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What skills does it take to be successful in the 21st century engineering field ?

I would love to be a civil engineer but this generation seems like it is getting more difficult, what do i need to know to be prepared for the future.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Carolina’s Answer

Hi Daisy,
There are a few key things you need to do to become a great engineer:
1. A Desire to Do Good
Engineering is applying math and science to solve problems. Step one is to want to help solve some problems.
2. The knowledge that Nothing is “too hard” to Learn
You can learn absolutely anything you set your mind to, and I know that sounds cheesy, but don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. There are things that are “hard to learn,” in that they take time and can be frustrating, but if you put in the time and the effort and find some good resources, you can learn them.
3. Persistence
Persistence goes a lot farther than innate smarts. If you coast on just ‘being smart’ you eventually plateau. If you are stubborn and determined, there are no limits to that which you can learn, or do!
4. Some good people to learn from
Engineering doesn’t happen alone. In school, find yourself a few professors who you can go to when you’re stuck, some peers to study with (and scream with when things get hard), and never be afraid to ask others to explain something.

I would like to add that there may be points where people tell you that something is “too hard” or that you are “not suited” for it. Don’t believe them! Unfortunately, people will more readily doubt women and minorities. You will likely encounter implicit and/or explicit bias. When you do, being able to identify that it is bias, and dismiss it is incredibly powerful.

I was 16, a full time college student with straight A’s, taking Multivariate calculus and working part time as a draftsman, and I still had a professor tell me that I shouldn’t be an engineer because it was “too hands on for a young lady like yourself”. You will likely encounter people who doubt you regardless of your abilities (I wish this didn’t still happen, and maybe someday it will be better) Do your best to ignore their opinions, and chose to only take advice from those who earn your trust and respect.
Those who have already answered are correct. In the 21st century, technologies change, but you can keep up with those changes if you are open to continuing to learn.

Do Good! Persist! Ask Questions!
Best of Luck,
-Carolina
For context: I am a General Engineer for Renewable Energy Systems, still in the early years of my career.

Carolina recommends the following next steps:

Want to Do Good
Know that NOTHING IS TO HARD TO LEARN
PERSIST!
Find Good People To Learn From
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Douglas’s Answer

Hi,
I do not believe that it is any harder to be successful, at anything, in the 21st Century than it was in the 20th. If your chosen field is Engineering or anything else, you must first determine the educational or training requirements of that field. For Engineering you will need and Engineering Degree from an accredited school, which would typically be a 4-year degree (Bachelor of Science). While earning the degree, strive to be the very best student you can be. The difficulty (or depth) of the Engineering Course and your marks will make a difference to prospective employers.

Once you secure a position at an Engineering firm:
* Endeavor to learn as much as you can in your area of expertise or specialization.
* Strive to learn as much as you can in areas related to your expertise (work assignment) and thereby increase your value to your employer.
* Be a good team member and do not be afraid to do a little more than "your share" when your team is faced with unforeseen obstacles or timelines.
* As you gain expertise in your chosen field, be willing to help newer employees fit in to the organization and increase their productivity.
*Develop the reputation of being knowledgeable, helpful and good to work with.

As you may be able to see, the above points should be helpful, whatever your future field might be.

Hope this helps.

Doug
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Tony’s Answer

Hi Daisy,

I would think of it as saying that engineering is becoming more complex - but embracing the challenge of that complexity is what makes engineering interesting and fun. Every generation strives to build something that is bigger or faster or otherwise improves on the previous generation of technology. Knowledge will always accumulate over time, and new techniques emerge to solve engineering problems and to manage the overall complexity. Think about it - would you be happy designing something like a simple Model T Ford or would you prefer the challenge of designing the next-generation Tesla or a Bullet Train? And instead of navigating with a sextant or doing math with a slide rule, we have GPS and computers and an accumulation of research on things like materials that you can leverage to meet the engineering challenges of today and tomorrow. So, don't fear the difficulty - embrace it and overcome it!

Here are some things to consider as you pursue Civil or any other engineering:

1) managing complexity or solving complex problems has required and will continue to require greater knowledge of computer software and compute infrastructure. Software tools to solve technical problems may require their own programming, or you may even write your own custom programs to analyze or organize data. Data doesn't just come from analysis; with a complex engineering task you may need to manage a large bill of materials (parts list) with multiple manufacturers and traceability to various approvals and certifications. In addition, virtually every engineering project will include some sort of software as part of the deliverable product itself, for example a building management system that controls air conditioning, lights, and security. And as James C mentioned in his answer, communication skills are very important: you will author reports and proposals and deliver presentations to your team, your managers, your customers, and civil authorities. To prepare for all of this, you should learn the Microsoft office applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), learn a modern programing language like Python, and learn how compute infrastructure such as embedded computing (the software that is contained in standalone devices) and cloud computing (which you will probably use during certain database or analysis tasks) works.

2) power and efficiency are becoming more prevalent requirement in engineering projects, whether it is a semiconductor device, a car or a building. It might not be as apparent but even a structure like a bridge will have power considerations. Take time to build your awareness of techniques that exist to conserve or recover power in a system. This is where talking to current civil engineers or reading some of their periodicals can help you to build your awareness (refer to the reference publications in James C's response).

3) it is unfortunate that one of the areas that has been forced to grow in complexity is security. Burglars are more sophisticated, and security systems are more sophisticated. And the more you incorporate software into a system the more you need to be concerned with hackers and cybersecurity. To prepare for a future in engineering, take the opportunity to start learning about these threats and mitigations.
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Mrinal’s Answer

Keep that spark of curiosity alive and make it a habit to learn something new every day - ideally, something that's not directly related to your daily job.
Consider changing companies occasionally. This will broaden your horizons, allowing you to gain different perspectives and learn various approaches to the same tasks.
Take the time to connect with other professionals, both within and outside your workplace. This will help you stay informed about the various career paths available to you.
In the early stages of your career, focus on honing your technical skills. As you accumulate expertise in your field, consider transitioning into a management role.

Here's to your success!
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Arpita’s Answer

Each generation that comes along will encounter its own unique hurdles in advancing their careers.
In this era of AI explosion, there's a wealth of information and resources at your disposal. The real challenge lies in identifying the genuine ones.

I highly suggest connecting with established Civil Engineers through platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed. Don't hesitate to inquire about their journey, the obstacles they faced, and the advice they'd give to budding civil engineers like yourself. Consider posting your queries on LinkedIn - you'll be surprised at how many people are willing to help.

Moreover, keep an eye out for meetups in your locality, specifically those geared towards engineers. Eventbrite.com is a reliable site to find such events. This could be a fantastic opportunity to network and learn from others in your field.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hi Daisy,

In order to thrive in the ever-evolving world of 21st-century engineering, particularly in civil engineering, there are a few key skills that every budding engineer should possess. As technology continues to develop and industries transform, it's crucial for engineers to stay updated and adapt to the shifting requirements of their profession. Here are some skills that can set you up for success in civil engineering:

1. Technical Competence: The bedrock of any engineer's skill set is a solid foundation in technical knowledge. For civil engineers, this means having a thorough grasp of core subjects like mathematics, physics, structural analysis, geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering, and environmental engineering. Being adept at computer-aided design (CAD) software and other relevant tools is also a must. Staying in tune with the latest technological advancements and industry practices is essential to effectively apply your technical skills.

2. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: Civil engineers often encounter complex problems that need creative solutions. It's important to cultivate strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills to analyze issues, pinpoint potential solutions, and make informed decisions. This requires the ability to think logically, simplify complex problems, and assess different options based on their feasibility and potential impact.

3. Communication and Collaboration: Clear and effective communication is a key skill for engineers across all fields. Civil engineers should be able to articulate their ideas, plans, and findings to clients, team members, contractors, and other stakeholders. This requires both written and verbal communication skills. Moreover, as projects become more interdisciplinary, collaboration becomes increasingly important. Being able to work well in a team and collaborate with professionals from various backgrounds is vital for successful project completion.

4. Adaptability and Lifelong Learning: The engineering field in the 21st century is marked by rapid technological changes and shifting industry practices. Engineers need to be flexible and open to change. This means being ready to learn new skills, staying abreast of the latest industry trends, and constantly seeking opportunities for professional growth. Lifelong learning is key to keeping up with emerging technologies and staying competitive in the field.

5. Ethical and Professional Conduct: Engineers have a duty to uphold ethical standards and prioritize public safety and welfare. Following professional codes of conduct and ethical guidelines is crucial for maintaining trust and credibility in the industry. This includes practicing engineering with integrity, taking into account environmental sustainability, and ensuring that projects comply with relevant regulations and standards.

In addition to these skills, gaining practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions is also important for aspiring civil engineers. This hands-on experience allows you to apply your theoretical knowledge in real-world situations, hone your problem-solving skills, and familiarize yourself with industry practices.

In conclusion, while the engineering field may be evolving and posing new challenges, building a strong foundation in technical competence, problem-solving, communication skills, adaptability, and ethical conduct will equip aspiring civil engineers for the future.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications or Domain Names Used:

1. National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) - www.nspe.org
2. American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) - www.asce.org
3. Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) - www.ice.org.uk

Best of luck, Daisy!

Yours,
James
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Cory’s Answer

I am going to give a tenth man (or woman) approach to the question and respectfully disagree with a lot of the stuff aforementioned because the response needs context. This is the one thing every answer needs. In general without impact “Yes!, Engineering today is as relatively complicated as it was yesteryears.”

However in specific it has become very difficult to just be a civil engineer over the years. Being in an industry based on the development of soil, rock, concrete and steel keeps the core knowledge very steadfast over the centuries and this makes civil engineering an easier space to work in but these products have to be built with the end user in mind where the client provides services. In this newer business mode large clunky solutions though time prove are rejected for more cosmetic or policy drive results.

Don’t get me wrong civil engineers hep to make the bread basket of America with the advent of the National Highway System and then turned around and did it again on the topic of homeland security and made the Interstate System. But in the process of building our current farm to market roads the number of clients or stakeholders has dramatically increased.

As a more current example 20-30 years ago roads were two lane strips of pavement. Now that same road is required to have shoulders, rumble strips, edge striping, signing, safety set back, etc…..

The challenge the current generation of civil engineers are facing is code overload. Meaning too many regulations that require compliance but not adding value. The upcoming generation will face similar challenges with the transition of engineering as an art form (ie done in the field or desk where the practice revises the code) to a business (ie the reproductive ability of designs as they become more machine made using the science already made).

The last twenty years I have been left behind several times as the technology advanced either because I switched career field or jobs even though they were all within civil engineering. The challenge for you (IMO) will be staying flexible without losing that core knowledge of what engineering is or more importantly civil engineering is. It will be easy to get lost in the technology and not know the code or the science. It will be your generarion that deals with ethical dilemmas of machine generated design as my generation has had to smooth out the old methods of build it where it cheap which leads to social justice topics.


Good Luck.
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