It has been nearly 12 years since The Artful Engineer took his first tentative steps, a fresh faced graduate, into the world of professional engineering. Recently interviewing for new recruits, The Engineer was forced to reflect. What made his career successful? Where did it all begin?
Naturally quiet and reserved, The Engineer remembers his first day. It was completely overwhelming. Yes, he was academically qualified, but he was completely unprepared – how do you manage a project? How to you engineer a solution within the constraints of budget? How do you know what to develop when the customer themselves does not know? These were only a few of his questions.
This was the dawning realisation that the practical reality of engineering is very different from the academic teachings of University. The Engineer concluded he knew nothing. For a young Engineer, full of the confidence of graduating a good degree from a good institution, this was terrifying. It was, however, a formative realisation that laid the foundations for a successful career.
Why was this so important? Because the Engineer dropped the arrogance and overconfidence often displayed by the young and started to listen, to learn, to develop relationships with colleagues. The Engineer became more patient, more settled, stopped chasing short term goals in favour of the bigger picture and realised success can rarely be achieved by an individual alone.
Many years later, The Engineer has developed a reputation. One for reliability, for loyalty, for creativity and for unflinching bloody mindedness in the face of a problem. He has been involved in more topics, more projects, and solved more problems than you can shake the proverbial stick at. Clearly then, the Engineer no longer knows nothing. Instead he amends his advice – “Know what you don’t know”.
The best Engineers never stop learning, never stop investigating or questioning. Above all they will never claim to know everything.