessional.  The fit that works best will vary depending on body type and it’s something I’m not completely knowledgeable on myself.  However, there are plenty of resources on the web to figure this out.  My recommendation is to take 15 minutes to do some basic research on standard clothing fit and trends that work for your body type when you go shopping and it will improve your appearance a lot.

2) Traditional Color and Pattern Conventions

This is one of the clothing topics that is not discussed as often as it should be in my opinion.  Everyone knows some basic rules like a black suit being traditional for weddings and funerals.  Another common one is navy blue for sales and a check or stripe pattern for a bolder yet professional appearance.  To give an example the opposite, it might look funny khaki dress pants to an evening event – a better option for something casual would probably be blue or gray.  Again, I am not expert on this but look some stuff up on-line and it will go along way in improving your outfit choices.

3) Coordinate your new purchases with your current wardrobe

Your wardrobe will be far more useful and you will have more outfit options if you consider what you already have when buying clothing.  You will also have a wardrobe that is more versatile in variety of situations if you buy clothing that can be used for multiple purposes with multiple outfits.  Furthermore, you look sharper because you can create more unique outfits.  There are several opinions on the optimal level of variety and versatility; but as long as an effort is made to consider this basic concept, it will improve your wardrobe.

4) Find your style and feel confident

The bottom line is that there no one right way to dress.  There are guidelines that are suggested and some are definitely more important than others; however, good style and confidence can trump some of those guidelines.  So my recommendation is have fun and find something that you feel good wearing, then you can apply the above recommendations accordingly.

If you want some good resources on style and clothing in general I recommend these two blogs: i am alpha m and real men real style.

Do you guys agree with these recommendations?  Is there anything you would add to this list?  Feel free to like and share the post if you enjoyed reading.  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Image reference

Trust yourself. Create the kind of person that you will be happy with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

Great quote. It speaks to the truth that accomplishment and happiness is achieved one step at a time.

Don Charisma

«Trust yourself. Create the kind of person that you will be happy with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.»

— Foster C. McClellan Charisma quotes are sponsored by – you dream it we built it … because – “anything is possible with Charisma”

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Technical or General Engineering Courses in Your College Education

Hello, I hope everyone is doing well.  Today, I wanted to discuss a personal dilemma I have had during my studies in my Masters of Engineering degree program.  The concern is whether I should take courses that expand my general knowledge or focus on one specialty of structural engineering.  At first, I was trying to get a general base of knowledge with the intention of gaining a detailed skill set once I got a job.  However, due to the availability of courses, I have shifted to the second approach in the last two semesters – a concrete bridge design course last semester and structural dynamics this semester.  The concern I have is which would be better in the long run.  I really don’t see any true negative concerns to either course of action; however, there are different possibilities depending on which focus is taken.

There a several good things about a general base of knowledge:

Gain more practical and hands on knowledge quicker – a large general base of knowledge would help you gain more knowledge about general engineering practice quicker.  It would also not tie you into one specific or focused position straight off either, which should theoretically give you a lot of career options.

Allow yourself to see the methods of the company with an unbiased mind – By learning the advanced structural methods through the company, you don’t have to unlearn old habits.  You could also learn only the advanced methods that are applicable in practice and not have to worry about something being too academic or idealistic.

Start your career earlier – An early start in your career could get you a high position faster – assuming you do your job well.

There are also several good things about a specific knowledge base in your education:

Gain focused technical expertise quicker – By doing more technical course work, you could theoretically get a more focused or better job due to the increased expertise.  This knowledge could still be learned in practice but it would take longer.  A good example would be the construction worker who works his way up to being a construction manager vs. a college graduate who got a degree in construction management.

Higher position/more responsibility earlier – Your increased technical expertise could allow to start in a higher position as well.  There would still be things you need to learn to do your job if you are a new employee, but the in this case the question would be when and not if.

Knowledge of more up to date techniques – By learning more technical practices in school, you could learn practices that might not be fully implemented at an engineering firm.  One would hope that the firm isn’t too far behind, but the delay in implementing ASD in structural design in the last 10 to 20 years is a good example of how it could happen.

In my education, I have gone straight through with my coursework and pursued my Masters of Engineering while working part time.  However, I wish I had been more determined to pursue my original plan – get a job after I got my Bachelor’s Degree and pursue my Masters of Engineering while doing that.

What did you do in your education?  Would you do it that way again?  Are there any positive or negative consequences that you can directly attribute to this?

The Best Times To Post To Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & Other Social Networks [Infographic]

The Best Times To Post To Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & Other Social Networks [Infographic].

Non-engineering skills necessary for engineering

Hello everyone.  This week went well for me, but much hasn’t changed.  Just plodding along with my one kid I’m tutoring. He’s doing well though, probably jumped a whole grade in the last couple of weeks.  Along with that, he picks up new topics very quickly; all in all it’s actually kind of enjoyable.  While contemplating his lessons, it got me thinking about this blog topic – non-engineering skills necessary for engineering.  I have list of some below and why I think they are import.

1)      Social Skills – I’m sure this one is obvious to everyone.  As much as people may joke about the fact that engineers can be socially awkward, any time you need to sell you skills and qualities as an engineer requires some sort of social skills.  And truth be told, it’s actually kind of enjoyable from time to time.  One of the jobs I enjoyed the most while I was in school was working at a wine bar.  I am a huge wine nerd and that job was pretty much talking about wine with people and getting paid to do it.  That’s the way socializing in a job setting should feel in my opinion.  If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate some things.

2)      Teaching – In working as a substitute teacher and now a tutor over summer, I have learned how to teach a lesson to groups of varying sizes.  Was it always enjoyable for me?  No.  But as I have had to give presentations over the years when in school, I have discovered that doing that as a day job has helped me.   I have learned how to answer a question in a way that breaks it down to an understandable level.  I have learned how to answer a person’s questions while foreseeing who else it might apply to and giving an answer that will satisfy all their needs.  But most importantly, I have learned patience – if someone has a tough question, I can respond patiently and articulately without sounding stressed or discombobulated.

3)      A foreign language? – This one I am on the fence about, but it is something I have a slight ability in and currently working to improve.  It would certainly depend on the work that you do, but being able to communicate easily with the people you work with is important.  Since I work in Texas, a lot of the migrant workers speak Spanish better than English. If I am ever put in a situation where I work in the field, I can only imagine that it would help me.

4)      Ability to learn/adapt quickly – Job skills and requirements are always changing.  That’s why the PE requires that you take some continuing education courses to maintain your skills.  If you are slow to adapt to or learn these new techniques, it will be difficult to truly be good in your field.  Truth be told, I always love learning new things, so I don’t have an issue with it for the most part.  I think most people who aren’t engineers assume that most engineers are like me.  But I could see where, if you just like the process of design and don’t always want to be on the cutting edge of things, it might be more difficult – even if you are a highly skilled and respected designer.

Those are the most relevant ones that I could think of in this short, last minute blogging session.  Are there any other skills that you can think of?

How to Apply the Concept of Idealism to your Career


Hello, I hope everyone’s week is going well.  Having finished up graduate school paperwork for the summer, I’m feeling a bit more motivated in pursuing other things like blogging and volunteer engineering.  Who knows…maybe I’ll find a job if I get really lucky.  Today I wanted to talk about idealism and core values in building up your career.  I got this idea from reading an article about how the top 50 companies in the world do this well.  In the article, it goes into further detail on two main components of applying idealism and core values that I see a lot of people with good careers pursue as well.

The first concept is that money – and the article doesn’t say it specifically but I would include power as well – doesn’t connect directly with the idealism of the company.  The most common way of looking at it is in the negative context, don’t sell out your ideals to make money.  But upon further reflection, I believe it is better to view in this in a more positive aspect – pursue your ideals in a profitable and sustainable way.  That is the hallmark of a successful career in my opinion.  All the people I have met that are successful in their jobs have found a way to pursue their passion and ideals in a job (within a company or on their own) to earn enough money to make themselves happy.  And along with that, they always make sure that this is currently being accomplished and maintainable in the foreseeable future.

The second concept is to make sure your ideals are a being applied in a way that intersects with a need in the cultural/market situation.  The example that the article gave was that Louis Vuitton; their ideal is to make travel luxurious and they pursue it by turning life into an “exceptional trip” since there has been a decrease in travel lately.  The same thing can be said about great careers.  Someone may have impeccable ideals, skills to pursue it and theoretically been able to make money by doing that at some point.  If the market has moved or companies aren’t looking to hire in that area, it will be hard to find a job doing that.  Instead, it would be more beneficial to try and fulfill a need that currently exists that aligns with your ideals and skills.

Having read that article, it’s something that I am going to try and apply to my career goals.  I feel like it’s a bit easier for us engineers to do than some other careers, but I still see some of my friends struggle with it.  Do you think you do good job of applying this in your career?  If so, what aspects do you focus on more – core ideals or finding a niche you enjoy?  Do you think people in general do a good job of applying this concept?  I hope everyone has a good week. 🙂

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