Posts tagged ‘Civil Engineering Companies’

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

Questions Of The Month – Final Tallies Revealed

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

Each month at CivilEngineeringCentral.com we have a Question of the Month.  This question is posted on our home page and is included in each issue of  “The LinkedIngineer” as well as our monthly e-newsletter which is sent out to nearly 10,000 members of the civil engineering community (If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter please click HERE…sorry, couldn’t pass up that free plug).   It’s been a while since we have posted the results, so in light of that (plus the fact that I have struggled to come up with anything else),  check out the results below.   If you see any surprising results in there or feel the urge to comment about any of the topics please feel free to do so.

MAY 2009

DID YOU SEE AN INCREASE IN PROJECTS IN YOUR COMPANY DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009?

83.1%     No
16.9%     Yes

Just yesterday I was speaking with  a colleague of mine who commented on a report he had just watched on MSNBC. They were discussing the question “where did all the stimulus go?”   Most of it of course is going to construction; all those projects that we have come to love and know as…shovel ready. What seemed like a lot of money initially, when spread out over the entire United States, seems to be spread pretty thin.

APRIL 2009

HAS YOUR FIRM CUT IT’S BENEFITS PACKAGE AS A RESULT OF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE?

67.6%     Yes
32.4%     No

It’s expensive out there folks.  Our health insurance has gone up 50% over the past four or five years…everyone is feeling the pinch here.

MARCH 2009

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT SEARCHING FOR A JOB?

42.9%     Networking
25.0%     Not Knowing Where To Start
17.9%     Updating My Resume
14.3%     Nailing The Interview

The way I see it, assuming you are a talented engineer, if you are able to effectively network throughout the course of your career, that, in-and-of-itself, takes care of the the remaining three obstacles.  You see, if you are a great networker, you easily know where to start, and because you have networked so well and know so many people very well, there is no need to update your resume because they have seen you in action and your stellar reputation precedes you.  Your noticeable performance within your industry over the course of your career has coincidentally been an ongoing interview.  All that being said, a hand shake over a cocktail, beer, sparkling water or other beverage of your choice should be all that is needed to nail down your next job.  A little tongue in cheek maybe, but there is some validity to my theory.

FEBRUARY 2009

HOW OFTEN DO YOU VOLUNTEER IN YOUR COMMUNITY?

50.0%     8 or more times per year
23.1%      Not at all
15.4%     1-3 times per year
11.5%     4-7 times per year

One half of our respondents give back to the community 8 or more time per year…that is AWESOME!

JANUARY 2009

HAVE YOU EVER MISLED OR EMBELLISHED EXPERIENCES ON YOUR RESUME?

77.8%     No
22.2%     Yes

One should always be truthful on their resume, that goes without saying.  But sometimes resumes can be misleading as different titles mean different things to different companies and different people.

DECEMBER 2008

WHAT CONCEPT WILL MAKE THE GREATEST IMPACT ON SOLVING OUR ENERGY CRISIS?

40.0%     Nuclear Energy
23.3%     Wind Energy
20.0%     Solar Energy
13.3%     Bio-Fuels
3.3%       U.S. Oil Digging
0.0%      Coal

I think our economy will need to stabilize and re-establish itself for a while before we begin to see any of these technologies really begin to flourish.

NOVEMBER 2008

DOES YOUR MANAGER ALLOW FOR YOU TO WORK A  4/40 OR 9/80 WORK WEEK?

65.5%     No
34.5%     Yes

I think the civil engineering industry,  prior to “The Great Recession,”  had actually come accustomed to the 6/60 work week – that is Monday-Saturday/60 hours week!

OCTOBER 2008

WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WILL YOU VOTE FOR ON NOVEMBER 4th?

49.4%     Barack O’Bama
42.9%     John McCain
6.0%       Undecided
1.2%        Other
0.6%       Ralph Nader

Not bad, not bad.  The final results in total votes for the Presidential election in November was Obama 53% / McCain 46%. Our participants were nearly dead on here…sorry I can’t say the same for the Question of the Month which we ran in August 2008; see below!

SEPTEMBER 2008

WITH HIGH GAS PRICES, HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR COMMUTING HABITS BY OPTING FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?

73.5%     No
26.5%     Yes

This poll was posted at the time when gas prices were averaging $3.74/gallon.  We have come a long way over the years in mass transit, but you know what?  People love their cars and it would take a lot more  than higher gas prices for them to drop their keys and take to mass transit.

AUGUST 2008

WHEN DO YOU BELIEVE THE LAND DEVELOPMENT MARKET WILL BEGIN TO PICK UP?

30.6%     2nd Quarter of 2009
26.5%     2010 or Beyond
14.3%     3rd Quarter 2009
12.2%     4th Quarter 2008
10.2%     4th Quarter 2009
6.1%        1st Quarter 2009

As of today, just about 50% of our survey responders are wrong and there are another 26.5% who will likely end up on the wrong side of the fence as well by the end of this year.  Seems to be an ol’ case of “if I only knew then what I know now.”

I would like to thank you all for answering our Questions of the Month and look forward to your continued participation.

Got Comments? Got Questions? Got Insight? Got Speculation?  Got Inside Information?  Let us know, we would love to hear from you on any of the subjects of our recent polls.


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

June 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment

Do You Work For A Communicative Leader? Is No News Worse Than Bad News?

By Carol Metzner
Co-Founder A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com &
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
 

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” –Peter F. Drucker

According to Drucker, “Managers are concerned with immediate results. Leaders are concerned with long-term results.”  To succeed, companies need both of these people.  That being said, companies need leaders who can and will communicate.  

Do you work for a communicative leader? To survive the next few years company leaders need to be visionary, strategic thinkers. They need to take information from a variety of sources, set direction and communicate that to staff.

Conducting searches in the civil engineering marketplace, I hear from many of you that confidence in your current company leadership is falling.  Much of that drop can be attributed to lack of communication. No communication is deadlier than bad news.  With company teleconferencing, intranets and email blasts there is no good explanation for silence from the top.  If you are at the top, why aren’t you talking to your employees?  Many staff are walking on egg shells.  Are they next to be laid off?  Do you have a plan? If not, are you working on one? 

Many qualities of the best civil engineering firms are those where the leaders:

  • Stress the importance of communication and communicate openly and honestly;
  • Practice an open door policy;
  • Encourage employee input in strategic planning;
  • Encourage employee feedback;
  • Practice an open book management style, sharing financial performance with employees (the good and the bad);
  • Clearly communicates goals and direction.

There are other characteristics of successful firms for sure, but if these few qualities are put into practice then employee fears would be somewhat lessened and productivity may likely rise.  What do you think? 

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering industry blog :: civil engineering discussions

February 18, 2009 at 11:02 pm 1 comment

Does your firm have a leadership transition plan? (and why should you care?)

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

An effective change in leadership from one chief executive to another is key to an organization’s survival. A transition tests the organization’s ability to renew itself, so that it can continue to fulfill its mission in a changing environment. A successful change in leadership preserves the organization and the trust of its stakeholders, and allows it to grow and adapt to meet new challenges with imagination and enthusiasm.

In the past several years, the A/E marketplace has seen a high number of mergers and acquisitions. Firms facing retiring leadership have options. They can transfer ownership to the next generation; train and coach potential internal successor candidates; bring leadership talent in from the outside; or sell/merge the firm.

Over my 20+ years of recruiting and search, I have seen firms formulate excellent leadership transitions and I have seen other firms fail terribly. In today’s market, more than ever, the wrong choice or even a safe choice for successor can lead to turbulent times. A firm can never afford to make an incorrect choice.  However, making no choice is tantamount to a poor choice. What are retiring executives to do?  How can they walk the fine line of selecting the “right” successor, especially if that person is from outside the firm, without drastically shifting the culture or upsetting internal management candidates? The answers are complex and perhaps a great future newsletter topic!  However, several quick items can be agreed upon: It is important to have a strong board of directors or executive management team to monitor the process. The choice of a leadership successor will be one of the most important decisions your board, outside board members and team will have.  Additionally, selecting the right outside management consultant can offer objectivity and facilitate a time frame.  One thing is for sure:  IF employees have confidence in their executive team, then they will, at least initially, support a succession choice (even if they don’t like it) because they KNOW that the CEO, board and/or advisors have the health and welfare of the firm at heart.

Whether you are a human resource professional or design professional, it would be in your best interest to find out if your company has any plan for it’s future successors.  Ask your leadership or write the question on the intranet.  Are you working for a company that really is thinking about their future as well as yours?

October 15, 2008 at 3:14 pm 1 comment

Company “Gossip” Websites

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

One definition of Gossip is “a form of communications that an individual(s) participates in for the purpose of discussion, or passing onto to others, hearsay information.”

Office gossip sites are the next wave in sites for job seekers to review. Some of these sites are: Glassdoor.com, Jobvent.com, Vault.com. Many civil engineers are visiting the sites and writing, some say “critiquing”, the civil engineering firms that they work for or have worked for. These sites allow employees to confidentially and/or anonomously post information about company interview processes, company culture, specific management styles, benefits, salaries, bonuses, workspace and anything you can think to comment about. Comments range from “great company with strong benefits” to “avoid manager of highway design, based in corporate office, as he micromanages.”

Should companies be concerned…yes. Should employees take the time to comment on their company’s culture, management style, benefits, salaries, etc…sure. Should job seekers review these sites…yes, with caution.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Should companies be concerned?

Initially it seemed these sites were similar to the CivilEngineeringCentral.com (CEC) Forum “Ventilation Station”; a place to just let it all out. These sites have now evolved to include happy, satisfied employee reviews of their employers as well as the direct, not so positive critiques. Companies need to regularly monitor these sites and make sure that information posted is relevant and not just a disgruntled employee looking to slam the company. Companies can use the information as informal employee surveys ~ a way to take a pulse from the anonymous group. That being said, anonymous reviews should be read with a questionable eye. I’ll address this again under the value of these sites to job seekers.

Should employees take the time to comment on companies?

Yes, if you, as an employee, can write an honest evaluation of your current or past employer then you should. Discuss the interview process, company culture, benefits, bonuses, etc. Is your work space comfortable? Does the company encourage and pay for additional training? Do they encourage involvement in professional associations? What did you want to know about a company before you joined them? Try to be constructive, but honest, in your critique.

Should job seekers review these sites?

Yes, as long as you understand that what you are reading may be incorrect. Anonymous reviews are questionable ~ not necessarily false. Many of these sites have built in systems to weed out false reviews. Site editors review comments for trends and inconsistent information. So, job seekers shouldn’t avoid a company that receives some negative comments. Instead, they should use these reviews to prepare for interviews at the companies. Compare feedback on multiple sites, talk to alumni from your school who may be at the mentioned company. Do your homework. These sites should be viewed just as another tool for gathering information and preparing for interviews.

Can you recall the children’s game called “PASS IT ON?” Rarely does the comment at the start of the game end up as the same comment at the end of the game. REMEMBER, not only are there at least two sides to every story….those stories over time aren’t always remembered accurately!

August 27, 2008 at 11:44 am 2 comments

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