How to succeed as an energy engineer and manager

How to Succeed as an energy EngineerSP 

Watson: Holmes, where can I get good advice that will help me succeed as an Energy Engineer?

Holmes: Funny you should ask as I recently received my alumni copy of the fall 2013 edition of the Echoes magazine from the Rose-Human Institute of Technology which is filled with words of wisdom from a number of successful engineers and scientists.

If you are not familiar with my alma mater that was founded in 1874 in Terre Haute, Indiana, you might be surprised to learn that it has been ranked the nation’s top undergraduate engineering college for 15 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. It is again #1 in the 2014 Best Colleges Guidebook based on an annual survey of engineering deans and senior faculty members. Rose had six professors listed in The Princeton Review’s 2012 Best 300 Professors book; really amazing for a school with an enrollment of just over 2,000 in 2012.

Watson: You went there in 1874?

Holmes: No. That’s when it was founded. Back to the Echoes. On the cover was a photo of Tim Cindric, a 1990 mechanical engineering graduate and President of Penske Racing. When I opened the magazine I happened to turn to an article on Mike Thomas, one of my fraternity brothers who I haven’t seen since he graduated in 1964, 50 years ago (he’s a lot older than me). I remember Mike helping me with a design problem when I was a lowly freshman pledge and he was a sophisticated and worldly senior. I specifically remember him explaining how to apply problem solving techniques that helped me find a solution. I never forgot his consideration although I doubt he remembers me. Mike spent 30 years with Ford Motor Company and among his many other accomplishments he was Director of Worldwide Automotive Planning. He went on to lead China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation startup. By now I was starting to feel really privileged to be an alumnus of RHIT, a college that had produced these two distinguished graduates.

Watson: I completely understand. I feel the same way when I read about my school, the Briard Institute of Technology and Engineering, BITE.

Holmes: I read the two articles and picked up a couple of common threads in statements made by both men. Tim was quoted as saying, “I took away from Rose-Human the knowledge that engineering is a process.”

Mike said, “There’s a thought process and a decision-making process that are key to running a successful business. … I see young Rose-Hulman graduates in industry, and they’re not afraid to tackle new things. They know how to solve problems.”

I went on to read other articles in the magazine and was really surprised to find those same points repeated over and over by other successful engineers, scientists and educators. I have been emphasizing them throughout my career as an engineer, educator and business owner. In fact, I published a couple of articles based on them in Sustainable Plant during 2012, The Art of Problem Solving and Advice to Grad students and Other Aspiring Energy Managers, in an effort to help others in my profession learn some of the same things that Tim and Mike and I did during our undergraduate days at “Dear Old Rose, the Sweetest Flower that Grows, here’s to your Colors, Rose and White …”, oops, got carried back to my days as a drummer in the Pep Band. Sorry.

Watson: What else was in the magazine?

Holmes: The following quotes may help you as well as others who are just starting into their engineering careers.

Dave Burgner is a 1972 Electrical Engineering graduate of Rose-Hulman who went on to get his MBA from MIT through a Sloan Fellowship. A retired Vice President and Global Customer Director for Delphi Corporation, Dave said, “Rose-Hulman provided me the ability to think logically about problems and set me up for a lifetime of learning.” Dave remembered several outstanding professors including Bob Steinhauser who changed my life as I described in my Blog titled “Thermodynamics”.

Emma Dosmar (BE, 2011) and grad student at the Illinois Institute of Technology said, talking about her undergraduate days at Rose, “We’re really good at problem solving. We don’t get overwhelmed. We just tackle it step-by-step.”

Talking about Dr. Azad Siahmakoun, Director of Micro-Nanoscale devices, the article said, “As much as he loves introducing students to microdevices, … his primary role is training students to think like scientists and engineers.” Dr. Siahmakoun said, “Technical fields are not fields where you can do memorization. … You need to know how to set up a problem, how to approach it, how to break it down, and how to get final results and a solution.”

Dr. Kay Dee, associate Dean of Learning and Technology said the one lesson that she hopes to pass along to her students is, “I want them to believe they can figure out any technical problem they face. … I want them to know they have the skills and the capabilities they need to be successful and to have confidence in themselves.”

Watson: Thanks a lot Holmes. I’ve made quite a few notes. Would you summarize?

Holmes: That is a lot of wisdom packed into a few paragraphs. My advice to you as a young Energy Engineer, Watson is Elementary; continue to improve your knowledge and develop lifetime learning skills, refuse to follow the flock, learn to think for yourself, to solve problems and to produce actual results that will help your clients. It won’t be easy. It is up to you and me and everyone else who wants to see the Energy Engineering Profession to become a Profession we can all be proud of, to work as hard as we can to learn what this distinguished group all learned.

Tell us about your experiences, both good and bad with energy professionals, what has worked and what hasn’t. Send us your comments, thoughts and suggestions on how to improve our profession so we can all continue to learn from each other. Thanks – Holmes & Watson.