New book “Learning Engineering Practice”

It’s available to order now, for delivery in December. If you are a member of Engineers Australia you can order with a 30% discount here. The paperback edition price is only AUD 33.59 before the discount, USD 19.96. If you’re not a member of Engineers Australia, email me for a discount voucher.

Why buy this book?

Cover design for Learning Engineering Practice

If you’re a student or recent graduate, the book will help you get ahead in the search for paid employment, and the more you work at it, the more attractive you will be for employers.

If you’re an early career engineer, this book will help you navigate the complexities and frustrations of engineering workplaces, and get your career advancing more rapidly. You will soon be far more valuable for your enterprise. As one recent reader wrote “if only I had access to this book earlier in my career I could have avoided so many difficulties”.

Lots of companies struggle with on-boarding graduate and early career engineers – this book will help them and their supervisors. They may not hit the ground running, but they soon will be, and generating greater value for their employers.

Want to know more?

Here is the contents summary.

How is the book different from “The Making of an Expert Engineer”?

a) About one fifth the price (paperback), and one third the length;

b) Short, easy to read chapters for students and early-career engineers;

c) Includes guidance on commercial and social value generation that came from more recent research;

d) Includes a detailed curriculum and performance checklist for early career workplace learning;

e) Updated material on sustainability and work in low-income countries.

Naturally, as an introductory book, there are many references to “The Making of an Expert Engineer” for a more advanced treatment of topics such as engineering financial decision-making.

Engineering Heroes Podcast

I was honoured to invited to speak at the World Engineering Convention in Melbourne next Friday morning at 9 am. Dom and Mel Gioia interviewed me for their Engineering Heroes Podcast series. I hope it starts some interesting discussions around engineering communities in Australia and elsewhere. I launched into the interview with the ideas I was planning to talk about next Friday. So you can hear a preview here…

Well, you could have done… But I changed my mind.

I am going to take a different approach, more relevant to engineering globally, and with sustainability in mind. So the podcast is a kind of preview. Please join me next Friday in Melbourne to hear a different take on this. How culture and value perceptions influence engineering practice, and how we could transform our world.

Here’s the podcast link.

Webinar: Engineering and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The productivity difference or relative wealth gap between rich and poor countries has hardly shifted in decades. I will explain why neglecting engineering as a critical input has undermined efforts to close this gap.

Engineering educators have inadvertently contributed to this failure.

New research results point to solutions that could empower engineers to deliver long anticipated social and economic development in countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and China.

I will explain why implementing the global UN Sustainable Development goals like halting CO2 emissions requires these transformations in engineering and engineering education.

Wednesday, September 25 at 8 pm West Australian time; 5:30 pm India Standard Time; 12 pm GMT; 8 am US EDT.

Here is the recording: http://www.ifees.net/engineering-unsdgs/

(Photo credit: Bill Wegener at unsplash.com)

Continue reading

Why is it so hard to change engineering education?

In the last two decades we have seen waves of advocacy for changing engineering education, while at the same time we have entrenched the existing model ever deeper through international standardization and accreditation models like the Washington Accord.

Our research on engineering practice, what engineers actually do, demonstrates the need for changes – see my recent blog post on Dave Goldberg’s Big Beacon site.

Students know that they will never have to solve partial differential equations as engineers, so why do we continue to teach that, and not teach them the things they will actually be doing in practice? Continue reading

Back from Pakistan, UAE, Iran and New Zealand

Some of you may have wondered why there has been a little gap in my blog posts.  I have been pre-occupied with visits to several countries.

My other major project, Close Comfort has developed very quickly with keen anticipation particularly in Pakistan where electricity supplies are subject to frequent interruptions due to load shedding.  Pakistan’s electricity grid is struggling to keep up with demand for air conditioning, and I hope to be able to offer a sustainable solution, as explained in Chapter 13 of the book. Continue reading

“A breakthrough in thinking…powerful conclusion”

The book was launched at The University of Western Australia on November 10 by Peter Meurs, Director of Development at Fortescue Metals Group.

Speeches by John Dell, Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, Peter Meurs, and the author.


(20 minutes)

Quotes from Peter Meurs

“It really does represent a breakthrough in thinking. It bridges the gap between the academic side, studying engineering, and the real engineering world.” (4:02)

“It presents more than just a set of ideas and concepts.”

It represents interviews with hundreds of real engineers, and is seeking to find those characteristics that make an expert engineer.” (4:26)

“Expert engineers are not necessarily technically brilliant but they’re engineers that work out the complex processes of thinking, communicating, collaborating and challenging that lead to value being added to their organisations and ultimately to the world.” (4:38)

“I think The Making of an Expert Engineer applies to all engineers. I wish I had read it 20 or 30 years ago… it would have made a real difference. Many engineers that feel they’re stuck in a rut, they’re not adding value to their organisations, they’re frustrated, will greatly benefit from reading this book and it will help them progress back to their dream of making a real difference in the world.” (5:49)

“James goes well beyond just presenting concepts and ideas … he backs it up with real case studies and stories that add credibility and colour.” (6:15)

“It presents 17 misconceptions, things like “engineering jobs are always advertised” or “my boss will tell me what to do”. That’s a total misconception. It has 85 practice concepts like “time changes the value of money” and “human emotions influence engineering” and “a project plan is a living document”. There’s lots of engineers that need to learn that if you want to be successful. (6:43)

“The conclusion of the book is powerful. James invites all engineers to step up to recognise the contribution that we do make and can make to society as a whole and through my engineering career, through making many mistakes and also through facing challenges I have really come to understand that concept.” (8:51)

One thing’s for sure, when you take on a big project, things will go wrong and it is simply so easy to say “Oh, unfortunately that went wrong so it’s going to cost more and take longer.” A real engineer will step up and say we can still achieve the cost and schedule and all of the requirements. Great engineers, when they’re faced with adversity and challenges, rally the network, apply their technical coordination skills, draw on the collective experience of vendors, fabricators, consultants and contractors and deliver the original solution or something better. (9:15)

In my family I will need at least 4 copies, one for me, one for two son-in-laws who are engineers and one for my son who is just completing engineering degree, and at Fortescue I’m going to need at least forty copies for our graduate program, so congratulations to James and the whole team at UWA for the many years of research that form the foundation for this book.(10:02)

“I think this book has the potential to change engineering and the way that engineering is taught. (10:31)”

Peter Meurs, Director of Development at Fortescue Metals Group through tripling of production capacity in record time, and also co-founder of WorleyParsons Engineering.