This book explains engineering practice, what engineers actually do in their work. The first part explains how to find paid engineering work and prepare for an engineering career. The second part explains the fundamentals of engineering practice, including how to gain access to technical knowledge, how to gain the willing collaboration of other people to make things happen, and how to work safely in hazardous environments. Other chapters explain engineering aspects of project management missed in most courses, how to create commercial value from engineering work and estimate costs, and how to navigate cultural complexities successfully. Later chapters provide guidance on sustainability, time management and avoiding the most common frustrations encountered by engineers at work. This book has been written for engineering students, graduates and novice engineers. Supervisors, mentors and human resources professionals will also find the book helpful to guide early-career engineers and assess their progress. Engineering schools will find the book helpful to help students prepare for professional internships and also for creating authentic practice and assessment exercises.
Table of Contents
Preparation for an engineering career
1 Engineering: doing more with less
Transforming the planet
2 Engineering practice
How to use this book
3 Seeking paid engineering work
Fear of failure
Stage 1: Preparation
Stage 2: Visit engineering suppliers and potential employers
Relocating for opportunities?
4 Neglected perception skills
Prior knowledge influences perception
Practice exercise: observing listening lapses
Active listening and paraphrasing
Writing accurate notes
Helping others to listen
An imperfect, interactive, interpretation performance
More listening and note-taking exercises 40
6 Reading documents
Practice exercise: reading documents to learn from them
Practice exercise: written requirements
7 Reading people
Avoid email and text messages for sensitive conversations
8 Seeing and creativity
Why is sketching so difficult?
Practice exercise: evaluate your seeing skills
9 Learning the ropes
10 Engineering knowledge
Knowledge and information
Types of knowledge
Acquiring new knowledge—learning
11 Knowledge is a social network
12 Making things happen
Step 1: finding a peer
Step 2: discovery, organisation
Step 3: monitoring—another discovery performance
Step 4: completion and handover
Informal leadership, face to face
Practice exercise—knowledge network mapping
13 Working safely
Identify hazardous events
Identify likelihood, consequences, and risks
Risk control measures
14 Making big things happen
Information, knowledge, and diversity
Project life cycle
Negotiate and define the scope of work, calculate the time schedule
Risk analysis and management
Final Investment Decision (FID) approval
Monitoring progress—continuous learning
Completing the project
15 Generating value
Innovation, research and development (1)
Product differentiation (2)
Efficiency improvements (3)
Reducing technical uncertainties (4)
Performance forecasts (5)
Inspection, testing, and design checking (6)
Project and design reviews (7)
Compliance with standards (8)
Reliable technical coordination (9)
Teaching, building skills (10)
Social licence to operate: co-creating value with communities (11)
Sustainment: operations, asset management, and maintenance (12)
Environmental protection (13)
Defence and security (14)
Small and medium enterprises
Balancing value generation with cost
Quantifying value generation
16 Estimating costs
What does it cost to employ you?
17 Navigating social culture
Some products can succeed
Think in terms of value generation
UN sustainable development goals
Overcoming resistance to change
Efficiency gains, new ideas, or behaviour change?
19 Time management
Understand daily physiological patterns
Adapt your schedule
Schedule major tasks
Allocate time to help others
Say “no” by saying “yes”
Defer or delegate: documentation and filing is the key
Unforeseen disruptions, avoiding overwork
Frustration 1: Working hard is not getting me anywhere
Frustration 2: I can’t get a job without experience and advertised jobs require experience
Frustration 3: Admin, meetings, accounts, and procedures: this is not what I was educated for
Frustration 4: This job does not have enough intellectual challenges for me
Frustration 5: Has this been done before?
Frustration 6: Constrained by standards?
Frustration 7: Yearning for hands-on work
Frustration 8: I can’t get other people to understand my ideas
Frustration 9: This company is run by accountants
Frustration 10: They always cut the maintenance budget first
Frustration 11: They are only interested in the lowest price
Frustration 12: Net Present Value (NPV) shows the project is fine—why don’t they approve it?
Frustration 13: My skills and knowledge are only valued in rich countries
Frustration 14: I would much prefer a job where I could do something to help people
Frustration 15: My emails go unanswered
Epilogue – next steps
Emeritus Professor James Trevelyan is an engineer, educator, researcher and recently became a start-up entrepreneur.
He is CEO of Close Comfort, a tech start-up introducing new energy saving, low emissions air conditioning technology to Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and other countries with a large potential global market.
His research on engineering practice helped define Engineers Australia professional competencies for chartered engineers. His book "The Making of an Expert Engineer" and advances in understanding how engineers contribute commercial value are influencing the future of engineering education in universities and workplaces. Another book, "30 Second Engineering", is helping to build greater awareness of the key importance of engineering and will reach a global audience.
He is best known internationally for pioneering research that resulted in sheep shearing robots from 1975 till 1993 and for the first industrial robot that could be remotely operated via the internet in 1994. He received the leading international award for robotics research, equivalent to the Fields medal in mathematics.
In 2018 he was awarded West Australian of the Year in the professions category in recognition of his achievements.