Fine-tuning a career

No matter what point we’re at in our personal lives or professional careers, we never stop learning.


Every time I go to a conference or training session, one thing leaps out at me: We can never get enough education. This is really a general statement about humans as a species, but for engineers, it’s even truer. No matter what point we’re at in our personal lives or professional careers, we never stop learning.

For example, I recently attended a one-day session hosted by the Energy Center of Wisconsin on building commissioning and ongoing commissioning (for more about commissioning, read the articles "Commissioning hospital electrical systems" and "Performing enhanced commissioning design review"). There were roughly 50 people in the room, some of whom were veterans at commissioning, and some of whom were just jumping into the fray.

They were at all levels of their careers, and from various technical backgrounds (engineers, product representatives, building operations, etc.). Because of the open and engaging presentation style, everyone felt they could contribute. The afternoon portion was highly technical, and I’m sure everyone felt they came away learning something new.

This session was held in the best format possible—in person. The presenter led the discussion, and the audience chimed in with questions and personal examples every step of the way. Each attendee came away with real-world examples and lots of new ideas to implement.

In October, I attended a different kind of training session: the Career Smart Engineers Conference. This full day of sessions put together by Consulting-Specifying Engineer focused on professional development skills for engineers at all levels. As several university curriculum leaders have noted, college engineering programs aren’t lacking on technical engineering skills. Graduates may leave their programs without professional skills, like communication skills or management capabilities. We run a monthly column, Career Smart, to focus on just that (see "Building professional relationships" for a recent example).

The Career Smart Engineers Conference was another in-person event, which allowed attendees to work with their classmates and learn from each other. Because the presentations were so strong, we’re going to launch them online as individual courses. More details about the Career Smart Engineers Conference and online education are at:

As we’ve learned from

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Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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