While I was working as a Student Utilities Assistant, I had a weekly responsibility of keeping a database up-to-date with all the hundreds of monthly energy bills a campus gets. We had documents containing instructions for all of the places and times of the month to check, and the database itself was quite helpful with keeping track of the data it already had. However, because I started working there when the workers who built the database were all gone, I eventually noticed that over 500 bills from years in the past had never been added to the database.
During my last few months working there, in between training my successor, I constructed my own strategy for finding all the missing files whose data were still accessible. The database had a section that pointed out which had bills missing information, so I created placeholder data points to mark the missing information first. Through this, I had a company, account, and date-based catalog of what bills in the past were missing, and used that to search every company account I needed to. Also, along the way, I discovered over 650 bills had an incorrect or missing start date (because of either a missing bill, or because they were a first bill in a monthly routine), and using the same placeholder strategy, I fixed those too just in time.
All in all, I consider being an engineer about having insight, communal and individual, about functional designs. I built up communal insight on how to keep the energy database up-to-date first. From there, I had the individual insight needed to fix mistakes that the creators of the database had not figured out.
Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
Bexley OH[email protected]
Sent: 11-05-2022 06:15 PM
From: Christopher Seigel
Subject: Happy 170th birthday, ASCE!
On Nov. 5, 1852, twelve esteemed engineers gathered at New York City's Croton Aqueduct to establish what would become the American Society of Civil Engineers. Here's to our collective impact and the limitless future of our profession.
In honor of ASCE day, I wanted to share one of my first ideas that I believe contributed significantly to the success of something I work on. I was able to help increase the efficiency of one of our workflows for a task, enabling us to start doing more work with fewer human inputs.
A few years ago, I was assigned to support a contract that my company held with one of our clients, performing sewer capacity analyses within GIS. There was a learning curve associated with this task, as most of the work involved is focused around setting up all of the elements correctly. The actual "analysis" part of the task is pretty much just the push of the button. The more I spent time setting up analyses, the more I understood why I was performing certain steps. I eventually recognized that there was no reason to be setting up one of the steps manually when it was possible to use a script to do it for us. Apparently, none of the other staff had thought to do it before, or didn't know how to get it done. Fortunately, we had some budget available and after asking around, I became aware of a colleague who could help us write this script. The end result is that we now have a tool that can be run to automate one of the steps that we used to have to perform by hand. This both saves us time and also reduces the opportunity for human error. I feel some satisfaction for thinking of this every time I run this script, and thank the person who helped write it every chance I get.
This idea came to life through communication and collaboration, and I believe is a small example of the progress we can make when we're inspired to create change and work with those around us to bring it about.
Are there any anecdotes from your own career that define what it means to be an engineer to you?
Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE