Posts filed under ‘The U.S. Economy & Civil Engineering’

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

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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

Is Your Civil Engineering Firm Getting Squeezed?


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

 

Last week I decided to reach out to a client that I had not spoken to in a few months.  They are a very respectable mid-sized consulting civil engineering firm with a couple hundred employees spread over 7 or 8 offices.  I had successfully completed a search earlier this year for them, but I knew they were having some cash flow problems based upon the current economic conditions.  That said,  I thought I would check in and see if they were seeing any light at the end of the tunnel .  In checking in with the president, things were looking a little more rosier on some fronts and he was confident they would pull through this leeeeennnnnggggttttthhhhhyyyyyyy downturn with a strong team still in place and without getting knocked around the way many of his competitors have (not only is he a good engineer, but he is a better business man).  In any event, we were talking shop and he began to educate me on their most recent hurdle – getting squeezed!

Now – the company has spent many years brewing up the perfect balance of public and private clients.  On the private side, they are 25% commercial/25% industrial, and on the public side they are 25% transportation, 25% other government.  Because of their diverse client base, they have been able to fight through these difficult times with a just a few bruises; but now they are getting squeezed…by municipalities, cities, and even by their main DOT client; a client that has recognized them as one of their top, if not THE top consultant for them over the past 15 years.

I know, I know,  what do I mean by “squeezed?”

Well first of all, the DOT, as well as other government clients,  have been cancelling contracts and absorbing much of the work that they had previously awarded…and started!  So I get that; its happening in many different parts of the country, and I get the rhyme and reason behind it…I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I get it.  So that is one way they are getting squeezed.

But now the state DOT is requiring that any prime consultant who bids for a project must have, not 2 or 3…not 4 or 5…but 6+ sub-consultants tied to the contract.  Most states require civil engineering consultants to spread the wealth by teaming with DBE’s, MBE’s, etc. to help them get a piece of the action.  But for a mid-sized company who is too big to chase the small stuff, and not large enough to go after the $100M projects, how can they expect to grow or expand, or even maintain for that matter with those types of restrictions? I will tell you, knowing this organization as well as I do, they will end up making lemonade out of the lemons that have been dealt to them, but my question to you is…

Is this fair?  Is your civil engineering firm getting squeezed as well?

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

August 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm 7 comments

Conversation With A Civil Engineer


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

In a January 2011 article in CE News titled Change is Good, John P. Bachner, CEO of Bachner Communications, Inc and Executive Vice President of ASFE/The Geoprofessional Business Association stated that civil engineers right out of the gate have three strikes against them:

Strike One — Civil engineers are taught to be civil engineering professionals, not civil engineering businesspeople. The result: They know a lot about civil engineering and all too little about business in general and the professional service business in particular.

Strike Two — Many civil engineers are ineffective communicators. Some, it seems, sense these deficits at an early age and find comfort in math and science, where a lack of expository skills doesn’t matter all that much; numbers do the talking.

Strike Three — Many civil engineers have weak interpersonal skills, except when it comes to other civil engineers who want to talk about civil engineering. Regrettably, in the civil engineering business, most of the folks civil engineers deal with are businesspeople, administrators, “finance guys,” contractors (who may be graduate civil engineers but now live in a far different world), government officials, and so on. Those civil engineers who do not fit the stereotype — the gregarious extroverts — have a huge advantage over their less-outgoing brethren because the service business in general and the professional service business in particular are all about people.

Many of you have seen the wide array of satiric videos on YouTube published by xtranormal right? <blank stare>

In any event, I uncovered such a video that, though likely a little “over the top,” leaves no viewer scratching their head as to the point they are trying to get across:

I know, I know, those of you who are engineers and have taken part in these conversations yourself may be thinking,  ‘you’re right Matt, the message in this video is indeed quite clear, the homeowner is a knuckle head ! ‘ Often times it is the public that cannot see the forest through the trees, and that is exactly the point. As a consultant, you need to remove your engineering hat and put yourself in the shoes of the homeowner, the business owner, or the organization that is being impacted by the changes taking place. Like John mentions in Strike Three, civil engineering consultants do very well at speaking with the State Bridge Engineer regarding a cable-stay bridge that is being designed, or with the Director of Public Works regarding drainage issues on a major thoroughfare being built through the city, or with the home builder or developer in the design of a 3,000 acre master planned community. But what about homeowners whose property is being effected by a street widening? Or the citizens of a local community where a Wal-Mart Super Center is being proposed who are concerned about traffic congestion and drainage issues? The video very much makes light of this issue and for all intents and purposes is overly dramatic in order to make the point. Most civil engineers have a “knack” for what they do and the advanced math, physics, and engineering courses they study in school build upon that innate ability and passion they have for civil engineering.

So, what is the best way for a civil engineer to hone their communication skills when dealing with the public?

-> Is it the trial-by-fire method where they are just sent to public meetings and expected to learn through immersion?

-> Do they tag along with project managers and company principal’s and learn by example and mentorship?

-> Will seminars alone on this very topic make a difference?

-> Should one join Toastmasters?

-> Or does this ability just come along with maturity in the profession?

What has your experience been in relation to this topic? How have you honed your communication skills when interacting with the public? What strategies would you recommend implementing in order for a civil engineer to improve this particular skill set?

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

April 27, 2011 at 10:38 am 12 comments

Are You High On Speed…Rail?


 Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

It’s been quite some time since I have touched on this subject, so at the risk of “beating a dead horse,” here I go again!

Have you ever known anyone who has traveled via high-speed rail?  Have you actually experienced High Speed Rail yourself?  At the very least you have recently read about it or heard about it on the news.  I have never personally experienced it myself, but I’ve read enough about it  and viewed enough videos to know that I am very excited about what the future holds.  I have also spoken to folks who have actually traveled on High Speed Rail and the reviews were glowing!

Imagine blowing up a balloon; you’ve populated the balloon with enough air that is appears to be at full capacity, but maybe you want it a little bit bigger, so you put two more breaths into it.  It’s good.  It hasn’t popped, so you put two more breaths in.  It’s now stretched pretty thin, but maybe the kids are chanting, “Bigger! Bigger! Bigger!”   You push your luck one more time and in the middle of your next breath….POP!  As I write, our highways and airspace are pretty much maxed out when it comes to capacity, and as our population grows and our economy inches its way back into growth mode the constraints will be even heavier.  In fact,  on Monday CNN reported the following from the FAA:

Air travel in the United States is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual forecast released on Tuesday.

It also predicts U.S. airlines will carry 1 billion passengers a year by 2021, a milestone that will come two years earlier than previously thought. (To put that number into perspective, about 712 million passengers flew on domestic carriers in 2010.)

 

If we fail to truly embrace High Speed Rail our infrastructure will share the same results as the balloon.

Last week Joe Biden announced a comprehensive plan that would allow for 80% of our hard-working population to have access to High Speed Rail by 2035 and has committed to $53 billion over six years.   Check out what the US High Speed Rail Association’s vision of what a national High Speed Rail system would look like:

The build out of High Speed Rail lines is a lengthy process; the environmental planning and reports, the public meetings, more reports, more meetings,  and one of the most, if not THE most sophisticated engineering and construction processes in the world requires much patience.  Of course the longer the discussion gets hung up in DC the even longer this will take.  As the United States continues to talk about High Speed Rail, the other countries on our globe continue to stay one step ahead of us.  I personally am not concerned about competing with other countries because at the end of the day I think the US rocks!    But all this talk over the years surrounding High Speed Rail, and the limited action is getting old – the advantages of High Speed Rail, as you and I both know, are enormous:

*Job creation

*Increased opportunities for employment due to easy access between cities

*A reduction in carbon emissions

*A national HSR system could reduce oil consumption by 125 bbl / year (according to Environment America)

*Reduce the stress already on existing, over-capacity infrastructure

*Ability to text message and check Facebook on phone without having to lookup for oncoming traffic 🙂

Look, the list goes on and on as to the advantages, no doubt.  A couple of years ago I wondered if people would really be able to give up their connections to their cars  on a daily basis.  The convenience they provide; the status they may show, etc.  But I think with all the studies that have been compiled, and the horrible recession that we have recently passed through, that particular mentality has passed its prime.   The development of true High Speed Rail has begun in FL and CA and significant investments have already been made in those regions.  May the rest of our country follow in their footsteps…let’s get this show on the road, or  shall I say, on the rail!

So, are you high on speed…rail?  I know I am and I would love to hear your thoughts – especially from anyone who may be against this type of innovation in our country…

Thanks for reading!

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

February 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm 32 comments

Career Advancement: Every Step in the Process is Important!

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Founder & CEO, Powerful Purpose Associates – New Website!
Civil Engineer and Professional Career & Leadership Development Coach
Click to Connect With Anthony on Linkedin and Facebook
Anthony is the author of a FREE service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

 

Whether you are an experienced civil engineer or a recent college graduate, it’s important to always remember that when advancing your career, every step along the way is important.  At times, many civil engineers feel that their current role in their career is one that is unimportant and boring.  For example, you may be currently in the field performing site inspections on a roadway project.  You may think to yourself, “They stuck me out in the field and I am not getting any real design experience.”  That’s certainly one way to look at it.  You could also take the approach, “I am gaining a lot of field experience right now that is going to help me tremendously as a design engineer.”

 

I am certainly not advocating doing something that you don’t like to do, however even when you have a job that you love, there are steps along the way that may be tiring, however these steps are no less important than any other step.  Understand that sometimes these steps help guide you in the direction of where you ultimately want to go.  You may have to spend 6 months in a role to realize that it’s not the role for you and then you shift gears and plan your next step accordingly.

Another important point to remember is that wherever you may be on the corporate ladder, it’s never too late to switch to a new ladder.  This may not be an easy task, it may take some time, research, analysis and courage; however it can always be done.  Many people limit themselves from trying a new role, or even a new career because they think it’s too late.  IT’S NEVER TO LATE, especially with a civil engineering degree, which is probably one of few degrees that gives you the education and flexibility to go into other fields much more easily than if you had a math, history or business degree. 

In your career travels, whether you’re on the lower steps of the ladder, the higher steps of the ladder or on a whole other ladder, enjoy the process and see the opportunities in every step you take!

 

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” – Ursula LeGuin

November 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm 1 comment

How to Prevent Infrastructure Disaster?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

This August will be the 3rd anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the 5th anniversary of the New Orleans levee system failure. July brings with it the 19th year mark of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. While we now understand how these events occurred, has the civil engineering industry implemented systems to help prevent future disasters? Has our government implemented systems to help?

Cutbacks in civil engineering staff across the US’s civil engineering companies and  low bid contract awards from local, state and federal agencies cause some to question whether projects are being completed by the best talent available. As we discussed in a previous blog, some firms that previously hired the best engineering talent have now cut them in favor of less experienced, less expensive engineers. What effect, if any will this have on our future infrastructure?

This week it was reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation has been late on inspections on bridge reports.  A state audit determined that about 10% of bridge inspections were overdue, some for 36 months or more. It was further reported that the Federal Highway Administration “ordered the state to complete hundreds of crucial bridge inspections by Dec. 31 or risk losing highway funding, a last-ditch punishment that MDOT says it will avoid.”

Similarly, Stamford, CT advocate news just announced “Hundreds of state bridges rated deficient.” Specifically: of the state’s 5,300 bridges, 10 percent, or 509, are structurally deficient and ranked in poor condition, according to the state Department of Transportation. Fifty-four percent are in fair condition, while 36 percent are in good condition.

The Monitor reporter Jared Janes wrote this week  that lower than expected bids from contractors eager for work will allow the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, in charge of the construction, to complete more than 40 additional miles to raise and rehabilitate Rio Grande levees.

Our government has implemented guidelines for engineering designs and mandated structural inspections. Private industry and public agencies struggle with budget cuts. How can we prevent infrastructure disasters with  contract monies put on hold and experienced staff being caught in layoffs? What are your thoughts?

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

June 23, 2010 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

Are You Delaying Taking the P.E. Test or Getting Another Certification….Why?


Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Maser Consulting
Associate Civil Engineer and Certified Professional Career Development Coach
Click to Connect With Anthony on Linkedin and Facebook
Read The Career Development Blog – A Newly Created Support Forum for Civil Engineers

 This down economy is providing many of us with some down time due to lack of work.  Whether there is some down time at the office or you are currently unemployed.  What are you doing with that down time?  Why not spend it pursuing a license or certification that will add value to your credentials?

I know many engineers that have the work experience required to take the P.E. test, and have even passed part one of the exam (the F.E.), however they just won’t fill out the application and sit for the exam.  People make all kinds of excuses like, the application is difficult, no time to study, I don’t really need the license because my boss signs the plans, etc.  The same goes for other certifications like the LEED AP.  I hear people saying that the LEED exam takes too much memorization and they don’t have time for that.

In the coaching world, we call these excuses “blocks” because they are blocking you from achieving a goal.  There are two kinds of blocks, interior and exterior blocks.  Interior blocks are things like self-doubt and fear.  For example many people won’t sign up for the test for fear of failure.  They think about what would happen if they failed, what would people think, etc.  On the other hand, people may have fear of passing, yes that’s right passing.  They fear additional responsibilities or attention that they would rather avoid.  So how do you overcome these blocks without a coach?  You can do some self-coaching by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is holding me back from taking the next step to achieving this goal?
  • What can I do today to help me overcome that challenge?
  • What would my career look like if I passed the test? 
  • How would it affect my salary, my job standing, my family?
  • What will my career look like in 5 years if I pass the test?  If I don’t pass the test?

Write out the answers and be very descriptive and specific.  Then re-read the answers.  Many times seeing the value of the certification in these terms will help to eliminate these inner blocks.

Exterior blocks would be things like time and money.  To overcome exterior blocks you will most likely have to put an action plan together.  For example if you say you don’t have enough time to study, set up a detailed study schedule.  Maybe you study a half an hour each day before or after work or dedicate lunch a few times a week for studying.  If you establish a plan and stick with it, you will eliminate the exterior blocks.

I hope this article was helpful in moving you closer to your certifications, now go sign up for that test!

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

November 18, 2009 at 7:16 am 8 comments

Unlicensed Civil Engineers Posing as PEs

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

A
manda Kolson Hurley, Executive Editor at ARCHITECT Magazine, wrote a great article:  Trust Me.  I’m An (Unlicensed) Architect.  The subheader reads “If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?”  This well written article sites enforcement actions taken by states.  It got me thinking, who is policing the civil engineering community?

As I Googled “civil engineers license violation” I found myself at the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. They state that while they have some criminal prosecutions…Citations are an alternative to criminal prosecutions which the Board can use to enforce the laws prohibiting unlicensed practice of engineering or land surveying. When a fine is levied with a citation, payment of the fine represents satisfactory resolution of the matter. The State’s criminal and citation listings have not been updated since 2007.

In 2003, NSPE approved their guidelines for NSPE State Chapters in addressing unlicensed practice of engineering. The report, now 6 years old, reported the finding that the most frequent violation cited by State Boards was that of unlicensed practice. Has this been updated?  Are there new numbers tracking violations?  I hope to have some answers in a future BLOG. In speaking with several officers of state chapters of NSPE, I found that policing has become increasingly difficult for the states.  Self-policing by the state chapters, as opposed to relying on the individual state licensing boards is taking on a life of it’s own. Models for programs to give more support to State Licensing Boards are being developed.

With so many civil engineers still looking for work, some licensed and many not, I wonder if desperation will breed fraud? The majority of civil engineering firms now run their own employment background checks including license verification. But, what about the average individual consumer, looking to hire, for example, a structural engineer for inspection? How many check with the local licensing boards?  One would hope everyone! Realistically…probably not that many.

What do you think and what do you know?

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

Trust Me, I’m an (Unlicensed) Architect
If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

October 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm 8 comments

10 Ways Social Networking Can Impact Your Business & Career As A Civil Engineering Professional

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Remember when musings of the Internet was just a fad?  Remember when the compass and slide rule were irreplaceable?  Remember when the Post Office was relevant?   Well, as it turns out, the  Internet is here to stay; if you have a compass and slide rule you just might get your 15 minutes of fame on PBS’ Antiques Road Show; and I can’t recall the last time I paid bill or sent a hand written letter via snail mail. Compass That said, consider yourself forewarned in regards to the utilization of Social Networking sites LinkedIn (44M+ users), Facebook (250M+users) and Twitter (4.5M+ users), among others – don’t be a naysayer, or you will be left in the dust.  Chances are, if you are reading this, you are familiar with, and hopefully active on, one or more of these technologies.  The key is – how can you make sure your company stays relevant by using them effectively?

10 WAYS SOCIAL NETWORKING CAN IMPACT YOUR BUSINESS & CAREER AS A CIVIL ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL

1. Recruiting Professionals – Did you see the user statistics in the above paragraph? And those are only the three most popular sites among hundreds.  And guess what?  I suspect there are likely hundreds of thousands of members of the civil engineering community  who utilize these tools and share information. They have put themselves “out there.”   By joining these networks yourself and “working the network,” you will find many outstanding professional candidates, both passive and active.  This topic of recruiting on social networks is quite a robust topic and information can easily be found online, in books or through various seminars.  There are plenty of experts in this area so invest a little bit of time and money to catch you and your firm up to speed.

2. Industry News – Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin all have users and user Twitter Logo Headergroups who will be of interest to you.  You will find that ENR, ASCE, Society of Hispanic Engineers, SMPS, etc all have active users and groups on these sites where news bites and press releases are shared regularly. Also, by connecting with other friends and colleagues within the industry you will often read status updates or tweets in regards to local infrastructure news.

3. Relationship Building – Learn what your colleagues, clients, and potential clients are doing; learn their interests; follow their tweets; make logical and profound comments in response to theirs.  You  can get a real sense of their personality, interests, etc that will certainly assist during face-to-face marketing efforts.

4. Marketing/Branding – Develop a Facebook Fan/Group page with blog entries, promotions, press releases, wins, job postings, awards, charity events, etc.;  tweet these same items; develop a compelling corporate profile on LinkedIn and make sure your employees do as well.

5. Recruiting College Students-This is a “no brainer”.  If you want to reach out to the next generation of civil engineers you need to have a strong corporate brand on Facebook and MySpace for sure.  Join the CivilEngineeringCentral.com Fan Page on Facebook!When visiting college campuses for recruiting trips have a couple laptops up and running at your table exhibiting these pages and invite them  to join your pages or groups on line.   Come prepared with business cards that provide the URL’s of your corporate social networking sites.  College students want to work for firms that understand and are avid  users of the web 2.0 technology that they utilize.  85% of college students are active on Facebook, 65% are active on MySpace.  Again, a “no brainer.”

6. Recruiting Boomerangs – How often have you had employees of your firm fly the coup, only to return because the grass was not greener on the other side?  By staying in touch with well respected ex-employees  by Linkedin Logoinviting them to join a group where they will be exposed to all the great news that is occurring with your firm, you are giving yourself a nice advantage above other firms when the time comes that he or she begins to look for a new job.  Firms like URS & Toll Brothers, among others, each have “Alumni” groups on Linkedin.

7. RFP’s – It’s only a matter of time before builders, agencies and architects will be tweeting RFP’s.

8. Professional Growth – By joining Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or by following specific associations or trainers or presenters on Twitter, you can remain well informed of all of the conferences, seminars, blogs, articles and publications being offered that you find relevant in your career.

9.

10. Ignorance is Bliss.  Do not fall into this trap.  These networks are no longer the wave of the future, they are a mainstay.  As a civil engineering professional, by not jumping on board you will become a relic – and this label is not something you or your firm will want to be labeled as as the demand for talent begins to hit the upswing.

As you can see, I intentionally left a blank space after #9 – what might you suggest to fill in that blank?


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

August 12, 2009 at 4:06 pm 10 comments

In Defense of the Land Development Engineer

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Over the years I have often seen outstanding land development engineers desire to break into a new area of specialization under the civil engineering umbrella, yet they have found the opportunity to do so to be scarce, at best, purely because they have a background in land development.  That said, after discussing this topic with numerous land development engineers across the country, I have been so inclined to blog…in defense of land development engineers.

Why do many firms who specialize in areas of water & wastewater, highway engineering, water resources, etc, turn a blind eye, when hiring, to candidates who come from a land development background?   The usual response is that they do not have the desired technical experience, and  would rather go without having to absorb the cost of training someone.  As a recruiter, I completely understand that reasoning.  There are some deeper stereotypes though that should be addressed here, so let’s do a little point/counterpoint as we evaluate some of these potential misconceptions…shall we?

  • POINT: Land Development Engineers are the “General Practitioners” of the civil engineering industry.  They are jacks-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Land Development Engineers are indeed jacks of all trades, but they are often masters of those trades as well.  When pulling together a land development project you are dealing with roadway, traffic, hydrology & hydraulics, utilities, etc.  With a good 7-10 years of experience a talented engineer can fully master these concepts.  This shows a high level of intelligence and a desire to learn.
  • POINT: If our highways and treatment plants and bridges were designed as poorly as some of the subdivisions then we would have an enormous problem.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Though you many not always like what you see, often times it is the land development engineer who is at the mercy of their client- the developer.  Some developers have the goal of fitting as many lots as possible within a parcel of land for the least amount of money.  This is unfortunate as many land development engineers are very creative.  It’s not always about what it looks like, but rather the money – and at the mercy of the client their hands are often tied.  Many firms would walk away from this type of client because  they do not share the same philosophy…but many do not walk away.
  • POINT: Dealing with governmental clients is much more complicated than dealing with a developer.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Have you ever dealt with a developer?  Enormous amounts of pressure,  often times ridiculous deadlines with ridiculous expectations, and then there is the collections process.  Also, land development engineers deal with MANY different personalities -not only their clients, but attorneys, municipal engineers and other governmental agencies, designers, surveyors, planners and landscape architects, builders, home buyers, angry citizens at public meetings, etc.  I would tend to say, that more often than not, an experienced land development engineer could handle dealing with governmental engineers.

In the end, it may not be so much the technical skill set  as it is the mentality.  I believe that there are many talented land development engineers out there that could pick up pretty quickly on how to design a highway, a dam or a bridge with a little mentoring and  some additional studying/training after hours.  Land development engineers are used to spinning many plates at once in a fast paced environment, and are not often the analytical number crunchers that you so desire when designing a treatment plant.

So, when a sound land development engineering resume does surface, don’t be so quick to rule them outWhat if they are indeed a number cruncher? Imagine a number cruncher then that has acquired great communication and team building skills as a result of being in a land development environment and what that could bring to the table for your firm’s bridge or water resources group.  Would you be better off hiring this engineer and taking the time to catch him or her up to speed in a specific specialty rather than searching for the perfect candidate for two years with nothing to show?

During the current recession that we are entrenched in this may not be too much of an issue for you with the surplus of candidates “out on the street.”  But during improved times and boom times, is this mentality really too “out of the box” for the civil engineering industry?

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

July 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm 30 comments

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