Posts filed under ‘Project Management’

Your Civil Engineering Firm’s Use of Technology

Last week I posed a question on LinkedIn asking members of the Civil Engineering Central group if they felt that their firm was ahead of the curve, on the curve, or behind the curve when it comes to the software and technology that is being utilized at their firm? If you are a member of the Civil Engineering Central group on LinkedIn you can follow this link to the question and cast your vote:

CIVIL ENGINEERING CENTRAL GROUP LINKEDIN POLL

Alternatively, you can vote right here on our blog:

You may find that you fall on different parts of the curve depending on the actual piece of technology or software. Accounting software, scheduling software, project management software, surveying equipment, 3D CAD software, cloud based programs and 3D printing technologies are just some of technologies and software that come to mind when running a consulting civil engineering firm.

What do you feel are the most critical pieces of software and/or technology that are essential in remaining competitive in the civil engineering profession?


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

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

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January 13, 2014 at 10:43 am 1 comment

Demand For Engineers Increases: Infrastructure Asset Management & Sustainability

Engineers that understand infrastructure asset management are in demand within the US engineering marketplace. Infrastructure asset management specifically focuses on the need to sustain structures such as highways, bridges, water treatment facilities, electric utility and transmission lines in addition to many others. Mounting pressures to cut public spending, has much needed maintenance and rehabilitation put on hold. Meanwhile, US infrastructure continues to decay. The planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, upgrading, and rehabilitation of infrastructure has become split among the private sector and public agencies .

What has become clear is the need for talented engineering managers that understand the delicate balance between planning, design, operation, maintenance and sustainability of infrastructure. My clients, architecture and consulting civil engineering firms, have multiple year initiatives for expanding consulting divisions that focus only on asset management. Whether it be underground tunneling for large diameter pipes, water/waste-water systems or transportation systems- the market and the money are HOT.

Consulting A/E firms seek to expand their ability to offer their clients asset management action plans that create an effective and practical business framework for transportation, stormwater, water and sanitary assets. One firm states the importance in providing agencies/municipalities a “comprehensive approach that creates a sustainable program to help achieve performance goals, minimize costs and meet stakeholder demands.” These asset management plans vary from firm to firm and may include but not be limited to: strategy and service level development; business planning; infrastructure assessment and planning; financial and capital planning; technology strategy implementation; operational excellence; computerized maintenance management systems.

Engineers with comprehensive business experience and practices will find a variety of opportunities open to them over the next year. This may reactivate the MBA vs. MSCE discussion. What do you think?

Carol Metzner
President, The MetznerGroup
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

September 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm 3 comments

Civil Engineers – Enjoy the One Project at a Time Lifestyle as Long as You Can

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

This is a guest blog post by Anthony Fasano, P.E.  Anthony is a civil engineer, engineering career coach, bestselling author and founder of Powerful Purpose Associates.

Anthony is giving away a special webinar for CivilEngineeringCentral.com readers on his Powerful Purpose Associates website.  Read until the end of the post to find out how to get it.

WARNING:  You most likely will have to work on more than one project at a time in your civil engineering career, except for maybe the first few years.

I remember when I first graduated from school, I started doing structural engineering because it seemed cool to me at the time and I didn’t even know what site engineering was yet, which would eventually be my chosen discipline.  I was designing the footings and abutments for a bridge.  The design lasted for months (it felt like years) and I couldn’t wait for the next project.  If I had to sketch out one more rebar layout, I was going to jump off a bridge (no pun intended).

Fast-forward about 10 years, I was now an associate partner at a reputable engineering firm, heading up their private/site development engineering department.  The department wasn’t too big, maybe 10 people or so, however I found myself managing 15 to 20 projects at one time.  15 to 20 projects meant 15 to 20 clients, 15 to 20 budgets, 15 to 20 bills to be done, 15 to 20 bills that haven’t been paid, oh yeah and my favorite, 15 to 20 Town Planning Board Meetings!  I loved what I did and I was good at it, but it was very stressful and took a toll on both my health and my personal life.

A few years ago, I made a bold decision, and left my design-engineering career behind to become an engineering career coach.  Since that time I have coached and helped hundreds of engineers to get clear on their goals, increase productivity and improve work-family balance.  I have also given seminars to thousands of engineers on the same topics.  Through all of this work, I have found that there is 1 HUGE OBSTACLE that engineers face in their efforts to achieve career success (which means something different to everyone).

First let me give you the biggest make-believe obstacle that everyone uses as an excuse – TIME MANAGEMENT.  Time management isn’t really the obstacle that most engineers face.  The obstacle leads to poor time management, but it is not related to time management.  The #1 obstacle that engineers face in their career is LACK OF FOCUS.  That’s right LACK OF FOCUS.  Sound familiar?  Are you able to read through an entire e-mail without getting a phone call?  Are you able to finish a design task or report on one project before a client calls with a fire that you have to put out?

The answer to those questions is probably “NO!” How many of you would love to go back in time, just for a day, to when you started your engineering career so that you could work on just one task all day long without interruption?  Go ahead and raise your hand – I have mine raised!

So what can we do to try to improve our focus?  Here are a few recommendations based on my work with engineers and my study of this topic:

1.    Establish some of your most important tasks for the day and do them before you do ANYTHING else.  When deciding on these tasks, assume that you would only be able to get those tasks done that day – if that was the case would the day be a success?

2.    Try to do less things.  I know what you are thinking, if my job is to manage 15 projects, how can I do less.  Make a list of everything you do and wherever possible start delegating tasks.

3.    Space meetings and phone conferences out.  Engineers try to be as efficient as possible and schedule phone calls and meetings one after the other to avoid dead space in their day.  Unfortunately this approach often leads to rushed meetings or missed conference calls and keeps you in that “I have to hurry because I have something right after this” mentality.

4.    Don’t let other people manage your time (as much as possible).  Check e-mail and phone messages periodically (even if it’s every 30 minutes) but not as they come in!  This one habit alone can change your life.  I know because I made the change.

That leads me to an important word – HABIT.  Implementing changes like these listed above would mean creating new habits in your career and life.  Easier said than done.  Through my studies and work with engineers I have discovered some ways that you can implement powerful new habits like these into your life.  There isn’t enough time in this post to explain them, however I have recorded a special brief webinar for Civilengineeringcentral.com readers where I review the key steps to take to implement these or any career and life changing habits.  You can download this webinar right now on my Powerful Purpose Associates website.

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

July 19, 2012 at 9:45 am 3 comments

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Why Homogeneity Is Not So Good

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
Connect With Babette On Linkedin
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

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

Do you tend to stick to your own kind when having business discussions? Do you feel misunderstood, marginalized, victimized, and alone amidst the drift of sales spiel and techno-babble? In other words, is cross-functional communication on your list of things not to do during those dreaded Monday morning meetings… let alone on your list of things you never would target to do?

You know what they say about hybrid vigor in nature! A little diversity goes a long way towards the longevity of the species. Otherwise you may end up non-communicating yourself right into an endangered species status.

Yes, I know you feel you are special, that people should and do clamor for your professional expertise. And, in desiring your expertise, they should put up having to feel like they are on the outside looking in when you speak to them. How about speaking with them in dialogue? How about suspending the lingo from the wonderful world of architecture and engineering in order to be understood by your clients and, just possibly, your peers as well?

OK. If you are talking about load points in a truss system, you must be specific. However, if you gaze at everyone’s eyes while delivering this discourse – rather than a dialogue – are they interested in what you have to say or have they written you off as someone who best fits in with the flock? When your customers, and even your peers, write you off as someone who would prefer to stick to their own kind, they perceive you as a commodity. Yes, a commodity and a stereotype of what a technical professional is “supposed” to be all about. You know, only comfortable sticking with and speaking to their “own kind.”

Which doesn’t exactly make you globally competitive. Or even locally competitive.

Because thought leaders are accessible to the breadth and depth of their constituents.

Yes, we know you are very, very smart and have invested in some very expensive education. If you can’t communicate outside your flock, then how do you know you are headed in the right direction with your customers? You are on the inside, looking out, rather than at the head of that chevron. And the last time I checked, thought leaders lead a diverse mix of followers because they communicate across disciplines and levels of knowledge.

They inspire.

I spend a lot of time working with technical professionals on communicating their value to both their internal and external customers. And that value translates directly into their ability to positively impact their company’s revenue stream. And their company is run by a diverse mix of individuals, collaborating for the sake of business development and revenue generation.

Sticking to your own kind and seeking homogeneity in your professional relationships may be comfortable to you. But it won’t sustain your business over the long haul.

I strongly recommend you move at least 1 millimeter outside your comfort level.

Interested in continuing this dialogue? My book, Do YOU Mean Business? will be available 2/2012. Click on the link http://www.doyoumeanbusiness.com to continue our discussion and receive updates.

 

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

December 5, 2011 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

Civil Engineering, Contracting 101 & Ferengi

By Rich Bedell
General Counsel, Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc. and
Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Maryland University College, Graduate School of Management & Technology

Who is Montgomery Scott? How about Geordie La Forge, B’Elanna Tores, or Trip Tucker? Every engineer I know secretly wishes he or she could have their job. Getting close requires a lot of hard work, professional experience, dedication, and training. Formal training includes formal engineering programs that require specific engineering classes to successfully complete whichever engineering program chosen. Those programs also include various electives to help round out that young potential promising engineer. English literature, history of the western world, romantic arts, and even pottery making are known electives. Some of the more progressive schools offer Contracting 101. When I was in school, oh so long ago, I heard classmates complain that all they wanted to do was design and/or operate. The mechanics of contracting could easily be left to others. Oh how wrong they were.

By now you realize that I was talking about Star Trek, STNG, Voyager, and Enterprise. Each of them have had dealings with a race called the Ferengi. Ferengi have a mercantile obsession with profit and trade. Think about that. Without profit and trade our current society would fall into the dark ages and there would be no need for engineering or the sciences. Ferengi have what are commonly known as the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. There are hundreds of rules. Do a Google search for yourself and you will find that many of them actually apply.

For example consider the following rules:

#138 – Law makes everyone equal, but justice goes to the highest bidder. We all know that is true.

I couldn’t resist showing that one first but consider the top ten (10).

1) Once you have their money, never give it back.*

2) You can’t cheat an honest customer, but it never hurts to try.

3) Never buy anything for more than is absolutely necessary.*

4) Sex and profit are the two things that never last long enough.

5) If you can’t break a contract, bend it.

6) Never let family stand in the way of opportunity.*

7) Always keep your ears open.*

8) Keep count of your change.

9) Instinct plus opportunity equals profit.*

10) A dead customer can’t buy as much as a live one. Never kill a customer unless the profit you make off his death is larger than the profit you can make off his life.

Yes very funny, but consider Contracting 101 in relation to the above Top 10:

1. It is so important and difficult to collect from the client that you don’t want to do anything foolish that would require you to have to give it back. Think indemnification clauses in a contract where you indemnify for anything arising out of the performance of your services. Insurance doesn’t cover that. Insurance covers for the negligent performance of services.

2. How often have you found that the engineer is being cheated? If the engineer allows himself or herself to be cheated it is their own fault. Think about the fiduciary obligations owed.

3. Think competitive bidding and the contracting procedures associated with that.

4. Well that goes without saying.

5. How often have you found terms in a contract that allow termination for convenience?

6. How often have you been told to use a particular subconsultant only to find out that the subconsultant has some sort of relationship with the client?

By now I hope you get the idea…Some of the morals are questionable, but how true an application to Contracting 101!

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

November 10, 2011 at 4:49 am 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

Civil Engineers: It’s Time to Get Organized from A to Z

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

I read a book not too long ago entitled Getting Things Done by David Allan.  The book provides strategies and an overall process for getting organized and becoming more productive.  One strategy that I’ve been able to take from this book and not only use myself, but also help engineers to implement through coaching is David’s A to Z filing system.

It is common amongst us civil engineers for papers to pile up on our desk throughout the course of the day.  Papers, plans, invoices, etc can swallow up our office.  Every once in a while it will become so overbearing that we’ll take a whole day and clean out our office which usually consists of throwing most of these items out.  Does this sound familiar?

David’s A to Z system is a great process that will help you to get and STAY organized.  Here is how it works.  Start by designating one large filing drawer or an entire filing cabinet for you’re A to Z system.  Fill the cabinet with 26 hanging folders and label them A through Z.  Next, start making a list of all of the items that you might file away (i.e. example, specifications, estimates, manufacturers information, stormwater guidelines, etc.).  Then create a file folder for each one of these items and be sure to label them clearly.  Then the fun part begins.  Starting with your desk begin to file away items into the proper folders.  You may have to create new folders along the way or slightly modify the system over the first few weeks.  For example, you might have to decide on whether you want to use the word ‘drainage’ or ‘stormwater’ which will determine whether that folder ends up in ‘D’ or ‘S.’

After a few weeks of implementing this system, your office will be clean!  Then you just have to work on keeping it clean, which is pretty easy with this system.  As items come across your desk simply file them into the proper folder or create a new one, when necessary.

You may think that this system is extremely simplistic and actually it is.  I have successfully implemented this system both in my office and in my home and I never have a problem finding something.  I hope this tip is helpful for you can bring more balance to both your career and your life.

Please share any organizational strategies that you are currently using!

August 23, 2011 at 11:08 am 14 comments

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