Youthful exuberance

Feb 18, 2019

In the early rush to make our names in the AEC business, we often overlook the basic building blocks for a great career.

As a younger engineer, I occasionally spent time doing the wrong things. My eagerness caused me to accept work with unconfirmed assumptions. This led to repeat work and disappointment from my managers. My focus was on activity, not results.

Keeping a journal helped me learn that I was spending much of my time doing tasks that did not contribute to my team. The best engineers perform the necessary work and delegate or eliminate the unnecessary.

For example, spending weeks to create a report with multiple iterations for comments and changes, when a simple technical memorandum would suffice. Young engineers typically go through this problem and most managers don’t have the heart to say, “Stop! This is not what I want.” Learn these following skills to improve:

  • Allocate your time effectively.
  • Think of results, not activity.
  • Produce results through your strengths, not your weaknesses.
  • Pursue excellence in your work.
  • Make the right decisions.

Record your time. Eliminate time wasters. Consolidate your tasks. To make it to the highest brackets of engineering, your time must be worth upward of $200 per hour. What do you currently do with your time? And how much is it worth?

When working, you should be thinking of results. How is your effort going to produce a product and what is the desired result of that product?

Learn what you do well. Keep volunteering for those tasks. One way of learning your strengths is to record the results of your efforts. Did your manager have to comment heavily on your work? Was your assignment completed easily? Record the outcomes.

Excellence is of utmost importance for a young engineer. Everything that leaves your desk should be excellent. Also, don’t get knocked off course when you miss that mark. Excellent work is your best reputation builder. Make it your moniker.

The top person in any organization is a decision maker. Practice taking advice and making decisions. The world is full of advisors. Observe a room of 10 people. Of those 10, eight are incapable of making decisions, possibly due to fear of responsibility. However, these same eight will surely have an opinion on what should be done. Learn to assess their opinions and make a decision. Early on, your decisions will carry less weight so practice this skill while the price for failure is low.

Memorize the following and practice: Proper time allocation; think results; think strengths; think excellence; be decision oriented.

Kyle Cheerangie is a project manager at HNTB Corp. and is the founder and director of content for the blog Engineered Journals. He can be reached at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.