The civil engineering profession continues to evolve as we look for new ways to handle our current tasks more accuracy and precisely. I’ve been told that for everything we do, though we may think our way is the best, there is always a better one.
Technology is constantly changing, just like engineering. If you look at older versions of drafting or finite element method software, you can see the improvements that have occurred since they were first developed.
So, if ever-improving technology allows us more efficiency and accuracy, but our current methods are still appropriate, why would we change? Why change something that’s not broken? Do we need to adapt to new technology if current technology does the job?
Over the years I’ve seen some great tech for helping design modeling and field implementation, but the hardest thing has been convincing end-users to give it a chance. The main argument goes, “Why would we change something that isn’t broken?” And they’re right, why would we?
To adopt and adapt in the workplace always takes the approval of the user. Meaning we need to wear our seller hard‐hats. As engineers, we are very good at analyzing situations and generating quantitative and qualitative assessments. I say we can use that same mindset for adapting to new tools. If what matters most to the customer matters to us, then modifying unbroken stuff will become user- and everyone-friendly.
Let’s ask ourselves: Will we save money? Time? Will we manage risk more effectively for this client? And how many users are we talking about?
Most of my experiences have involved multiple customers – clients, project managers, and users – for whom I had to appear in seller hard‐hat to get them to adapt to even one recent technology.
Our old ways were once recent. As the newer becomes available, how will it benefit the customer? Well, unless it’s Alexa or Seri, technology doesn’t speak for itself. If we’re going to remain our most accurate, efficient, and relevant, we civil engineers will need to “speak up” for that technology by not refusing it an audience.
Ken Mika is a project engineer for Geosyntec in Green Bay and Milwaukee, WI, and is a strategic leader with a proven ability to evaluate, build, and implement process improvements within and across teams. He has experience with field data collection in multiple media, staffing and field resource allocation, remedial design and contractor procurement, construction management, and building and maintaining cooperative teaming relationships. Mika is currently an ASCE Region 3 governor, Wisconsin Section president-elect, and 2020 Wisconsin Section Infrastructure Report Card co-chair.
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