ENGINEERING PRACTICE IN (about) 50 STEPS

This is work in progress: a book to enable novice engineers to learn the elements of effective engineering practice. It is a shorter and more accessible version of material presented in “The Making of an Expert Engineer”. To assess how well your own notions on engineering practice line up with research results in a minute or so, try this quiz. You may be surprised with the results, in which case these explanations may help.

This material is presented to obtain your feedback and suggestions before it is published.

Stage 1: Preparation

Introduction and Preface: Learning Engineering Practice

Explains the need for this book and how it can best be used

Chapter 1: Engineering – more with less

An essential introduction to engineering as it is practiced today

Chapter 2: Why engineer?

How engineers create value for their firms, clients and society

Chapter 3: Generating value in the enterprise

How engineers can create value within the firm or enterprise: a case study

Chapter 4: Seeking work

How to find paid employment – a road-tested guide for students and graduates

Chapter 5: Neglected perception skills

Essential for understanding the following four chapters

Chapter 6: Foundation skill 1 – Listening

The most fundamental communication skill – rarely if ever taught.

Chapter 7: Foundation skill 2 – Reading documents

Builds on techniques used by expert engineering firms

Chapter 8: Foundation skill 3 – Reading people

Builds on chapter 7, preparation for what is to come, opens a discussion on emotions.

Chapter 9: Foundation skill 4 – Seeing and creativity

Assess your visual skills. If they need improving, follow these exercises.

Stage 2: The first weeks

The chapters in this section reference the guide for early career learning.

Chapter 10: Learning the ropes

How to access information, building a professional network.

Chapter 11: What every engineer needs to know

Explains the kinds of knowledge that enable engineers to be effective and how to acquire this knowledge in the workplace.

Chapter 12: Engineering knowledge is a social network

Builds on the previous chapter to explain how access to engineering knowledge is gained through social networks.

Chapter 13: Making things happen

Introduces skills needed for informal leadership, coordinating technical work by other people, something that takes 25-35% of nearly all engineers’ time.

Chapter 14: Engineering projects – making big things happen

Introduces the stages in engineering projects and how much of the work is often invisible coordination work requiring formal procedures.

Chapter 15: Learning to work safely

Explains important aspects of workplace safety for novice engineers, particularly the responsibility for the safety of other people.

Chapter 16: Managing expectations

A brief chapter on creating appropriate expectations and providing results that exceed them, helping to build one’s reputation.

Chapter 17: Influencing other people

Introduces strategies for engineers to help other people understand and adopt their ideas and suggestions more easily.

Chapter 18: Selling ideas

Introduces ideas from marketing that can help other people provide money and resources to enable an engineer to make a difference.

Chapter 19: Management or technical?

A brief chapter that explains how choosing between a management or technical career is often determined by circumstances beyond one’s control, and why both options require similar skills.

Lots more chapters will follow

Somewhere near the end of the book….

Chapter 49: Everyday frustrations

Explains why misplaced expectations and influences from education can lead to workplace frustrations and shows how to work around several common engineering frustrations.


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