Posts filed under ‘Networking’

Civil Engineering: Taking a Hard Line on Soft Skills

Successful real estate investor Barbara Corcoran once said:

So as we leap into 2017 with both feet, make the development of your soft skills a priority.  Here are a few reasons why your soft skills are so important:

Business Development:  Your track record and resume of successfully completed projects may look stunning on glossy marketing pieces, well-written proposals, or a high-end website.  You may have delivered all of your projects ahead of schedule and under budget while maintaining impeccable quality.  Your current and past clients will even vouch for you.  BUT, in developing new clients, if you are unable to connect with them on a personal level and build a trusting and GENUINE relationship where the client actually LIKES you, the odds of landing a new client are slim.

Career Advancement:  Taking the concept beyond just winning new clients, the development of soft skills and relationship building skills are CRUCIAL to the advancement of your career whether you are an EIT just starting out, or Project Manager fighting to break out of the chains of middle management.   In these cases, let’s look at applying the soft skills to the people you surround yourself with.  Assuming that your engineering skills are stellar, company leaders are more inclined to promote and hire professionals they like (or can envision) working with and enjoy being around.  You may be the most creative, on-point, civil engineering design expert, but if you are unable to communicate, or if you ride around on a high horse because you know you have mad skills, you will find yourself treading water for a long time.

Team Building:  Let’s face it, you are only as good as the team you are leading.  As a leader, you need to build trust with and really get to know your team members…both as professionals and as individuals.  Take the time to learn what motivates them, what drives them, what they enjoy doing outside of work, where they want to take their careers, and then build bridges accordingly.   Sitting behind a closed office door all day may allow YOU to get things done, but that short-term success/instant gratification will ultimately force your team to crumble beneath you.  Yes, it takes work, and time, and you may have to work more hours than you would prefer to get your own stuff done, but the payoff will be ten-fold.

In a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives, 92% indicated that soft skills were equally important, if not more important than, technical skills.  Your ability to develop your soft skills and build quality, legitimate relationships will help differentiate you from the pack and will lead to a rewarding and fruitful career in civil engineering.

Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner ::

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January 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Your Civil Engineering Career :: A Lesson From Peyton Manning

Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

Change is good.  Just ask Peyton Manning.

After 14 illustrious years with the Indianapolis Colts,  11 Pro Bowl Selections, 4 MVP Awards, and 1 Super Bowl victory, Peyton Manning has easily secured himself a bust in his image and a nicely fitted gold jacket in Canton.  But even after all that success, earlier this month Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts parted ways.

What can you, as a Civil Engineering professional, learn from Peyton Manning’s recent career situation?

*Hone your craft as a civil engineer, constantly strive to learn, surround yourself with other successful civil engineers and team members, take on challenges and challenge those around you to be better, be a leader, make a difference, treat people with respect, network.  Peyton Manning mastered these traits as a professional athlete, and as a result, when the time came where he separated from his employer, he had many different options as a result.

*Should you lose your job, if you have the opportunity to do so, be sure to EXPLORE your options; just don’t take the first thing that is presented to you. Peyton Manning did have the opportunity, so he met with the Broncos, the 49er’s, the Titans, and maybe even a few others.  After spending 14 years with the same team, he wanted to make sure he made a well thought out decision.

*Keep a positive attitude.  Your instinctive reaction is to become negative when you learn that you are laid off.  Fight those feelings of negativity and bitterness off.  Look back at all you’ve learned and accomplished and be proud of it.  Then look forward.  There are other organizations out there that are waiting to learn from you and all you have to offer.  Look ahead at the potential for you to learn new skills, new techniques, new clients, new processes, etc.  I am sure Manning is dealing with some difficult emotions after spending so many years in Indianapolis, that is natural.  But he does not dwell on that.  Peyton brings a great deal of success and knowledge to a new team, and he understands this.  As much as he may learn a new system with new plays and new teammates, he of course has plenty to offer that will make the Broncos a better organization.


If you have ever seen Peyton Manning play, he is the master of the audible.  From time to time in your career you will step up behind center and realize that YOU need to call an audible.  You have the perfect plan laid out in your mind for that situation, but that situation can change in an instant.  If you come prepared to work each and every day as Manning came prepared for game time, and there is a sudden shift in the situation, you will be prepared to call the perfect audible that will lead to pay dirt!

If your career calls for an audible, put yourself in the position to make the right call.  A layoff or RIF can truly be a refreshing experience that can reinvigorate your career and maybe even lead you to the Hall of Fame…or at least an OPAL Award!

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm 10 comments

Taking Your Business to the Next Level

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Author, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
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Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Sole proprietors and very small A/E firms spend their early years struggling to stabilize cash flow while prospecting to win new business, facilitate output and invoice the client. It’s an endless cycle, with the same person or a few people wearing multiple hats. And when they are busy “doing” usually the “selling” process suffers, and vice versa.

No matter how much your business has grown, and how many layers of infrastructure you’ve developed, generating and maintaining revenue stream is what it’s all about.

All businesses get “stuck” on a plateau of input, throughout, output and client mix: the formula that got them to where they are today but may not be enough to sustain them in the future. How can you build out your current successful business development platform so you remain nimble in the marketplace and poised to take your company to the next level?

1. Incorporate relevant trigger events into prospecting.

A/E firms are already tuned in to reporting sites listing news about building expansion, property development and municipal funding, to name a few areas of opportunity. These traditional areas of prospecting can be supplemented by gaining greater proficiency in Web search. Using alternative search engines, search methods, and terms can help your company identify “trigger events” or additional, relevant information about your industry and clientele. Sam Richter’s book, “Take The Cold Out of Cold Calling – Web Search Secrets” ( is an indispensable resource for sales and business development professionals seeking to differentiate their deliverables. Why prospect using the same information as your competition?

2. Help your clients build their businesses.

Your clients use the Internet to research your company, as well. Often sellers aren’t invited to sit down with prospective clients until the client creates their shortlist of potential vendors. So your business development person may enter the scene after your prospect has made decisions about the project.  How can your company differentiate itself from the other “problem-solvers” or “consultative sellers” who are out there competing in your space? Is  your website a billboard or “informational?” Do you offer White Papers or  Press Releases which are up to date? Are you using social media? Prospects may not all be technical, don’t want to read your website from cover to cover, and need to understand the relevance of unlabeled photo portfolios. Website and media content should establish an initial – and valuable – dialogue with your customers that goes beyond problem solving. Help them understand how doing business with your company makes their company more robust.

3. Look at yourself from your clients’ perspective.

Connect yourself to your company’s revenue stream. Many companies develop a great workflow infrastructure for handling won business. However, that infrastructure would be non-existent if it weren’t for the BD folks identifying these opportunities and the clients funding your output. Look at yourself from the outside looking in, as your potential clients see you, rather than from the inside looking out. While you are responsible for the A to Z of your job description, your clients have a bigger context into which they place your company. They only are interested in how your company’s A to Z impacts their company’s A to Z.  How are you, and your company, helping your clients answer the question: What’s In It For Me?

4. Treat internal colleagues like they are prospects, because they are.

Make your vertical structure more horizontal; poke holes in departmental silos. Depending on where we sit around the table, we see the same things differently. Just as vendors have Lunch and Learn sessions to inform companies about new products and services, start a Lunch and Learn group at your company. These sessions place everyone’s role into the broadest possible cross-functional context.  It literally pays to have everyone on the same page.  What insights can your business development folks provide for your project engineers on the types of issues and questions they hear from current and prospective clients? How might your business development folks benefit from listening to how their inaccessibility impedes workflow and profitability? Everyone’s communicating this company-wide A to Z, and not just the one defined by the scope of their job description, may become the competitive differentiator your company is looking for.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 6, 2012 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

Got A Well Baked Cupcake?

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
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Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog



Had coffee with one of my marketing colleagues yesterday. Interesting conversation about how so many of our clients in the B2B marketplace perceive the discipline of Marketing as a superficial indulgence they engage in, reluctantly, from time to time.

After all, everyone knows Who You Are, which is the first sign and symptom of Word of Mouth syndrome. Your company has been around for a while. You’ve been drinking your own Kool-Aid® and believe your firm will be top of mind when an A/E firm is needed.

Let the newbie competitor engineering and architecture companies nipping at your heels engage in “marketing communications.” After all, the newbies are the ones who need the business, not your company, right?

Newsflash folks. No matter How Great You Think You Art, you are not as top-of-mind in the vendor selection process as you think you “art.” And those competitor companies nipping at your heels? They aren’t all local, or even domestic, competitors. Their marketing communications efforts firmly place their companies where their clients and prospects are looking and when they are looking to receive strong and consistent messages about the core competencies of their firms.  And Where They Art, You Are Not. Now who is competing with whom? And in what market space?

Marketing isn’t the sprinkles on the cupcake, folks. It IS the cupcake. Marketing is the front end of cash flow. And if you are looking to shorten your business development, sales, and order-to-cash cycles, marketing is where you start. It’s not a matter of cold calling or constantly stopping by your customers and leaving coffee, donuts and brochures. It’s not a matter of wining and dining them or inviting them to your company’s annual golf outing.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit more noble than sprinkles on the cupcake. In fact, it sounds like marketing addresses how you identify prospective customers, the actions you take to secure these customers, and the strategies you use to retain these customers. Sounds like a plan to me. And it sounds like an endeavor that should be part of everyone’s job description.

Because everyone in your organization is the physical embodiment of your delivery of your core competencies against your marketing strategy and marketing communications. Yes, it’s that’s important.

So what kind of marketing strategy and communications does your company engage in? Especially since marketing appears to impact the type of cupcake you bake. Forget about the sprinkles. An annual ad in the ADA journal? A booth at a local trade show, maybe every other year? Purchase of Google ad words? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, dabbling instead of aggressively pursuing. Because the professions of architecture and engineering are noble and lofty, which preclude them from engaging in marketing communications? Huh?

Ah c’mon folks. Do you know how many people look for information about doctors on Angie’s List (yes, Angie’s List)? Do you know how many folks just type in local architect and call the company whose name starts with “A”, which usually is the local handyman or design-builder? Who ends up doing a good job?

If you don’t educate your current and prospective customers about Who Thou Art, they will never have an opportunity to find out How Great Thou Art. And you don’t have to necessarily feel like you are part of the latest chapter of Mad Men® when marketing. In fact, it might feel natural.

Marketing involves a bit more than hawking your wares. It’s more like growing your personal and corporate brand. In deeds, rather than words. In stewardship, rather than client dinners.

When’s the last time your firm published a white paper, worked with Engineers Without Borders®, taught a drafting class at the local trade school or partnered on the local Habitat for Humanity® project? When’s the last time you invited your prospective and current clients to join with you in these efforts?

That’s the real marketing. Because that’s what matters. That is how you can walk your talk and show how your art and craft is all about making this place far more tolerable and habitable for society.

That’s the recipe for a well-baked cupcake. One that your clients will want to buy. Over and over again.

Think about it.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

October 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

The End of the World is Upon Us! (Naw, not really, its just the end of the 3rd quarter)

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

This is the time of year when many civil engineering and A/E consulting firms start pressuring their employees to complete outstanding projects for invoicing by year’s end. Now is the time of year when companies start pressuring their business development folks to bring in more work, win more contracts, make appointments with more people, talk to somebody, anybody who appears mildly interested in doing business with your company. It’s also the time when management simultaneously starts to threaten and cajole employees to become more productive and generate more revenue…. “or else.”  It’s the time of year when we sometimes sit with our collective heads in our hands and wonder how we ever got ourselves into all this.

OK. Time to climb off your mental ledge and get your feet firmly back into the building. While I am not about to wave a magic wand and tell you that all will be OK, there are some things you should think about doing if you haven’t already started. Regardless of whether your corporate fiscal year aligns with the calendar year. 

Some thoughts for teeing up for this fiscal year’s end and beyond….

  1. Next year’s business development campaign starts January 1 of the previous year. Clients’ and prospects’ sales years and cash flow simply do not align with your or your company’s need to generate revenue. You work for them, not the opposite. As you identify prospects and projects, put them into your “mental file folder:” is this particular project or client worth your time and effort, should they not be in a position to move forward for, say 12 months? Some of the big projects are won in this manner. You have to work differently with these types of clients and develop a strong understanding of how decisions are made within their corporate culture and infrastructure.
  2. Providing value to your clients doesn’t involve constantly jumping through their hoops. Some clients are sadistic: they treat all of their vendors in this manner, constantly changing their minds, upping the ante, and expecting not to be charged for their indecision and vanity. (You are not an advertising agency which self-selects for individuals who like living on the edge like this). Perhaps these are not the types of clients your company should be pursuing, even though they may offer the potential for landing big, juicy, high-profile projects. They may not treat you very well, while expecting you to put up with them and rack up a huge amount of non-billable hours in the process. If all of your clients are like this, how compromised and exhausted do you feel by the end of the year? Perhaps it’s time to clean out your client closet.
  3. Best may be better than optimal. While you pursue your technical quest for the optimal solution, how much is it costing your company? Unless you are an architectural or engineering genius and are the only reason your company was awarded the contract in the first place, you are part of a collaborative team effort. So communicate and determine whether the optimal solution really is optimal in the long run, before you pursue that design path. Depending on where we sit around the table, we see the same thing differently. Make sure you validate your ideas along with everyone else’s perspective. The best solution may be the most robust, in the long run.

What is your strategy for finishing up the current fiscal year? Let me know.

September 27, 2011 at 11:35 am 2 comments

Are you making others feel like they are on the outside, looking in?


Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

There’s an art to building and maintaining client relationships. It’s more important than ever before. Clients are becoming more difficult to “win” and their loyalty is more elusive. And the definition of “client” encompasses those individuals within the workplace, your subcontractors and the companies who have contracted your products, services and capabilities.

There’s no room for elitism in client relationships. Your clients, subcontractors, co-workers and boss may admire your skill set and communication acumen. However, they did not hire you so they can worship you. They hired you for What’s In It For Me (WIFM): what you bring to the table and how you build their revenue stream.

Your “wow” solution or creative design allows people to appreciate you for understanding their needs. They assess your ability at communicating and asking good questions. They are delighted in your facility in translating these needs to the various technical disciplines involved in the project. And they will laud you and your company for producing output that not only solves their initial problem, but perhaps moves their company further along competitively as well. 

So don’t ruin the momentum you, and your company,  have created by “wearing” an attitude that communicates you are “too cool” for your clients. Or worse, that your clients are “too ignorant” for you to truly impart the sum total of your amazing skill set.  Or that the language and principles of engineering and architecture are too far beyond the capacity of your clients (mere mortals) to understand.  Oh, please. This is not the differentiator you want to establish no matter how good you are, how educated you are or how wonderful your solutions are. There’s someone to replace you right around the corner.

That’s not to say, alternatively, you should be your clients’ best friend, either. There is a fine line to maintaining professionalism while being accessible to the full range of your clients’ needs. Developing the extra set (or two) of professional “antenna” which allow you to assess the context of business decision making is crucial to building and maintaining client relationships.  And while professionalism may extend into playing golf, providing tickets to events, and invitations to company social events, you still need to remember that you are hired by your clients (and your company, for that matter) to provide solutions, not companionship.

When it comes down to it, your client base doesn’t owe you anything after they pay their last invoice to your company. No matter how much they fawned over you during the course of the project.  Regardless of whether or not they made you feel invincible and infallible during the course of the project.  Repeat business isn’t guaranteed.  And the context of the next project with this same client may not afford you anywhere near the same degree of familiarity as you encountered during the previous project.

Think about it.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

May 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn


As a Search Consultant specializing in the civil engineering profession,  I speak to dozens of civil engineers on a daily basis discussing with them their careers, their employers, their projects, what motivates them, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes about their job, their career goals, etc.  When discussing their motivation for exploring new opportunities one thing I hear from time-to-time is how they would like to find an opportunity that is “fun.”    I am sure I just got a few chuckles there as the concept of having fun in one’s career is buried by deadlines, stress, non-stop meetings, overbearing bosses, needy employees, critical clients who are never satisfied, and pressure from outside shareholders who barely know what a civil engineer is…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!   Everyone’s perception of fun is different, but is there REALLY a way to have fun as a civil engineering consultant?

Well, according to civil engineer and professional career coach Anthony Fasano, PE, civil engineers CAN have fun, and they SHOULD have fun.  Here is what Anthony had to say to me on this very topic:

” It’s amazing when I coach engineers on career growth and development, how many of them think fun and work can’t go together.  My question to them is, why would you want to do something for 40 plus hours a week if it’s not enjoyable?

Many professionals ask, how can I make my career more fun?  First of all, if you are passionate about what you do, you will have a lot of fun.  Another tip I always give engineers is to get out there and network.  Build relationships in your industry through professional societies and other networking groups.  Do it with the goal of building lasting relationships and you will find that your days are much more enjoyable.  Building personal relationships in your industry can greatly increase your level of enjoyment.  Don’t just join these organizations, get involved!

You only get one career, why shouldn’t it be fun?”

So as you ponder your career and some different ways that you can inject some fun into it, take a look at Chris Stone’s Summary below.  Chris is the President of Clark Nexsen, a 90+ year old AE firm based out of Norfolk, VA.    I uncovered Chris’ profile on LinkedIn, and his profile was the inspiration for this blog…check it out:

 LinkedIn Summary
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel public schools on my lunch breaks, making them more energy efficient. I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I am the subject of numerous documentaries.

When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. After work, I repair electrical appliances free of charge. I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

Bottom line, I enjoy life and do not take myself too seriously.

Chris’ summary is taken from one of the most quotable texts found on the internet,  Hugh Gallagher’s famous College Application Essay.  Now I’ve never spoken to Chris, but after reading his profile summary on LinkedIn, if he truly looks through his lens on life with that perspective,  I would bet that his career success can been partially attributed to his ability to have fun.  So the question remains,

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

May 17, 2011 at 9:01 am 2 comments

Top 9 Most Recent “C’Mon Man!” Moments In Civil Engineering Recruiting

 Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

For those of you football fans who watch ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, you are likely familiar with their “C’Mon Man!” segment.  For those of you who don’t have the slightest clue as to what I am talking about, in a nutshell, the Monday Night Countdown crew members compile moments from the past weekend’s games that leave you scratching your head and saying to yourself (or out loud in their case) “C’Mon, Man!”

Here is segment to give you the gist of what I am talking about:

Now that you catch my drift, after speaking with a number of my recruiting colleagues across the country, I have compiled my Top 9  “C’Mon, Man!” moments from the world of civil engineering recruiting over the past year:

  1. A  candidate who has been out of work for 6 months goes through three stages of the interview process, she is on the cusp of receiving an offer contingent upon references checking out and she provides a poor reference that sells her down the river…C’MON MAN!
  2. A candidate tells us all the motivations for him to consider a change, we provide an opportunity that meets all those needs and gives him a $25K/20%  increase in his base salary.  He verbally accepts to the hiring manager on Friday and then on Monday decides to stay where he is…C’MON MAN!
  3. We successfully recruit a C-Level candidate for an extremely confidential CEO search.  The candidate is aware that this position must be treated with the highest level of confidentiality and agrees to abide by the “rules” of confidentiality.  After being shortlisted by the existing CEO as a candidate, said candidate decides to call a friend AT THAT COMPANY in attempt to get some inside information on the company and ultimately spilled the beans…needless to say he knocked himself out of contention…C’MON MAN!
  4. A client asks us to conduct a search and bring candidates to the table for a Regional Manager position…a great candidate with a solid reputation is presented and interviewed, but the client is unable to provide ANY feedback until four weeks later, only to say “not interested.”  That’s it?   C’MON MAN!
  5. A client company has two candidates they are considering interviewing …one is unemployed and has some of the skills they are looking for…the other is gainfully employed and fits most of what they are looking for.  The client company would rather interview the unemployed candidate first and make a decision because they are worried that the employed candidate may take a counteroffer…C’MON MAN!
  6. A candidate has been so brainwashed as an employee that he tells us he will never leave his current employer because it is the “best company to work for in the history of all companies ever.”  Really?  The best company to work for in the history of all companies… ever?    C’MON MAN!
  7. A company wants a” rainmaker” who will significantly increase top line revenues for their office or company, but they are not willing to pay market value…COME ON MAN!
  8. We spoke with an engineer who diminishes the value of obtaining her PE because she says that she knows PE’s that she has worked with and she already knows WAY more than they do…C’MON MAN!
  9. A candidate was referred to us by someone we respect in the industry, yet they respond to our contacting them by making a completely egotistical and arrogant statements about how great they are….C’MON MAN!

These are just a handful of “C’MON MAN” moments that have happened in our industry over the past year.   I know I am dishin’ it out here, but I will be the first to confess that we have had a few “C’MON MAN” moments on our end over the  years as well that we have learned from.  I guess it’s all a part of what makes our careers…and life  interesting! 

If you have any “C’MON MAN” moments from the world of recruiting or civil engineering that you would like to share, please feel free to do so!

One more thought…”Top 10″ lists, yes.   But who the heck ever heard of a “Top 9” list?   C’MON MAN!!!!!

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 12, 2011 at 11:21 am 12 comments

Is Entrepreneurship for you? An interview with Amy Cell, Ann Arbor SPARK Business Incubator.


Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
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Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Amy Cell joined Ann Arbor SPARK in 2006 and is currently Vice President, Talent Enhancement & Entrepreneurial Education, where she assists organizations with their talent needs, provides oversight for a variety of entrepreneurial education programs and manages the SPARK East incubator.  Helping support economic and workforce growth in the region is her dream job, since she was born and raised in Michigan and earned a BBA and MBA from U-Michigan.  In addition to working as a CPA for Plante & Moran, and launching an Office of Student Life for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, she has spent 10 years in a variety of human resources roles at Ford Motor Company, the Stanford Research Institute, Applied Biosystems and co-founded the consulting partnership HR Drivers.  Current and past board memberships include the Center for Entrepreneurship at the U-M College of Engineering, Women’s Council for Washtenaw Community College, Huron Musical Association, Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw, Ross School of Business SE Michigan Alumni Club, Kingcare, King PTO and the Junior League of Ann Arbor.

In an economy where many civil engineering firms are downsizing and laying people off, many civil engineers have no other option but to go into business for themselves…and many have been extremely successful as a result.  Also, after many years of success working for a civil engineering firm many civil engineers voluntarily branch out to form their own corporations.  So whether your goal is to be a one man band or to grow your business into an international civil engineering powerhouse, we felt this interview would be worth your while:

BTH: Amy, what does your position involve?

AC: I connect talent and opportunity for entrepreneurs in the Greater Ann Arbor area and throughout Michigan.  Ann Arbor SPARK works with innovative businesses and start-ups to launch and grow.   I provide the talent components as each venture identifies gaps or needs.

BTH: Just what exactly is “talent?”

AC: Talent is a very unique component to any entrepreneurial endeavor. We rarely recognize how important talent is at each phase of business development. For start-ups, I align entrepreneurs with consultants with expertise in various fields such as accounting, marketing, financial / business planning, lean / Six Sigma, sales, prototyping, etc. so that entrepreneurs can move forward from idea to implementation.

SPARK has a suite of everything an entrepreneur needs. We have physical space so that the inventors / entrepreneurs can come to a place to work that is separate from their existing workplace or home environment, for example. We provide educational space as well and have weekly seminars on how to start your own business, as well as other topics such as marketing roundtables, biotech roundtables, etc. 

SPARK also is a business accelerator and is a funding resource for entrepreneurs. We have competitions for innovation and conduct a Business Boot Camp twice a year for entrepreneurs who are selected to participate. Really, when you think about it, we offer a complete toolkit for the entrepreneur and a venue in which to network and connect with the business community.

BTH: Many communities have some form of business incubator / accelerator.  How does Ann Arbor SPARK compare / contrast, not only locally but with models used in other states?

AC:  Every community does economic development in a different way. We focus on the three major areas (business attraction, business retention and entrepreneurship) rather than in one or two areas.  One of my responsibilities involves working with startups, local companies, and companies from out of state who want to relocate or open a division elsewhere in the US. I promote the advantages of what Michigan brings to the table. We approach business development with a broad brush stroke.

BTH: What are the greatest obstacles to entrepreneurship facing engineers, IT professionals and other technical individuals?

AC: I work with about 500 entrepreneurial companies each year who are looking for talent to assist them in moving to the next level. Oftentimes, I am working with the technical founder who is looking for talented consultants and mentors with business skills. You can have a brilliant technical team that has a patent or patents. I put them together with an equally talented business team.

One person can’t grow a company themselves.  If someone is the technical founder, they usually have difficulties communicating and selling their idea, product or service to investors. The Executive Team should be able to sell. If the Founder / Inventor / CEO can’t sell, that’s an issue. Often the inventor doesn’t have solid business acumen. If there is no business development side then they will have trouble developing sales. That’s why what happens at SPARK is so important in moving the technology out from the drawing board into the daylight.

 Sometimes I do see serial entrepreneurs who are inventors. They have the complete toolkit.  But that’s rare.

BTH: What are the major reasons start-up companies thrive or get stuck and fail?

AC: Investors won’t take a chance on an unproven idea. Investors will invest in a “B” idea with an “A” team vs. and “A” idea with a “B” team. If you want to get funding you need to do what will attract investors. If the inventor/CEO is unwilling to relinquish the reins or work with a team, things can derail.

Successful start-ups have an understanding of the market and their customers. They clearly understand pain points and develop a solution. They develop a painkiller instead of a vitamin. Some people think they are going to get a lot of money for an idea or have a great idea but have no customers.  They haven’t done their homework. However, they feel people will intuitively understand their idea, embrace it, fund it and move it into the marketplace for them. That’s not how entrepreneurship works. Lots of inventors don’t get out to the customer.  If you don’t know who your customer is, investors will perceive risk in your idea and potential failure.

 BTH: If you had one piece of advice for any engineering, IT or other technical professional thinking of leaving their current place of employment and starting their own business, what would it be?

AC: Creating a compelling a business case for a product or service – growing your own business – requires persuasion and communication skills. I’ve seen many PhD’s who call themselves “former” introverts who have learned how to get out in a crowd and sell things. This can be learned if you really want to.

SPARK Boot Camp gives entrepreneurs the environment in which to practice how they communicate their business to others. Our mentors and consultants provide feedback on how to give a presentation as well as a pitch.

There are organizations such as Toastmasters International and various business organizations these entrepreneurs can join which will give them additional experience getting up in front of others and talking about who they are and what their company is all about. Consider this process improvement to changing one’s aversion to business communication. Practice. That’s really what’s at hand here.

BTH: Do technical professionals make good business people?

AC:  Technical people really are business people. They understand the technical aspect of their product or service.  Being an entrepreneur, or head of your own company, requires leadership skills. Leadership, requires a different set of skills and attributes from being an engineer or a sales person in someone else’s company. 

Some of the best leaders I know are technical people. They have greater credibility with investors and the marketplace because they understand the technical side of their business. They understand their product. They know how to work in teams and how to select the teams. And their teams respect them.

BTH: What should entrepreneurs be doing to gain experience with the business community?

AC: There are a lot of resources out there within which to develop a network of support for your ideas. In Ann Arbor, we have the New Enterprise Forum which meets monthly. Entrepreneurs give business pitches to potential investors. There is an entrepreneurial panel which presents on a specific topic. There is networking and a warm, inviting community.

BTH: Thank you Amy for your insights. In wrapping up, I mentor at Ann Arbor SPARK judging business competitions and meeting with entrepreneurs on a volunteer basis each month. It’s a privilege working with Amy and the talented folks within this organization.

I find that many times, entrepreneurs have great ideas but don’t understand what’s involved in business development. They don’t understand what it takes to get customers.  The toolkit Ann Arbor SPARK provides is invaluable in connecting these dots. As an entrepreneur, you need to talk to potential customers early in the idea or product development process to make sure you have a viable concept. And not just your family or friends or one or two customers. Sometimes entrepreneurs get shot down by this type of interaction and become discouraged . You need to reach out into the entrepreneurial community for support. You need to go out into your marketplace and get feedback.  It’s those experiences which grow your passion and leadership for your innovation.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

December 1, 2010 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

Civil Engineering 2.0 – How Do You Measure Up?

Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to discuss the topic of the utilization of social networking and Web 2.0 tools when it comes to the civil engineering industry.  We have discussed this topic on a number of occasions not only here within our blog, but on our LinkedIn discussion board…but from what I have seen out there, the conversation is worth continuing.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog it is as a result of learning about it via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, so I get it that you get it. But the question remains, does your company or your employer or those associations you are a member of get it?

With the modern era of the internet beginning in the early 90’s, it was greeted with excitement and skepticism.  As many organizations jumped on the bandwagon, many sat back and waited…and waited…and waited.  As we sit here now, approaching the year 2011, if you don’t have a website you lack credibility.  Eventually most folks caught on to this concept and it is very rare to find a company that does not have a website.   As web 2.0 technologies mature, how much longer can your company afford to sit on its laurels before it’s too late?

Failure of civil engineering organizations to embrace social networking tools will  not have a crippling  impact on the way they do business, but it will impact them in some way, shape, or form. I’ve taken the liberty to do some exploring on the internet of some great examples of how organizations within and surrounding the civil engineering community are taking advantage of web 2.0 tools.  Let’s take a look:


Washington Department of Transportation:

Texas Department of Transportation:

  • Facebook – with over 2600 followers of TxDot’s Facebook page they are able to advertise open civil engineering and construction jobs, discuss politics, traffic congestion and post videos and photos of events that effect transportation across the state
  • Twitter – each TxDOT District has their own Twitter account as a tool to share information with employees, vendors, residents, and the travelers.
  • YouTube – dozens of videos showing how concrete barriers save lives, what the statewide long range plan looks like, and proposed highway concept plans, just to name a few.
  • Podcasts – weekly podcasts are produced and posted on their site on a wide variety of topics



  • LinkedIn – to help promote the company and advertise civil engineering job openings
  • Facebook – to promote press releases regarding employee promotions, company awards, project wins, etc. They also are able to post videos that specifically relate to their company – like their spot on the CBS Evening News.
  • Twitter – to promote company news
  • YouTube – Ulteig has their own company YouTube Channel


  • Facebook  & Twitter– used as a marketing tool promoting news articles, press releases, promotions, and video featuring Pennoni and Pennoni employees
  • YouTube – Used as an avenue to post all news video relating to Pennoni projects or associates
  • LinkedIn– Used again as an avenue for free PR, but also provides an avenue for other LI members to learn more about the folks within their organization.  They also have their own group where current Pennoni employees can network, collaborate, and share ideas!



  • Facebook – used as an avenue to promote upcoming events, to share photos from events, to promote membership and share informative videos.
  • Twitter – used to share jobs from their job board, to promote upcoming events, and to share interesting and relevant articles
  • YouTube – Interviews with NSPE members and engineers discussing the relevant issues and topics that NSPE members want to know about.
  • LinkedIn – used as a way to further develop their  NSPE brand and as an avenue for discussion of relevant topics among group members.


  • Facebook – Used to promote news items, events, membership drives, etc.
  • Twitter – Same as Facebook, also able to retweet news worthy items from the industry or from other local SAME chapter Twitter accounts.
  • Blog – SAME’s “Bricks & Clicks” blog is yet another communication tool used as a potential discussion outlet for any newsworthy items relating to members
  • LinkedIn – A great recruiting and networking tool that has over 4000 members!

Social networking tools are beyond the infancy stage.  They are fantastic tools that are used for branding, recruiting, collaborating, SEO, advertising, promoting, marketing and communicating,  and failure to recognize and act may leave you a step behind.  If you can, take a team approach to implementing these tools with your organization; involve Marketing, Human Resources, and Technical Professionals…and most importantly, come up with a plan and stick to it.  There are plenty of civil engineering organizations who had the right intentions, but have dropped the ball, tarnishing the validity of their internet presence and their ability to effectively use web 2.0 technology. If you are going to make the committment, do it right!

Don’t miss the boat folks, resistance is futile.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

October 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm 3 comments

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