Success at Site

Site: The magnificent place where an engineer’s dreams become reality.

Working on site is simultaneously the most stressful and exciting time for an engineer. After countless hours invested to dream, plan, design and procure every detail of a project, the worksite is the last step. It is the final point that determines how successful the project actually is. To be the go-to person on site can be incredibly challenging but in the end it is immeasurably rewarding.
In order to effectively manage the stress of the worksite and be as successful as possible there are a few key items to keep in mind. Although every worksite is slightly different, these guidelines will apply wherever you go:

1. Respect is earned not given.

Respect is so important in engineering and will dictate if you have a meaningful and positive impact on a project. How do you earn this crucial respect? Stay focused on three key words: preparation, motivation and modesty. These three words will successfully steer you in the direction of respect no matter what situation you find yourself in.

2. Effective Preparation

Before embarking on your site visit (especially your first site visit), take the time to sit down with a more senior engineer and ask some key guiding questions. A great place to start is: “What will make this a successful site trip?” This question will set clear goals for the rest of your preparation and will allow you to understand if you were successful when you return. Other questions to ask while preparing include: “Who are my key contacts on this project?”, “What are the safety protocols?” and “What should I bring with me?"

3. Perpetually Motivated

All worksites are going to be full of challenges. When you arrive you need to stay motivated throughout the adventure. This involves staying motivated to learn, to lead and to solve the problems as they arise. Maintaining an upbeat and motivated attitude will allow you to stay focused on effective problem solving. It is also important to remember that you will be remembered more for your attitude than your ability when the project comes to an end.

4. Confidently Modest

Now here is where I must contradict myself–while staying modest, always be confident. Even if you are completely lost, be confident in not knowing where you are. The phrase “I don’t know BUT I will find out” is probably the most intelligent, candid and modest thing you will ever say on site.

5. Tradespeople Make it Happen

Assuming that you are going to the worksite to assist with construction or commissioning you must remember that tradespeople make your design a reality. This means that once all the paper has been printed, the tradespeople will play an enormous part in determining the successful execution of your project. You want to treat these people with the utmost respect. This respect goes beyond self-preservation; the tradespeople have fantastic knowledge to offer on design modifications that can make your project better in numerous subtle ways. Tradespeople have had many years of experience focused on the final stages of a project. This experience is critical because although a design may be perfect on paper it might not translate well into real life. The insights found during the final installation are some of the key items that separate good engineers from great engineers. Have the modesty and motivation to ask the tradespeople lots of questions, be open to criticism and compliment good ideas. Most people are happy to share their knowledge when provided the opportunity.

I hope these guidelines help to make your first site visits successful. The worksite is the most incredible place to learn how to be a great engineer and the fastest place to learn your craft. More than becoming a great engineer, site is the closest thing to magic an engineer can experience. The magic comes when you see your drawings jump off the page and come to life. On site you get to guide this magic, steer it and shape it until it becomes what you had imagined it could be. And, when you see the first car cross your bridge or the turbine start to generate electricity, that’s the moment where you truly realize that being an engineer is incredible.