Becoming an engineer is an ambition of many young people today, but there are a lot of different perspectives regarding the prospects of being an engineer. Tony Stark will be happy to know that so many people are choosing to pursue engineering majors because of how he has inspired people with his elegant Ironman suits and innovative mindset. As a working adult venturing into the construction sector, I can confidently say that an engineering careers can potentially offer more than what meets the eye.
My first exposure to engineering came from my internship in Japan. It was a railway research institute where many remarkable Japanese engineers and professors work together to carry out R&D on railway technologies. It was awe-inspiring as I witnessed their meticulousness, analytical skills, and the strong sense of teamwork on any engineering-related research topics. I was able to visit their brake research lab, and along with their state-of-the-art equipment, the research breakthroughs were indeed earthshaking. There is also a research lab solely for friction study (tribology) on railway sector! The capability of transforming the theoretical concepts on paper into a full-fledged dependable railway vehicle that is working correctly as planned is so inspiring and satisfying.
I joined Peri Formwork Malaysia as a formwork design engineer after graduation. My job scope is to provide cost-effective formwork solutions on bridges, buildings and tunnels to the contractors. Here, I learned to think critically and analytically when designing the formwork as many factors (such as the cost incurred, building structure and product flexibilities) must be taken into account. Engineering careers can be both exciting and challenging as you will be shouldering significant responsibilities.
Every engineer possesses different perspectives regarding their respective careers. Here, I impart three key lessons from my personal professional experience to share with you:
1. Be Sharp, Analytical and Meticulous
It is essential for an engineer to blend their numerical skills with meticulousness in the workplace. For instance, I have to design a formwork structure that can work under an optimal condition with utmost safety. The engineer has the responsibility to validate the formwork designs based on static (force) analysis. Analytical skill is required to carry out the calculation as accurate as possible to minimise the risks. Bearing in mind that even a 10 cm difference in structural arrangement could engender the entire formwork system to fail which will be very dangerous on site! Thus, engineers have to be sharp enough to conduct their duties regardless of their engineering fields.
Look to the Japanese engineers for inspiration and study how they incorporate meticulousness into their research and engineering work. As an intern, I had the opportunity to see how they carried out the experiments as detailed as possible to enhance the precision and accuracy of data obtained. They were not taking this data collection lightly as the resulting outcome will highly deviate from accuracy which could cripple or even fail their research and engineering work. With this standard being imposed, the product quality in Japan is well-regarded.
2. Be Interactive and Approachable at Work
Having excellent technical skills is imperative, but combining it with excellent interpersonal skills will drive an engineer even further! Good interaction is the key factor contributing to a good and conducive working environment. It is also an essence of a successful management team and the whole company. Many people from diverse backgrounds and positions will work hand-in-hand, and some discrepancies cannot be avoided.
As an engineer, the ways of conveying your messages are fundamental as some colleagues with non-technical backgrounds will not understand the conversation, which will lead to misunderstanding. I often deal with the sales engineers regarding the site progress, and the communication is very crucial in such situations. The customers’ requests have to be clearly discussed along with the sales and engineering teams. Failure to do so will result in the delay of the construction that could upset customers.
Learn to develop your soft skills along with technical know-how will steer you to even greater heights! Please bear in mind that all technical works, not interaction makes you a dull engineer.
3. Learn to be Pragmatic and Practical – Sometimes Keeping it Simple is Key
Being pragmatic in your daily engineering work is one of the most crucial aspects that I would like to highlight to any future engineers. Many engineers spend too much time and efforts focusing on understanding, designing, and fabricating the models or systems based on highly complicated engineering theories. They tend to forego the practicality of any proposed models or systems in real situations.
The ability to be pragmatic and practical is so important as you would comprehend the engineering concepts with better workability in a much simpler way. It will also assist you to save up more time as some unnecessary work can be skipped. Experience is vital in developing and improving the common sense being applied in engineering work.
Engineering remains one of the most sought-after skills, especially for many developing countries and cities in the ASEAN region. As the world is gravitating towards the growing pace of Industry 4.0, the engineering know-how is increasingly indispensable for various segments of development. Engineers should morph by upgrading themselves parallel to the continually evolving environment for science and technology.
Written by: Kang Wee Shuien
Wee Shuien is a Design Engineer for PERI Formwork Malaysia specialising in civil and infrastructure construction. He graduated with a first class in Bachelors Degree of Mechanical Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Prior to his graduation, he did his internship at Railway Technical Research Institute in Japan as research intern focusing on traction control and power supply system. As a young engineer, he is very interested on the future development of science and technology in ASEAN.
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