Orange County Branch Newsletter
Professional Development is NOT Optional
By Jeff Braun, P.E.
As Civil Engineers, we are members of a profession, not a “job” or a “trade”. As such, we are held to a higher standard by society and our peers. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, a profession is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation”. As with other professions, such as doctors, teachers, and architects, engineers are expected to maintain their level of expertise and keep up with the latest state of the practice through continued learning and professional development. It is too easy to get lost in the weeds of the daily grind, focusing on publishing the next deliverable. Before you know it, you’re ten years down the road and you aren’t aware of the latest research, software, or modeling methods; putting you at a significant disadvantage to others in the industry.
I’ve observed peers and acquaintances take their professional responsibility too lightly, assuming their past academic achievements and work experience are enough to carry them through a career. One senior engineer I overheard early in my career, actually said “dirt is dirt and gravity always pulls in the same direction” when explaining why he didn’t need to attend a seminar to learn a new approach for slope stability. While his statement was technically true, he didn’t appreciate our limited understanding of “dirt” (sorry fellow geotechs) and the new science learned every day that can help us design and construct a safer and more sustainable built environment. I’ve attended wide-ranging presentations and seminars helping me practice my discipline, geotechnical engineering, more effectively; as well other events that helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation for my clients’ and teaming partners’ concerns, approaches, and abilities.
Your ASCE affiliation and membership provides a substantial variety of development opportunities. From our branch luncheons and the seminars hosted by our technical institutes, to the ASCE webinars and online classes, there are numerous ways you can establish a development program that suits your goals and preferences. A few of the upcoming events include:
Feb 17 – OC-YMF PE Review Course Begins
Did you know your ASCE membership includes up to 5 on-demand webinar classes? I hope most of you have taken advantage of this great resource, but in case you haven’t, you can explore ASCE’s webinar, on-demand, and in-person training opportunities on the ASCE Continuing Education page.
I find the structured classes to be most useful for my learning style, but professional development doesn’t have to be formal. Reading books, listening to lectures, and taking tests are only a few of the limitless learning methods. Participating in site visits, taking on new types of projects or different roles on the same project, and working with different clients or Principals within your firm can also lead to substantial growth. While we are Civil Engineers, developing other skills such as leadership, project management, or contract negotiation will also be highly valuable through your career progression.
If you want to mingle amongst folks who are great examples of continued growth and development and the results you can achieve, join us for our next big event. We are celebrating the best examples of our profession on Thursday, February 15, at the annual ASCE Orange County Branch Awards Dinner. The event is at the Bowers Museum and we expect it to be another night to remember.
There is a time and place to put your nose down and apply the knowledge and past experience when working on a design or answering an RFI, but identifying opportunities to increase your skill set and understand the latest engineering science is essential. Not only is it hopefully fun and exciting for you, leading to a more fulfilling and rewarding career, it is our responsibility as Professional Civil Engineers.