Discussion Thread

People vs Projects - priorities

  • 1.  People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-19-2021 02:44 PM
    When looking for a job or a new position, which do you tend to prioritize: the people you will be working for/with, or the work itself?

    I'm curious where others stand on this. I definitely lean to the side of prioritizing the people and atmosphere over the details of the actual projects to be done. From my perspective, I'm more satisfied with my overall work experience if I enjoy the people I'm working with than if I'm doing the kind of technical work I like with people I don't enjoy.

    Obviously the ideal would be doing the kind of work you like with people you like, but sometimes that isn't easy to find. If faced with the option between the ideal people or the ideal projects, which would you choose (and why)?

    ------------------------------
    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-20-2021 09:46 AM
    Hi Heidi,

    I'm glad you raised that question. For me it is definitely the ideal people. It took me a while to convince myself of that as I had taken on what I thought would have been ideal projects, for the projects and never assessed the people. The projects were burdensome to me because of the team and I did not enjoy the work on the face of it. I had to shift my mindset to focus on the work and to look for the joy in the overall experience. It has however taught me to assess the people for prospective projects first, and ensure that I am one who I would want to work with, to ensure that designing, too, will be enjoyable.  Life is about relationships. Thanks for the reminder. Have a wonderful day!!

    ------------------------------
    Kamille Jackson R.Eng, M.ASCE
    Kingston
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-20-2021 01:28 PM
    Heidi,

    Great topic! I tend to agree with you that I would rather work with team members and people that I enjoy over the opposite. I feel like it would be draining to work with people you dislike as even if you like the projects, you would still be working with those same people on those projects. In the opposite scenario it could possibly make a less enjoyable project more tolerable, when you like and enjoy the people you are working with on that project.

    Fundamentally, I believe it comes down to what do you value, projects or people? I value people and I think on a larger scale people are more important than projects. I will always rather work for the company that puts their people first over their projects, as they are the firms more likely to be flexible and considerate of their people's work life balance. In a similar fashion, I would put people above projects if faced with the choice when looking for a new position or job.

    ------------------------------
    Kush Vashee, PE, CAMP, ENV SP, LEED GA
    Project Engineer
    RK&K
    Fairfax, VA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-21-2021 10:17 AM
    Heidi,
    This is a great topic to bring up. I think everyone would agree that ideally you would love both the projects and the people you work with. But that isn't always reality.

    I think my perspective may be a little different than yours. When I moved from Baltimore to North Carolina, I took a job with an engineering firm where I didn't know anybody (as I just moved to a new state) and doing a job that I was qualified for, but wasn't passionate about. Over time, I grew to love most of the people I worked with, but the day to day work I was doing wasn't that interesting to me (and working with clients that I personally didn't align with). I did have opportunities to mentor other engineers and become more involved with the company, which was great, but this was still only a fraction of the work day. A majority of the day was still doing tasks that didn't speak to me, which made it hard to stay motivated to do the work.

    I worked there for about a year before I took a job with my current employer, although in a related discipline of engineering. I took the job with my current employer just to get my foot in the door, as I had been trying to get a job with them for years at that point. The job I took wasn't something I was really passionate about either, but I did get to enjoy the people I worked with. I have never been a part of such a high functioning and highly productive team as with that job. But again, after about a year I was looking for a different position because the day to day work wasn't speaking to me, and I struggled to stay motivated. Luckily, I was able to stay with the same employer and get a job doing the work I really enjoyed doing. My current supervisor is great (which can be a key factor with how much you like your job) and I really enjoy the day to day assignments, as they are related to the engineering field I am interested in and have the most experience in. I find it much easier to stay motivated, as each new assignment is exciting to me because of the type of work it is. I have been in this job for over 3 years now, and I still enjoy the work I do. It feels like this is where I was supposed to be.

    So while I do agree that the people you work with are a huge impact on how you feel about your job, I also feel that having work that is enjoyable and interesting to you is very important on how you feel about your job. You can have the best coworkers in the world, but if you are just scanning and shredding paper for 8 hours a day, it probably won't take long before you start looking for a different opportunity. I know that is an extreme example, but hopefully you understand my point.

    Having great people to work with is very important. But also don't underestimate the importance of the work itself.

    As Mark Twain said "Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

    ------------------------------
    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-26-2021 02:37 PM

    I have worked internships & entry level positions where I enjoyed the people, but didn't enjoy the work. I ultimately left, but I found it hard because of the bonds I developed at those firms. I had a personal experience with an internship where I loved the type of projects they were awarded, but I didn't like working with the majority of the people I worked with. I was so intrigued about the projects that I asked if I could stay, but a week before the internship was over an experience I had during the internship changed my mindset on this topic forever. If I don't enjoy the people, I won't enjoy the work period no matter how highly I think of the work.

    I believe you are correct. A balance of work that you enjoy working on + people you enjoy working with is the ideal situation. I don't believe that whatever firm you work at is going to have this ideal situation sustained all throughout your time, but for me I believe I have a solid balance of people I enjoy working with + projects I enjoy working on that I've never had working anywhere else.



    ------------------------------
    Jay Garth P.E.
    Structural Engineer I
    Progressive AE

    EWB: An Engineering Culture Shift
    Grand Rapids, MI
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 15 days ago
    With how difficult and long-winded it is to get new positions, I have been focusing on the work itself, regarding companies I am sufficiently familiar with.

    When I was starting my job search, a company I hadn't heard of before on LinkedIn reached out to me, and a swift informational and interview process issued before I was hired. It all happened too quickly for me to realize myself the real reason this company was so swift and small; I was giving them money so they could drag my own friends and family into their offers.

    Thankfully, I quickly got help in removing myself from the company and getting the money back. From then on, I focused on companies that I reached out to, and researched the reliability of companies that reached out to me. That way, my search process wouldn't have to be sabotaged during the efforts to get to the work.

    ------------------------------
    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Student
    Bexley OH
    [email protected]
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-21-2021 01:19 PM
    In my view, working with the ideal people should be the priority.  It's not just about your happiness and personal preferences. Working well with others is material to your effectiveness and success in any role.  You'll also find an easier path to the work you truly wish to do when you have friends and advocates among your colleagues.

    That said: never stop striving for both!

    Ashley Lesser, P.E.

    ------------------------------
    Ashley Lesser P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    Huntington Woods MI
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-22-2021 08:24 AM
    Doug,
    I appreciate you sharing this experience from that side. I agree that if the work isn't fulfilling that that would get old.
    One thing I've specifically appreciated at my company is that I felt comfortable enough to discuss with my project managers what parts of my job I find most satisfying. I'm currently only working a few hours a week while abroad in graduate school, but my mentor and I have been talking about what my future role could look like based on my areas of interest. I'm so thankful that the first place I worked is a great fit for both relationships and type of work. (I interned for them for a couple years and then joined full-time 5 years ago.)

    ------------------------------
    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-26-2021 02:59 PM
    Now, perhaps I may be wrong, but I'm "Guessing" most who replied generally
    may be preference-typed as EEs, ie, "Engineer Extraverts."

    Please consider broadening your circle to include Introverts, who I am told make-up
    around 67% of engineers. Reference below FYI.
    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill
    p.s. This is not theory but a recognition of the personality preferences of all members of a project group, yet to be a "Team."
    <>============================================================<>

    Introverts rule [1]

    Citation metadata

    Author: James G. Skakoon

    Date: Apr. 2015

    From: Mechanical Engineering-CIME(Vol. 137, Issue 4)

    Publisher: American Society of Mechanical Engineers

    Document Type: Article

    Length: 675 words

    Main content

    Article Preview :

    We may be drawn to the most charismatic and engaging among us. But engineering managers need to think about how to get the most out of their introverted employees.

    Extraverts love to hog attention, but recently, introverts have come in for a bit of popularity. The author of a book titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking has given interviews on National Public Radio, written an article for The New York Times, and lectured for a TED talk. Susan Cain makes the point, as do others, that today's world has turned almost entirely into an extraverted culture, and the value of introversion is overlooked as a result.

    Psychologists' definitions of introversion and extraversion differ from the commonly held notions of being reserved or outgoing. There is some truth in those adjectives, but they are not prescriptive. Introversion is neither shyness nor a fear of public speaking. Introverts, however, do need to prepare and practice a public speech, whereas extraverts can thrive at...

     "Introverts rule." Mechanical Engineering-CIME, vol. 137, no. 4, Apr. 2015, p. 16.

    [1] https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA408915895&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00256501&p=AONE&sw=w.

    ences of all who are on an assigned project grou===============<>

    Introverts rule [1]

    Citation metadata

    Author: James G. Skakoon

    Date: Apr. 2015

    From: Mechanical Engineering-CIME(Vol. 137, Issue 4)

    Publisher: American Society of Mechanical Engineers

    Document Type: Article

    Length: 675 words

    Main content

    Article Preview :

    We may be drawn to the most charismatic and engaging among us. But engineering managers need to think about how to get the most out of their introverted employees.

    Extraverts love to hog attention, but recently, introverts have come in for a bit of popularity. The author of a book titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking has given interviews on National Public Radio, written an article for The New York Times, and lectured for a TED talk. Susan Cain makes the point, as do others, that today's world has turned almost entirely into an extraverted culture, and the value of introversion is overlooked as a result.

    Psychologists' definitions of introversion and extraversion differ from the commonly held notions of being reserved or outgoing. There is some truth in those adjectives, but they are not prescriptive. Introversion is neither shyness nor a fear of public speaking. Introverts, however, do need to prepare and practice a public speech, whereas extraverts can thrive at...

     "Introverts rule." Mechanical Engineering-CIME, vol. 137, no. 4, Apr. 2015, p. 16.

    [1] https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA408915895&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00256501&p=AONE&sw=w



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-26-2021 03:37 PM
    I work closely with several people that are very introverted. They are some of my closest friends. Based on many conversations we've had, it seems they also value working with those they enjoy being around. If you already find 8+ hours of social interaction a day draining, might as well find people you find less draining. I will say there are some Engineering positions in which you can practically work in isolation. As Ashley mentioned, when you are working in a team it's important to be able to cooperate.
    Obviously I can't speak on behalf of introverts, but I do know that when we've talked in our group outside of the office about what we like most about our jobs, even the introverts mention the people we work with. I don't know how they'd rank it against projects, but it's up there.

    ------------------------------
    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-26-2021 03:37 PM
    I love that you pointed out that it won't always be ideal even at the same firm. My dad once told me about a combative coworker "one of those can and will pop up everywhere at some point." I definitely wasn't considering leaving over it, but it was a good reminder that sometimes it's best to stick it out. I think it requires a lot of discernment to decide if the imbalance is temporary or the new normal.

    ------------------------------
    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 04-27-2021 10:12 AM
    Your last sentence there really sums up my thoughts on the subject. Particularly because I'm someone who tends to stay at things and give them a much longer "chance" than do many others.

    I picked my current job because the project itself seemed very interesting to me. My work on the project began interestingly enough, but has not always remained interesting. For a while, particularly when we were in the office, the people made me like the position enough to stay. At some point, I have to ask myself what that critical point is for one factor to outweigh the other.

    For at least half of my time at the company, I can definitely say that the people I worked with made going to work enjoyable. I developed many friends out of my office, people who I got to share hobbies and life experiences with. The work would have had to be downright horrible for me to have decided it wasn't worth the trade off during those years.

    ------------------------------
    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 05-12-2021 09:09 AM
    • Perhaps in the spirit of this conversation, some might share how they supported the inclusion of thosein their workgroups who were not spontaneously outgoing, i.e., may not initially reach out.

    • . Introversion is neither shyness nor fear of public speaking

    Introverts rule [1]

    "Extraverts love to hog attention, but recently, introverts have come in for a bit of popularity. The author of a book titled "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" has given interviews on National Public Radio, written an article for The New York Times, and lectured for a TED talk. Susan Cain makes the point, as do others, that today's world has turned almost entirely into an extraverted culture, and the value of introversion is overlooked as a result.

    Psychologists' definitions of introversion and extraversion differ from the commonly held notions of being reserved or outgoing. There is some truth in those adjectives, but they are not prescriptive. Introversion is neither shyness nor fear of public speaking. Introverts, however, do need to prepare and practice a public speech, whereas extroverts can thrive at..."

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    [1] https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA408915895&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00256501&p=AONE&sw=w




    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 05-13-2021 10:10 AM
    Hey Dr. Hayden,

    That seems like a worthy point to highlight, especially since I feel like I can contribute an answer to your question.

    One of my co-workers was hired shortly after me. They were a little shy and did a lot more listening than speaking, especially since English was not their first language. I tried to simply be extra sensitive around them. In meetings, I would try to listen to what was expected of the both of us, and in all things I simply tried to pay attention - almost to the point where it was past my business to be doing so.

    But I think it worked out well. After meetings, I would make sure that my co-worker felt like they had the information they needed to work on a task. When they asked a question about administrative items, I tried to explain the company culture behind the item and not just explain where to find something like a time-off form. I was already doing this with our interns, so I think it came naturally to do it with new staff, especially since I got the impression that a lot of details might pass over them if someone didn't take the time to speak to them specifically. We got into this habit of communication and haven't looked back since.

    Years later, my co-worker seems much more comfortable in their role and I think now understands the space they are in. They understand how to communicate with the rest of the staff in the manner that works best for them and are comfortable finding ways to say no to tasks or prioritize certain tasks over the requests of others.

    ------------------------------
    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: People vs Projects - priorities

    Posted 05-13-2021 03:49 PM

    What a great example Christopher, how to raise another's level of confidence to be the best they can be. Particularly within an environment where there are business concerns for time, money, and scope control.

    When we think about other limits of people within our organizations, wouldn't it be nice for the executive management to budget similar support championed by a P.E. ("People Engineers") like yourself?

    "There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up."

                                                                                                                     -John Holmes

    Stay Healthy!

    Cheers,

    Bill



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------