Communication Challenges

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    We always have such great stuff in Civil + Structural Engineer magazine. The November issue features a profile on Scott Clein, P.E., LEED AP, president and partner of Giffels Webster, a Detroit-headquartered civil engineering, surveying, planning, and landscape architecture firm that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in the city. The firm is dedicated to a cause near and dear to my heart — revitalization of the city and the region. (The slogan of my other business, Mark Zweig, Inc., is “Rebuilding Fayetteville — one house at a time!”) I got a kick out of reading Clein’s interview. He asked, “Who aside from engineers gets to stimulate the economy, protect the environment, and impact quality of life all while they get to play in the dirt?”

    I also like how Clein gets some of his creative satisfaction from the managerial aspects of his job. In reference to his team at Giffels Webster, Clein said, “They’re all able to do their jobs successfully when a leader sets the framework and guides them through the problems that come along without micromanaging. It’s always a different challenge but always centers around people.” Boy, he’s right about that. Being able to communicate and deal with people is so important for engineers.

    This semester, in the entrepreneurship class I teach every fall at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, I have a brilliant engineering major student. He spent the last 10 years working as a musician and went back to school for his chemical engineering degree. He has already developed a technology to extract trace amounts of oil from groundwater around fracking sites. But what makes him really special is how he communicates and reads people. He can present his ideas in terms people understand. I have watched him read people and react to what he is hearing and seeing and change direction fluidly to help them understand. He’s going to be successful because these skills are in short supply in the engineering world. I hope the consulting world can compete with the petrochemical industry’s opportunities for this fellow!

    Speaking of recruiting new grads, in an article, “Hiring the right graduate,” Terry Johnson, P.E., manager of the Water Resources Department at R. G. Miller Engineers, Inc., discusses how recruiting the right new graduates for the long-term success of a firm is a team effort, involving human resources, engineers, and managers at all levels throughout the process. And since learning is critical to young people, also in this month’s issue, Kevin Kuker, vice president – Services Operations, with IMAGINiT Technologies, explains how combining online, self-paced lessons with instructor-led sessions can provide a convenient way to upgrade engineering software skills.

    There’s so much more in this month’s issue of Civil + Structural Engineer. We are thankful for our readers and hope you love our publication and pass it to someone else when you’re finished. Happy reading!

    Mark C. Zweig (mzweig@zweiggroup.com)