How to Communicate Engineering Ideas
(A One Day Course for 8 PDH's)
States have language similar to that of New York State regarding courses
that qualify for Continuing Education
PDH’s or Continuing Education:
Q & A from New York State
Licensing Board - #18. What are appropriate subjects for continuing
Not all courses and educational activities offered by an approved sponsor
are acceptable for continuing education credit in New York State.
Courses and educational activities must contribute to the professional
practice of professional engineering or land surveying. The subject matter
of the course or educational activity must be related to professional
practice and contribute to the development or maintenance of professional
Subject areas that are not so
related, such as, project management related to improving/maximizing
profitability and professional fees;
Must be Related…Must contribute !! Effective
Communications, not just ordinary communications is as vital to the
practicing engineer or surveyor as are the basics of Newton’s Laws.
In fact, of all the positive
attributes of engineers, a most notable negative - is our inability to
communicate effectively. As a practicing professional engineer (for over 35
years), it is a fact I have difficulty defending.
No surprise that the approval part
of a project is usually relinquished to attorneys.
What good is a brilliant project if it cannot be
effectively communicated to the project team or to the intended party?
Effective communications is
most definitely “contributes”
to professional knowledge necessary to turn ideas
What critical skill turned the Brooklyn
Bridge Idea into a reality ?
Competent engineering, yes but an
effective communicator in John Roebling and later his son, Washington, took
the project from conception, through design, approval, and finally
construction and commissioning.
Working in teams is something taught in our
engineering colleges & universities. Teaming is the tactical structure for
This continuing education course drills
down into the details of effective communications, thus more effective
A poorly communicating team between contractor, client, and engineer can
lead to dollars wasted. Sometimes
the client is a government entity. That’s
TAX Dollars wasted !!
Related, Relevant and
ineffective communications can (and does) cost
tax payers unnecessary additional dollars, need we say more.
What good is a great Project
if it can’t be communicated effectively to the very people who:
(a) approve it;
(b) fund it (c) construct it;
benefit by it ?
Every practicing engineer (herein participant)
knows the answers to that question.
They vary from; a longer approval process, to
flat out rejection, or costly change orders, or inferior quality due to
“personality” conflicts, or the public simply pays higher costs for all of
the above inefficiencies and then some.
I give this exercise where I ask groups of
participants to list all the technical principals involved in solving a
particular engineering (or surveying) problem.
After a few minutes and lots of chatter
within the groups, they
a laundry list from Newton’s Laws to
statics, dynamics and fluids, to codes and
regulations from ASTM, ANSI, IRC, IBC, EPA, and on and on.
Then I ask them
to list the behavioral principals necessary to communicate this particular
problem to those that need to know or make a decision.
The groups go silent, the pencils cease to write. They struggle and
ask me time and again; “what do you mean ?”
More evidence that engineers just don’t even recognize the many
variables and skills necessary for effective persuasion or approval of their
After over 35
years of practicing engineering and giving this exercise,
it has never ceased to amaze me of the many, many
participants that simply dismiss these skills as necessary to carry
out the duties of their profession.
We can master the
complex engineering principals around Newton and Bernoulli, keep up with the
codes and regulations, and yet
we are never curious enough to learn the basic principals around effective
communications, let alone master them.
one communicates DOES determine WHAT gets communicated. What
good is a brilliant engineering idea, if
it cannot get approved or funded, perhaps because it just wasn’t
This is one topic for your continuing education
tool box that probably was not covered in your basic engineering education
in the first place.
Steve Covey’s Seventh Habit, “Sharpen the
Saw”, is the essence of any continuing education program.
Communication skills get just as dull as
the other technical skills,
not sharpened from time to time.
I caution that this course is not for you if you
do not come with an open mind about yourself
and are more than willing to engage in the
Learning is a Contact Sport and for any learning
to take place, you can’t be afraid to hit, and yes, get hit.
And with all that said, remember, learning
really doesn’t happen until your behavior changes.
At the end of this eight-hour workshop, Sir Isaac
Newton will have other company in your repository of tools as you journey to
be a more effective engineer or surveyor.
With the proper frame of mind not only will you
learn, but you will even have FUN.
Nick Cirilli, PE, PLS
How to Communicate Engineering Ideas
A Retreat Advancing Our Profession
One Day (8 PDHs) Continuing Education Program
This course is
Approved by The Practicing Institute
of Engineering (PIE) to provide Continuing Education (CE) training for the
State of New York
(effective April 17, 2012)
Contact: Nick Cirilli, PE
for additional information
This is Continuing Education Competency Training
relevant to the professional engineer or surveyor, (herein called the
participant). At the very
minimum, it will improve or expand the participant’s skills and knowledge in
the essential art of communicating effectively to those within their circle
of influence for that particular project or problem.
This knowledge and awareness training will be presented
in a format relevant to the realities of the engineering profession.
The goal of the training is to give the participant
New knowledge & awareness of the Variables involved
New way of thinking before communicating, and
New perspective of one’s self in communicating
It is the objective of this program to increase the
participant’s level of awareness of the many human variables that are
involved in communicating or interacting with clients, co-workers,
superiors, subordinates, and the public.
It is also the objective of this program to present to
the participants with an in-depth understanding of themselves.
One cannot communicate effectively if one does not understand how
their particular style and be an impediment to a successful outcome.
Before anyone can communicate effectively, they must
have a basic understanding of the principles of behavior.
No laundry list of “how-to’s” for behaving will accomplish this
understanding. The behaviors must be “felt”.
Also, the participant must have a keen awareness and
understanding about themselves before they can effectively communicate to
The program will place the participant in various
experiential exercises as a way to “feel” the various behaviors, so
fundamentally essential for effective communications.
The participant should then be able to move from blame
of the system or circumstance to personal responsibility for his/her means
and methods of communicating.
Engineers & Surveyors are so “task” or “thing”
oriented, that they have little or no regard for their communication’s style
in their day-to-day activities. I will go as far as say that they have
little or no idea that “how” something is presented, may determine “what”
gets approved. “Substance” is their
This knowledge and awareness training will break down
behavior to show the participant how “effectiveness” in presenting or
delivering “substance” is vital to the success of the intended result,
i.e., the essence of
turning our ideas into reality.
At the end of this Eight-hour Workshop the participant
will have a basic understanding of the following:
As the transmitter (of communications); one must be keenly aware and
factor in their own personal behaviors, beliefs, how they see the world
, and learning styles
The human variables that comprise communications
The nature of our profession, especially the qualities that
make a good engineer or surveyor, sometimes runs counter to
the skills necessary for effective communications.
Human behavior including; your perceptions, attitudes, values, beliefs,
behavioral tendencies, basic needs, and learning styles directly
influences your ability to Communicate effectively
As the transmitter (of communications); one must be keenly aware of the
point of view behavioral tendencies, biases and beliefs of the
One must know thy audience, and value the differences.
As the transmitter (of communications), one must adjust their
style to meet the knowledge, background, learning style, and point of
view of the receiver.
Effective communications is hard work and requires a knowledge and
awareness of critical behavioral variables, no different than the
knowledge and awareness of variables needed to solve an engineering or
Effective Communications is a SKILL and like any other skill requires
constant work, reflection, and continuous improvement.