How to be an engineer

By rowingengineer

Some general guidelines for you’re the first years of engineering:

  1. Always try to think of answer before asking a question. Getting the short quick answer without the research/reading you mean miss all the “grey” areas (and avoids you getting BS). Hints: Look at past jobs, take a look in the library for book on the subject.
  2. Never be afraid to ask a question.
  3. Always ask a question with a note pad or similar such that you can take notes or the senior engineer can sketch details for you.
  4. Try to collect questions and do a few at once. Generally good times to ask questions are first thing in the morning, just before/after lunch.
  5. If you are unable to think of how to start a problem, start with sketch.
  6. Expect your first few budgets to be “blowouts”, we do. The budgets are quoted on engineering with experience, not a graduate. My first budget went 5 times over, but the next similar project it was two times. Learning is what is expected of you.
  7. Expect to be put pushed to your limit. We will want to know what this is such that we can slot you into your best position.
  8. You will be asked question by clients and subcontractors, if the question is complex or about times, record the question and tell them you will get back to them after discussing this with the certifying engineer.
  9. Always act professional in front of clients, even if they are your best friend.
  10. Record all conversions with client and subcontractors, in written form.
  11. If in trouble or struggling, put your hand up, we can’t read your mind.
  12. Read the contents page of each standard; while we don’t expect you to know the standards like the back of your hand, we do expect you to know what’s in them. In the appendix is a current set of standards that you will want to be familiar with.

Some meeting guidelines

  1. Thoroughly prepare before every meeting; studying during meetings does not work.
  2. Treat everyone in the room as your equal; egos are always detrimental to progress.
  3. Keep your focus on the big picture, not on the details; set policy, not implementation.
  4. Focus on the core issues of the matter at hand, leaving peripheral issues for others.
  5. Practice intensive listening; nobody has ever learned anything while talking.
  6. Organize your thoughts before speaking, stay on topic, and be brief.
  7. Speak selectively and infrequently; talk only when it is an improvement on silence.
  8. Disagree without being disagreeable; visible emotion is never appropriate.
  9. Be willing to compromise when necessary; partial progress is better than no progress.
  10. Selectively inject humour to alleviate tension.

Books of interest:

Some of them are from other countries, remember engineering is a global profession and other countries may be leading the way in certain areas. For example, the DNV-Riso (Denmark) would be considered one of leading authority for wind turbines.

“Concrete structures” Warner et al
“Design of Prestressed Concrete” Gilbert
“Reinforced concrete mechanics” MacGregor,
“PCI design Handbook” PCI,
“Precast concrete Handbook” NPCAA,
“Reinforced concrete elements” Beletich,
“Reinforcement detailing handbook” CIA,
“Standard method of detailing” Istruct,
“Design of tilt-up concrete wall panels” CIA,
“Reinforced concrete”- economic guide R/C, P/T ect.
“Structural engineering pocket book”- Fiona Cobb

“Steel designer manual” The steel construction institute,
“Design of Portal Frame Buildings” ASI
“Rigid and simple connection series” ASI
“Design Guide - Portal Frames Steel Sheds and Garages” ASI
“Economical Structural Steelwork” & ASI Journal
“Structural steel semi-rigid connections” Faella,
“semi-rigid” base plate design notes, AISC design guides.


Materials: Roarke

Finite element: “finite element design of concrete structures” Rombach

Costing: “commercial and industrial building cost guide” Cordell

Vibration: “Design guide 14” AISC, HIVOSS for bridges

Wind: “wind loading of structures” John Holmes

What is an engineer?

Ever wondered what you got yourself into well here is a brief over view:

According to USA President Herbert Hoover, who was an engineer before he became a politician, said: The great liability of the engineer …compared to men of other professions…is that his works are out in the open where all can see them His acts …step by step …are in hard substances. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the DOCTORS. He cannot argue them into thin air…or blame the judge…like the LAWYERS. He cannot, like the ARCHITECT, cover his figures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents…and hope the people will forget. The ENGINEER simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work…he is damned.

A design engineer’s responsibility should include:

  1. The application of specialized civil engineering knowledge, training, and experience to evaluate, analyze, design, specify, detail, and observe the construction of force-resisting elements of structures. Such expertise includes consideration of strength, stability, deflection, stiffness, ductility, potential modes of failure, and other characteristics that affect the behavior of a structure.
  2. Assuring the structural safety of the design, details, checking shop drawing.
  3. Detailing is as important as design since proper detailing of engineering designs is an essential link in the planning and engineering process as some of the most devastating collapses in history have been caused by defective connections or DETAILING.
  4. Detailing is necessary not only for the steel structures but also for the RCC members as it is the translation of all the mathematical expressions and equation’s results.
  5. An engineer must account for temperature changes, weather, and many other factors during design, and choose materials that can withstand such elements. He or she must create a structure with just enough deflection and sway to account for natural shifts and expansion without creating danger or discomfort for occupants. Finally, he or she must complete the design and specify materials that fit within the project budget.



I would also add good grammar, correct spelling, and proper use of commonly recognized engineering terms.

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Like 25 MPa cement…