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Published articles by N. Cirilli, PE

How to Communicate Engineering Ideas
(A One Day Course for 8 PDH's)

 Many 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 education?   
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 knowledge.     Subject areas that are not so related, such as, project management related to improving/maximizing profitability and professional fees;  etc, etc.

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 “related” and most definitely “contributes” to professional knowledge necessary to turn ideas into reality.  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 effective communications.  This continuing education course drills down into the details of effective communications, thus more effective project outcomes.

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 Contributory ?   If 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;   or   (d)  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  proudly present  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 projects.

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.  

HOW 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 communicated effectively.

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,  if 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 exercises.

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

Licensed Professional Engineers
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
Licensed Professional Engineers  (effective April 17, 2012)

Contact:  Nick Cirilli, PE  for additional information
610-541-0881    or     email: ncirilli@comcast.net

Program Goal:

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

  1. New knowledge & awareness of the Variables involved in communicating

  2. New way of thinking before communicating, and

  3. New perspective of one’s self in communicating

Program Objectives

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 others.

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 driving force.

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.

Specific  Objectives

At the end of this Eight-hour Workshop the participant will have a basic understanding of the following:

  1. The human variables that comprise communications

  2. 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.

  3. Human behavior including; your perceptions, attitudes, values, beliefs, behavioral tendencies, basic needs, and learning styles directly influences your ability to Communicate effectively

  4. 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

  5. As the transmitter (of communications); one must be keenly aware of the point of view behavioral tendencies, biases and beliefs of the Receivers.  One must know thy audience, and value the differences.

  6. As the transmitter (of communications), one must adjust their communications style to meet the knowledge, background, learning style, and point of view of the receiver.

  7. 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 surveying problem

  8. Effective Communications is a SKILL and like any other skill requires constant work, reflection, and continuous improvement.