Posts tagged ‘Civil Engineering Companies’
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
Every new year many of us assess our job. As an architecture and civil engineering executive recruiter, I find January to be a very busy month! New year resolutions abound. Candidates tell me that they will not spend another year working for a company or supervisor that doesn’t appreciate them…at a job that is no longer challenging or exciting. They won’t continue to go to work each day to be surrounded by people they don’t respect. It is time for them to be energized.
What questions should you ask yourself to determine if it is time to explore a new opportunity?
Is my current company growing, shrinking or staying the same size? Do the company leaders communicate with all employees about the “health” of the firm? Do they communicate about their strategy for growth for the company? Are my values the same as the firm’s? Do I respect the company leaders? How is the company viewed in the industry?
Does my supervisor have and exhibit the qualities I respect in a manager? Am I learning from him/her? Does my supervisor keep me motivated on projects and informed about my career path? Do I feel comfortable asking for help or discussing situations?
Do I have established relationships with others in the company? Do I look forward to working with these people or do I dread walking through the office or visiting the lunch room? Are my team members collaborative or self-serving? Are they supportive or challenging?
Am I able to work on projects that are challenging and diverse? Do I like the work that is presented to me? Do I have an opportunity to learn and try new skills? Do I have autonomy to do my work? Do I have the ability to contribute to the overall success of the firm?
Do I receive a competitive base salary? Did my company change their benefit plan so I pay more for less? Am I receiving incentive bonuses for exceptional work?
There are many other questions to ask when deciding to make a job move. It is important to make an informed decision. Changing jobs is often more emotional than logical. Before wasting your time, a recruiter’s time, your current employer’s and potential future employer’s time– do your homework and evaluate your situation.
One thing is for sure: If you “can’t take this.. not another day” at your current job, then start exploring your options!
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?
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 ever-shrinking job market, aging baby boomers and rapid technology growth have created a need for storm water generalists who can do it all—use off-the-shelf and proprietary tools to conduct modeling studies; plan, assess and design storm water and water resource projects; resolve complex problems such as conflicting design requirements and unsuitability of conventional materials; and prepare and review a myriad of reports, including technical and regulatory specifications, contract documents and cost estimates.
No longer is storm water management a niche position filled by hydraulic and hydrologic specialists; now it encompasses everything from business development to contract bidding and administration to project management.
Furthermore, storm water-related jobs are not limited to civil engineering and construction companies; they now are found in federal, state and local governments, scientific consulting and services firms, research and development companies and waste management organizations.
At the same time, rising population growth, crumbling infrastructure, growing concern for the environment and a need to comply with tighter environmental laws and regulations have created increasing demand for environmental engineers knowledgeable of storm water management. Many developers today are taking a proactive approach by working to prevent rather than control problems, requiring engineers who can use science and engineering principles to ensure the preservation of natural resources, the use of environmentally beneficial materials and the health and safety of residents. Environmental engineers also design remediation systems to counter the effects of pollutants on soil and groundwater and retrofit existing storm water systems to mimic predevelopment hydrology and restore ecosystems to their predevelopment state.
Storm Water Staff as Generalists
With unemployment on the rise, it is no surprise that some career boards report a 50% decline in the number of storm water-related jobs over the past two years. Fewer jobs usually means that the people who do have jobs have more to do, and that seems to be the case here. More storm water-related employees are expected to come to the job not only with knowledge of the general engineering field, hydrology, hydraulics and water quality, but also knowledge of best management practice design and local, state and federal water programs’ regulations as well as experience in site design, work plan development, data collection and analysis and preparation of technical memoranda, reports and presentations.
To get a job in today’s tight market, storm water-related workers must possess technical knowledge dealing with a range of topics, including soils, pollutants, watershed management, storm water/drainage management, water rights, water quality modeling, environmental permitting and economic analysis. In addition to these hard skills, engineers are expected to be fluent in softer interpersonal skills involving organization, management, communication and problem solving. Successful employees also need to be self-motivated, with the ability to work both on one’s own and within a large team environment.
Higher-level jobs require knowledge of and experience with more advanced topics such as conducting hydraulic, hydrologic and water quality modeling studies, using specialized computer software for data analysis, developing GIS applications and developing and updating computer code to create new analysis tools. Advanced workers also provide senior leadership for engineers involved in storm water-related projects and may prepare proposals and conduct other marketing activities to gain new business.
Storm Water Staff as Environmentalists
Engineers have a long history of working to minimize the environmental impacts of land development and to maintain or improve our nation’s environmental health. Many storm water-related workers are tasked with protecting our natural habitats, systems and resources by finding ways to maintain existing hydrologic patterns, reduce impervious surfaces, maximize undisturbed natural areas, minimize runoff and pollutants and take advantage of the natural retention, absorption and infiltration capabilities of vegetation and soils. Increasingly, environmental engineers are required to provide “green” and sustainable site management technologies and practices, making sure to integrate sustainability into every aspect of the development project.
In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System storm water permit program to regulate sources, such as developments, that discharge pollutants into U.S. waters and waterways. In 2007, the EPA introduced the Green Infrastructure initiative to highlight opportunities for municipalities to increase the development and use of green infrastructure to infiltrate, evapotranspirate or reuse storm water.
Legislation is changing at a fast pace, and environmental engineers have to keep up with the latest rules, regulations and enforcement procedures at all government levels. Increasing numbers of localities are adopting low-impact development ordinances as treatment control for pollutants and pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. To comply with these environmental regulatory requirements, engineers must be familiar with the specifics of the ordinances and engineering standards related to storm water management in addition to keeping accurate, clear and concise records.
To complete a land development project successfully, environmental engineers have to examine the project in its entirety, considering each design decision in terms of costs and benefits not only to the company and client but also to the environment and balancing the costs of different types of green materials with the benefits of long-term storm water management.
As this article has shown, storm water management trends, technologies and legislation are ever-changing. In order to maintain a job in this field, it is more important than ever for storm water-related workers to take advantage of every continuing education opportunity that comes their way.
To be successful, storm water-related engineers need a strong understanding of the water/storm water industry and new design standards and technologies. They also need experience in water resources, drainage, flood control and green infrastructure technologies. These individuals must read technical journals, attend professional conferences and interact with colleagues in order to keep up to date on the latest materials, standards and technologies and offer the greatest value to their employers. Even experienced storm water-related engineers need to keep abreast of the latest topics and often can benefit from a refresher course on the basics.
In the same way, if companies want to keep their employees, they must provide not only competitive salaries and benefits but also opportunities for continuing education and enhancement. In today’s work environment, learning new things can be a win-win situation for both employers and employees.
November 11, 2009
CivilEngineeringCentral.com announces the WINNER of the 1st Annual “Best Civil Engineering Firm Logo Contest.”
The BEST LOGO’S are worth millions of dollars… and now, recognition from CivilEngineeringCentral.com! We thank all the great contestants and their logo submissions.
Our top 5 Vote Getters:
1. Sanderson Stewart
2. Southern Civil Engineers
5. Bailey Land Group
Special Thanks to our Judges:
Chief Executive Officer
Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS)
Chief Executive Officer
Matt Barcus & Carol Metzner
By Bruce Lynch, Vice President of Publishing, PSMJ Resources Inc.
For over 30 years, PSMJ Resources, Inc. has offered publications, educational programs, in-house training and management consulting services to A/E/C professionals worldwide. PSMJ Resources conducts more than 200 educational seminars and conferences annually, supported by major professional societies, including AIA and ACEC. Headquartered in Newton, MA, PSMJ Resources provides more than 150 titles in book and audio, and publishes three newsletters about A/E/C firm management. PSMJ Resources also produces the industry’s preeminent annual surveys on management salaries, financial performance, fees and pricing, and benchmarks for the design firm CEO. On the web:http://www.psmj.com/
I have spent the last few weeks interviewing the PSMJ Circle of Excellence Class of 2009. Circle of Excellence firms ranked in the top 20 percent of firms participating in PSMJ’s Financial Performance Survey that achieve the best overall performance in 13 benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction.
Virtually every executive I have spoken with from this exclusive group of design firms has told me that they have used the economic downturn to improve the overall quality of their staff. Many super-talented people with very impressive resumes – as well as star students coming out of design schools – are available and obtainable for firms that have the muscle to make it happen.
Are you one of these people that’s going to add value to a firm that is prospering in the face of tough economic times? There are a number of factors that determine the answer. In general, firms that are looking to upgrade staff try to improve their overall position in specific geographic locations, in services offered, and in markets served. To upgrade at the management level, firms are looking to hire market and/or thought leaders. In upgrading staff, firms are looking for people with direct apples-to-apples experience with a specific market or service offering or that bring valuable knowledge on the latest technology.
Here are some examples: If you are a project manager and you are a super client champion in a specific geographic area, research firms that may be interested in expanding their services in your area. Sell yourself as someone who comes to the firm with a ready-made base of new clients. If you are a K-12 program manager, look for healthy firms that may want to expand into the K-12 market – your addition to the firm gives them the opportunity to hit the ground running. What if your expertise is in a market that is currently sluggish like residential construction? Sell your value-add expertise. Do you have relationships with zoning boards or permitting authorities? These are tangible benefits that can elevate the profile of a firm overnight.
For non-management design professionals, sell your direct experience with a specific market or service. If you design health care facilities, get letters of reference from health care professionals with whom you have worked directly. Having direct experience using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software like Revit is a huge selling point as more firms work on BIM-designed projects. If you have recently graduated from design school, sell your facility in new software applications and your ability to train up your peers in these applications.
It’s also helpful to have a relationship with a professional recruiter – even if you end up finding an exciting new job on your own, these people have the experience to serve as a sounding board and alert you to opportunities you didn’t know existed.
If you are good and you have the skills and experience that other firms see as an “upgrade”, you will always be impervious to the ups and downs of the economy.
All the best,