The World Needs EngineersAs if there was ever any doubt, a recent study from the United Kingdom confirms what we’ve always known: The world needs engineers to solve key problems.

The Create the Future report, commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, studied public perception of engineering in 10 countries, including the United States. Its findings were based on a survey of 10,000 people conducted over a three-month period in 2015.

According to the study, a majority of the public considers engineers to be the ones most likely to solve the world’s problems over the next 20 years. But the finding that really stood out is that most people believe engineers are typically driven by purpose over profit and, because of this, are in the best position to come up with critical solutions needed in areas like renewable energy, computer technology and public infrastructure.

The study also revealed that the engineering profession is considered the most vital for economic growth, ranked ahead of business leaders, scientists, teachers and physicians. Although most of the public has a favorable opinion of engineers — survey respondents often described engineers as intelligent, creative, logical and fact-based — some negative stereotypes endure. More than half of all respondents associated engineers with not being good at public speaking, not being social, and being detached from the world.

The 44-page report confirms that while engineering is an important profession, it is often inaccessible to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry. Despite the long-term career potential for STEM degrees, the report notes, there are perceived barriers to entering the engineering profession. For example, many felt earning an engineering degree would be “too complicated, too expensive,” and that it would be “too difficult” to get a start in such a career.

That means we, as a global society, need to do a better job of attracting young people into the field of engineering. We’ve made it our mission to create programs to help steer our youth toward a career in engineering. And, naturally we see this survey as validation that we’ve been on the right track, at least in the public’s estimation.

What do you think of the survey results? Do any of the findings surprise you? We’d love to hear what you think. Check out the full report here and then let us know what you think in the comments below.

Christina Conrad is a chemical engineer at Burns & McDonnell with nearly 10 years of experience in the chemical process industry. She’s active in the Society of Women Engineers and is a passionate advocate for inspiring the next generation of engineers. 

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Career Perspective: Growing Into an Engineering ManagerEngineers are a peculiar bunch, there’s no doubt. (I can say that because I am one.) We see the world in a different light, deconstructing everyday existence into the parts and pieces that make it tick, and then putting it all back together in search of new, innovative ways to make things work. It’s a special talent, fluctuating between reality and the abstract. And it’s one of my favorite things about being an engineer. When you combine the innate ability of engineers with operational and administrative functions like staff and client interaction, budgeting, scheduling, risk management and scope development, you have the potential for a very powerful and highly sought after career path — the Engineering Manager.

Throughout my years in the industry, my career has been (and continues to be) a hands-on learning experience. There’s nothing more challenging or rewarding than learning by doing. For those of you who are ready to take that next step in your career and move from engineer to engineering manager, I wanted to share a few key lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Observe Your Surroundings
Like an apprentice to a master, find a trusted manager and stick with that person. Managers are a great source of information and there’s nothing better for your own professional growth than to learn by observing. I learned much of what I now know today simply by hanging out with my previous managers. Whether it’s those few extra minutes after a conference call, chatting around the water cooler or even hanging out after work, take advantage of every opportunity to learn from their wealth of experienced knowledge. Managers have a lot to say, and by simply listening and observing you can learn a lot.

Seek Opportunity
Transitioning from an engineering role into a management role isn’t something that’s just handed to anyone. It’s reserved for the go-getters — those who seek out opportunity instead of waiting for it to come to them. It’s the same old rhetoric you’ve heard before, but it’s tried and true: Go out and find opportunities, take risks and push your limits. With a strong technical background you have a wealth of knowledge and critical thinking experience from which to draw your conclusions. If you’re in a good firm, you’ll have a network of people supporting you. Good managers are leaders who will let you spread your wings and fly, but are also there to catch you if you fall and will help you turn those missteps into valuable learning opportunities.

Know Your People
You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: Relationships matter. Relationships build trust, help you establish healthy habits and give you a general sense of happiness. There’s nothing more important than developing personal relationships with your co-workers, employees and clients. Make no mistake: If you’re a manager, there are certain lines you cannot cross. But there’s nothing wrong with getting to know your co-workers on a personal level. At the technical level, roll up your sleeves and hop into the trenches alongside your team to overcome a challenge when the time calls for it. These personal, professional and technical relationships create a mutual sense of accountability that pays off tenfold. You’ll better understand your employees’ strengths and perspectives, which goes a long way in helping to develop their careers and maintain a healthy and positive work environment.

Maintain Personal Relationships
One of the biggest mistakes managers make is neglecting the most important things in life for the sake of the job. A good friend once told me: “If you’re gone tomorrow, the job will move on. But your family will not.” Just as important as building professional relationships is for your career, it’s equally important to maintain your personal relationships. It’s easy to get pulled down the rabbit hole of business. Remember to put first things first; take vacation time, enjoy your family and friends. You’ll be a much better person for it, and a much happier manager.

Focus on Your Health
Being a manager is stressful, no doubt about it, but don’t let it get the best of you. Take care of yourself. Go to the gym. (Yes, you can make the time.) Be mindful of what you eat. If you’re on the road, pack your lunch, take breaks and stretch or go for a walk. All these things will help you be more productive, and help you to feel your best at the end of the day. Sometimes I’m able to solve the day’s toughest challenges on the treadmill — it’s amazing what a cleared mind can accomplish. I surf with some of my employees on the weekend, and workout with others on my lunch break. It’s no secret that those people are in better shape than me, but it helps check off at least three of these boxes, and I really enjoy it.

Making the Transition
Transitioning into a management role isn’t as simple as changing a title. Over the years I’ve seen many engineers play the role of manager to some degree for quite some time before ever officially earning the title. The important lesson that I now understand is that there’s not a fixed set of rules or a checklist of objective criteria that you can default to on the path to management. As an engineer, I abide by laws, practices and standards; there’s a list for everything! For managers, not so much. So much depends on your skills, your team’s skills, the project, the client and other outside variables. Being a manager is fluid and you need to be flexible. Your engineering judgment and problem-solving skills show you the technical solutions available and can help guide a team, but it will be your management judgment and experience that will ultimately direct the project or team to success. And take this from a manager with an engineering background: You cannot do everything, so put first things first, and delegate where you can.

Be True to Yourself
I’ll end it on this: The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Nobody knows everything. When you don’t have the answer, that’s OK. Good managers seek out the answer and follow up. Always follow up. It’s important to be self-aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with people who complement your skills rather than those who emulate them.

And as a very good friend used to tell me — smile. You’re working toward something great. It’s not always easy, but you have a lot to be happy about.

If you’re an engineering manager, what words of wisdom would you offer to up-and-coming engineers considering this career path? What’s one piece of advice do you wish you’d received before stepping into the role? I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Wayne Keller, PE, is an engineering manager at Burns & McDonnell, where he oversees a team of engineers working with regional utilities on a variety of substation projects and programs. He has more than 10 years of experience, specializing in electrical substation design engineering and project management. Get to know more about Wayne here.

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Burns & McDonnell Is #16 on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List

by Renee Gartelos March 3, 2016

Each year we look forward to FORTUNE’s annual rankings of the top workplaces in the U.S. For the past five years, we’ve been among top 100 Best Companies to Work For — and this year is no exception. Today we learned that we landed the No. 16 spot! The Selection Process Now in its 19th year, […]

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Want a Job? Earn a STEM Degree

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We’re pretty bullish on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers — and for good reason. We can’t walk down a hallway here without running into a STEM star who is changing the world and having a blast doing it. Data supports our conviction. STEM jobs are growing at a faster pace and offering higher […]

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Three Big Career Resolutions to Make in 2016

by Rick Walker January 19, 2016

A new year brings new personal resolutions — to get more sleep, to exercise, to travel more. Why not make a few career resolutions as well? It’s good timing. Many people take extra time off over the holidays and return to work feeling refreshed and ready. Considering and refocusing your approach to work can be […]

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Tips for Settling into a New Job

by Matt Briner January 11, 2016

Thousands of people will start a new job today. Are you one of them? Day one on your new job is an exciting and pivotal time, as you’ll be making indelible first impressions on colleagues and leadership. It’s enough to make anyone nervous! But — as with most things — preparation can make a big […]

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