Posts tagged ‘civil engineering blog’

A/E Firms: Social Media Guidelines & Online Identity Theft

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

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Ryan Link, AICP, wrote a smart article for the CivilEngineeringCentral.com summer issue. In his article: Social Networking Isn’t Just for Fun Anymore: How Emerging Media Is Changing The Way We Market and Do Business, Ryan offers interesting insights into the A/E industry’s past and future relationship with social networking. Please read and offer your thoughts!

According to a CE News survey, “most professionals use the Internet to perform their job. Specifically, 77 percent use the Internet to attend online education activities, 86 percent follow-up on articles they read, 98 percent research engineering-related topics, and 87 percent search for information about industry trends.” Yet, even with these high percentage stats, many architectural and civil engineering firms as well as industry related associations are just now writing social media policies and guidelines.

Firms and industry associations appear unable to identify which departments are responsible for handling the companies’ social media outlets. Should marketing teams oversee social media outlets? Should the human resources divisions? Social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook help brand your firms’/associations’ identity. As Ryan discusses in his article, it is potentially an important and cost effective outreach of marketing efforts, among many other outreach items. One thing is for sure, if an A/E firm/association does not take control of its social media identity and set guidelines for itself and its employees then individual employees will set their own guidelines.  Guidelines set by individual employees may not be consistent with the firms own objectives or guidelines.

Let me offer some examples:

A national A/E firm has a group on LinkedIn created by and managed by an ex-employee. The individual worked for the company for less than 3 years and stole the employers identity! Having your firm’s identity on LinkedIn hijacked in this manner can lead to a plethora of undesirable results. I am aware that several national industry associations did not pay attention to social media only to find their online identities hijacked by architects and civil engineers who started and ran their own national association group in that associations name. A/E firms and associations who do not police the social networking forums run the risk that their online identity may be misused or worse used for nefarious purposes. When your firm’s identity is used on a social media site such use is an extension of your firm. You need to be very careful regarding who is authorized to set the standard – that defines your brand.

Most of us Google our names to see how we are portrayed in the online world. We need to do the same thing with our corporate identity.  Remember that a third party’s first impression of your firm may be based on information found on Google and on many of the social networking sites.  We want to be sure that the first impression is a good one. The Internet and social media outlets are here to stay.

Ryan suggests in his article, five questions firms/associations should consider before entering the world of emerging media.  I recommend that you consider your answers to those five questions and to share those questions and answers with your management/marketing/human resources team. Help your firm take control of their image!Bookmark and Share


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

July 7, 2010 at 9:08 am Leave a comment

How are you providing value to your clients and your employer?

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

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No matter where you sit around the table, you can provide value to your employer and your clients by staying current with their (not your) area of expertise.

Understanding current industry-specific issues, including financial, sourcing, materials and materials management and legal factors, can provide you with a well-rounded perspective from which to make design and engineering recommendations.  Staying current with your clients’ world view is your entire organization’s responsibility, not just the guys/gals at the top.

Because the buck stops everywhere these days.

Triggering events can provide the fulcrum for differentiating your company to current and prospective customers. Triggering events are events that tip the scales and force change within an industry.   Like changes in the construction code or ratings for doors used in specific buildings. Like the use of nanotechnology in building materials. Like green initiatives in various states.

Waiting around for “someone else” in your organization to disperse this information to you is not an option. You are the “someone” who must prioritize information gathering to round out your project perspective.  And where you get this information is just as important as the information itself.

Because customers who perceive vendors as commodities will always base their decisions on price. Let’s face it, in the absence of any other defining factor, what else is there?

So your ability to use triggering events to enhance the insights you provide for your customers becomes an all-or-nothing exercise in impacting their perception of the value you bring to their table.

And I’m not talking about bombarding your clients with constant tidbits from news feeds or industry magazines. I’m talking about your taking the time to review information from a variety of resources and PERCOLATE that information so it impacts how you synthesize your role to your customers.

You may change your perspective in terms of how you express yourself to your customers, your co-workers and your employer. Which in turn impacts how you view your role as a client resource and solutions provider.

Not all customers call you because they have a problem that needs to be solved. They simply may want to run an idea by you that may have nothing to do with your area of design expertise. They may want you to act as a sounding board on a business decision they need to make. In other words, they consider you a trusted resource.  So how do you get there from where you currently are?

Do you have the type of information in your professional toolkit to serve your customers in this manner? And I am addressing everyone up and down the corporate food chain. It’s that important.

At this point you may be asking: “OK, so I am now going to enhance my business acumen and perspective with all this great information. Just where do you suggest I find it?”  Good question. And I think you probably know some really good answers.

Here are some non-traditional clue cards. And I welcome your suggestions for additional sources of information.

  1. LinkedIn discussion groups are a tremendous way of  keeping your ear to the rail. Engineering discussion groups are the pulse of industry. There are so many technical, regulatory, financial and philosophical discussions going on within these groups that – at the very least – reading the discussion threads is an education in itself. So if you are not already a member of various LinkedIn groups, join them. If you are already a member, check out the sub groups and new engineering groups that are constantly forming.
  2. And while you are participating in LinkedIn discussion threads, remember that your name and your company name are included in your signature with each thread post.  Participating in LinkedIn discussions is a tremendous way of demonstrating expertise without “advertising” your company.  Folks want to build their networks, especially with savvy people like you who provide great input to discussion threads. Don’t you think they will notice which company you work for, as well? And it works both ways.  No matter where you sit around the table, you can provide your business development folks with the names of companies you feel may be prospective clients. I think they may find your input valuable.
  3. Signing up for RSS newsfeeds on various topics allows you to receive industry-specific or topic-specific articles on your desktop.  Discuss your findings at work or post your own discussion on LinkedIn. You may be surprised at who responds and what you learn from the interchange.
  4. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an additional resource that allows you to provide context to the financial environment of each state. This information is particularly relevant if you work for a company with out of state projects.  This information also allows you to understand the issues that may be impacting subcontractors you may use for  these out of state projects.

And don’t tell me you have no time to engage in these activities. The nature of what we call “work” and the context of where we gather and exchange information are in flux. The entire business development paradigm is changing.

Do you want to be on the outside looking in or an active participant in growing your value to your customers and your company?

Think about it.

June 30, 2010 at 9:24 am Leave a 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

Civil Engineering “Cash Cab”

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

One of my favorite television viewing pleasures is Discovery Channel’s CASH CAB. Host Ben Bailey asks passengers in a New York taxi to answer trivia questions on their way to their destination. Those passengers have a chance to win money for each correct answer. Sorry, we won’t be offering cash rewards to our readers BUT do take a break and try to answer some civil engineering trivia questions! If interested, we can do future civil engineering trivia contests. Send me questions and answers that you think can “stump the chumps!” BIG shout out to Jason Vaughn PE who was great to contribute a majority of questions and answers for our test. Let us know how you do! Ready, set, go…..

QUESTIONS

1. What famous engineer has the most U.S. patents and how many?

2. Who is “the father of Soil Mechanics?”

3. Name one of the two engineers elected President?

4. When water flows through a full pipe, the water is fastest in what part of the pipe? The top, middle, bottom, or all the same?

5. What caused the Tacoman Narrows suspension bridge collapse in 1940?

6. Why do golf balls have dimples?

7. What is the longest natural bridge?

8. Why don’t railways use suspension bridges?

9. What was the world’s worst accidental oil spill?

10. What is the longest street in the world?

ANSWERS

1. Thomas Edison – 1,093

2. Karl Terzaghi

3. Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter

4. Middle. The edge of a pipe has friction. The friction slows down the water in contact with it. Therefore, the middle is the fastest.

5. The wind.

6. The dimples reduce drag and allow the ball to travel farther than a smooth ball.

7. Rainbow Bridge, tucked away among the rugged, isolated canyons at the base of Navajo Mountain, Utah, USA. It is a natural wonder. From its base to the top of the arch, it reaches 88,4 m (290 ft) – nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty – and spans 83,8 m (275 ft) across the river. The top of the arch is 12,8 m (42 ft) thick and 10 m (33 ft) wide.

8. Suspension bridges are too flexible.

9. Supertankers Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain collided off Trinidad and Tobago on July 19 79:: 90 million gallons of oil ended up in the Caribbean.

10. Toronto’s Yonge Street is listed as 1,178 miles (1,896 km) in length — roughly the distance from San Diego, California, to Seattle, Washington.

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

June 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm 6 comments

The Ramifications of Ousting the Senior Engineer

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

As discussed in a previous blog, civil engineering firms are cutting senior staff in favor of hiring less experienced, less expensive technologically savvy engineers. The blog received a variety of comments. Among them was insightful feedback from Principal Civil Engineer Mike Prett, PE. With permission, his comments are reprinted here:

The deeper I get into this business (I’m about 14 years in and in my late thirties) the more I see how invaluable the senior staff is for mentoring, senior oversight, project and program management and client contact/marketing.

I agree that you need tech savvy youth to keep production moving and certain “buzz” type certifications such as LEED and PMP are important in today’s marketplace, but not at the expense of a companies senior staff. (Since I’m smack in the middle I feel like my opinion is pretty un-biased, although I realize no opinion is completely un-biased)

I feel like we are losing site of the fact that civil engineering used to be an apprenticeship-based career and is experienced based after completing the minimum competency requirements of ones bachelors and PE. Typically one starts in design, learns the ropes, gets some certifications, moves into managing small projects has some successes and some failures and so-on. Eventually when you start managing large jobs and programs, some of the fancy computer models you used to say model a water system, do a structural analysis, or run some earthwork aren’t the tools you need as a senior employee. At that point the focus is different. One should be using accounting software, analyzing schedules and building complex PMIS systems. One at that point is focusing on developing staff, keeping clients happy, understanding higher level market trends, management techniques and business development strategies, while still keeping a pretty good understanding of what your more technically based and entry level employees are doing.

I feel pretty strongly there are no short cuts. Hand a $300M CIP project or program to someone with three years of experience to run and I’m guessing it’s headed for catastrophic failure. I don’t really feel that the adage “young and tech savvy” replaces “old and worn out” in our business applies as much in our career as many others. (e.g. high-tech or pharmaceutical sales for instance). All levels in our business can add value if properly utilized.

Mike’s comment about civil engineering’s history as an apprentice based career are on point. When did that practice change? What types of mentoring programs are companies implementing to help staff earn PEs, learn project management, client development and maintenance? With benefit cuts, training programs have been put on a back burner. Now mentors find themselves tossed aside.

Those firms that view senior engineering cuts as an answer to a problem – as a short term fix, will find the long term problems to be costly. When the economy picks up many less experienced engineers who have been without a mentor will leave to join a firm that values the mentor/mentee relationship.  They will find that their lack of training will hinder their ability to progress in their career. Companies who have cut senior staff will find themselves with limited senior leadership. And, as Mike suggested, projects may run the risk of engineering failures.

Should civil engineering companies reinvent themselves in regards to staff during this difficult market? How do you think the ousting of the senior engineer will impact the industry?

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

June 9, 2010 at 8:42 pm 9 comments

Civil Engineering Salary Cuts and Layoffs Continue

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

Last year an executive at a national civil engineering firm was overheard saying that staff who held the company “hostage” by demanding high salaries and outrageous benefits were now getting a cold reality. They would either accept pay and benefit cuts or would be welcome to leave. After all, they could be replaced by other talented civil engineers who would be happy to have a job. This executive thought the company had been strong armed into high salaries and comprehensive benefits in a demanding marketplace. Additionally, he decided that many employees showed no loyalty to the company during good times. Staff threatened to leave for opportunities and remained when they received counteroffers. Now, he felt that “what goes around, comes around.” Engineering businesses are known as professional services firms. They are only as good as the talent they have on their teams…and the amount of projects in the marketplace.

Salaries respond to market conditions. Clients are driving the lack of return to normal as the supply of work remains low. When engineering consultants are busy, clients are willing to pay higher fees to secure the firm they want planning, designing and constructing their projects. Likewise, when firms are looking for projects to keep their staff employed, salaries are lower as are winning bids.

Salaries are also reflected by the great purge of 55 – 65 year old staff. As politically incorrect as this is to discuss, this economy has allowed firms to let go of senior civil engineers who are technologically deficient in deference to hiring younger professionals who are more marketable. These younger staff  are LEED accredited, BIM proficient, command lower salaries which means lower bill out rates and potentially more winning bids.  It is more economical to have a senior civil engineer oversee as a QA/QC manager, while junior and mid level engineers produce the work. The job market is now flooded not only with 2009 and 2010 graduates, but also with 35-45 year experienced engineers. Although I understand the thought process behind keeping salaries low in a competitive market for project wins, my previous blog comments in “Never Underestimate the Gray Haired Engineer” holds true. (A future BLOG will discuss the ramifications of removing senior engineers to save dollars).

Firms need to remain competitive to win work. While most will agree that civil engineering salaries had finally reached the level of their high tech counterparts, the economy could not sustain them. Infrastructure needs, natural and man made disasters will force work to our marketplace. But, the economy and clients (both governmental and private) will dictate industry salaries.

Thoughts?

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

June 2, 2010 at 8:23 am 15 comments

Stalking the Recruiter

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

One corporate recruiter on Linkedin had as her status update “..be careful not to stalk the corporate recruiter, but do follow-up.” Numerous discussions are taking place online scolding recruiters and employers for lack of follow-up with candidates. But, how do you as a candidate stay on the right side of the fine line that divides assertive job seeker and scary stalker?

Let’s assume you have made it through an initial screen and had a phone or in person interview. As a job seeker, how often should you phone or email in follow-up to your meeting? First, you should end your interview by asking the recruiter to explain the remainder of the hiring process.  Ask the interviewer “What happens next?” and “When should I expect to hear from you?” If they tell you what the next step is, then follow it. For example, if the recruiter tells you they have just started the process and expect to complete interviews in a couple weeks, then call them in a couple of weeks.  If they do not return your call within 24-48 hours, then send them a follow-up email. If they do not return the email within 24-48 hours, then call them again. After that, move on in your search. Does every job seeker deserve feedback and closure? Yes. Will you always receive it? No. Demanding closure by calling or emailing the recruiter every hour will not always work, nor will it help your cause- even if you are right.

These past several years have taught all of us lessons. For me, as an architecture, planning, civil engineering recruiter, I need to make sure to offer insightful feedback and closure to my candidates.  Hiring authorities and corporate recruiters who have been laid off now understand through their own job searches, that timely feedback/closure is necessary after a job interview.

Job seekers are frustrated by limited jobs, overwhelming competition and rejection. They say “Tell me I am not a fit for the job and I will understand.” Rarely has a candidate heard that they are not a fit for an opportunity without them then launching into a debate. We as recruiters, whether corporate or third party headhunter are hired to screen for the right fit. Hiring managers make that final screen and may reject you for seemingly insignificant reasons. Debating, while human nature, will not change those decisions 99% of the time.

Do your best to follow-up with the recruiter after your interviews. Even if you deserve closure and feedback on the status of your candidacy, you may not receive it. For the record, this is not right. Everyone deserves a return call.

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

May 26, 2010 at 8:32 am 9 comments

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