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  • 1.  Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 01-31-2017 04:41 PM
    I had a discussion with a friend that is changing jobs. He is going from the private to the public sector and his new role will be more project management related and he will be doing very little, if any, technical work.  I asked him how he would work at keeping up his technical skills and growth and admittedly, he said he hadn't thought about that aspect of his professional life.  He is younger and certainly not an 'expert' yet in any discipline.  For his long-term success as an engineer, he still needs to grow technically.  This lead to a good discussion on suggested ways to continue to grow, both managerially and technically. 

    So the question that comes to mind:  What creative ways do we all use to make sure our professionals continue to grow technically as they transform into a managing role?  Certainly, supporting involvement in ASCE is one...and now that one is covered!  Others?

    Christopher King P.E., S.E., F.ASCE
    Robinson Eng Co
    South Holland IL


  • 2.  RE: Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 02-01-2017 09:41 AM
    One good way to maintain your technical skills as a project manager is to perform technical reviews of the products received from your agency's staff or private consultants.  As an engineering project manager, it may be part of your duties to ensure the design provided is peer reviewed by your Unit, Section, Division, etc.  This is a good way to, not only keep up on your technical skills, but also learn by examining how the design engineer provided his technical calculations and design details.

    Phil Jones, PE, QSD, M.ASCE
    Manager, General Maintenance
    County of Orange, OC Public Works
    Orange, CA

  • 3.  RE: Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 02-01-2017 09:43 AM
    Edited by Veronique Nguyen 02-01-2017 09:42 AM

    A real  dilemma here. Some engineers think that becoming a project manager is not only more glamorous because they believe , being a manager, engineers have to work under them. Project managers are perceived to be controlling the construction process whereby engineers , architects , QS, must subscribe to them. 

    Clients also believe project managers are their eyes and ears for them, the persons they believe who can control prices, designs, decisions etc. Very often because of this project mangers get better pay and better public image or profile.

    The challenge to the engineers then: How should they project their skills and technical knowhow to the clients?  How can engineers improve their image. And how at the same engineering profession can be attractive and challenging to the engineers. Like others engineers also make choices!

    AIB Pengiran Damit 


  • 4.  RE: Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 02-01-2017 11:38 AM
    Certainly higher order education helps.  I had a great friend of mine who retired, then got his masters in physics, just for fun.

    Volunteer engineering works, Habitat always needs permit engineering, Engineer's without borders...

    Mentoring, just go into a class room and try and keep ahead of those kids.

    On the other hand, if management is where you want to be, and you are through with the PE, how about mentoring the younger folks just starting out. 

    How about working with your designers, not just giving them a task but finding out why they designed it that way.  Do it with the knowledge that you have to sell that to your board or council.  review and understand their calculations.  Understand the master plan reports and water models, transportation planning.
    on circulation reports, whatever it is, embrace the knowledge of what your agency paid someone to do.

    Daniel Chase M.ASCE
    Camarillo CA

  • 5.  RE: Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 02-01-2017 01:32 PM

    When I was in graduate school, I had a professor for a public works management course who explained that engineers fit into two categories, "technocrats" and "generalists".  We all begin our engineering careers as "technocrats".  At some point in our careers, we come to a fork in the road.  Those who are leaders and have a desire to advance into management become "generalists".  Those who are content to continue to pursue purely technical interests remain "technocrats".  There is no offense to being either one, both are necessary.  A few years ago I read a book titled THE PLATEAUING TRAP, by Judith Barwick, Ph. D.  By coincidence, the book was written about the engineering profession and addressing the dilemma many engineers face at some point in their career regarding burnout.  In my own career, I spent sixteen years in private consulting as a "technocrat" and then I redirected to public service as a "generalist" where I have been for the past twenty-nine years..  This book explains that only about 2% of the jobs in consulting lead to management opportunities.  Regarding how to stay technically proficient, that is why many states have now mandated continuing education as a requirement for maintaining professional licensure.

  • 6.  RE: Changing jobs - private to public sector

    Posted 02-03-2017 04:46 PM
    I totally disagree that you have to be a "generalist" in a public sector & "technologist" in a private sector job.  You should guide your career and can make any job as "technical" as you want even at "manager, city director, or even a owner of a company level". To say all public sector employees don't do "technical" work would be a total falsehood.  Many public agencies do their own in-house design construction plans, modeling, and even construction, etc. Few consultants can claim they do complete projects, all the way from platting to final acceptance of a building.  Many cities however, will do this because their in house staff has this expertise.

    I highly recommend every engineer who graduates that they work both sides of the fence, or you never understand how the other side works. How do consultants do budgets?  How do pubic sectors fund or select projects?  It is a symboitic relationship among engineers and other professionals.  You need to be knowledgeable of both sides to be able to be sucessful for your "client".  Your "client" can be a developer, contractor, or other agency if you work private side.  Or if you are "public side" your client is the City Manager, Council, or other public agency head you work for that you must answer to regarding the consulting engineer's cost, time schedule and actions.  Understanding how each other functions properly is critical to the successful career of both.

    Bottom line, I've had "private" consultants come work for me as a "public" sector boss who told me that public sector was much harder than private sector.  The work load and technical challenges isn't always a piece of cake if you are asked to "work" no matter what side of the fence you sit on.

    Cissy Sylo P.E, CFM., M.ASCE,
    CES Consulting Group
    Carrollton TX