A lot of people took engineering for the love of math and machines. Most are introverts as well, diligently doing their project in workshops, plants, or computers. Unless you are in sales, academia, or managerial positions, you don’t meet a lot of people as much as a doctor or a lawyer.
However, this should not stop you from establishing your network. People networks may not be the most popular engineering tool. Albeit, you might be surprised by how useful and powerful it can be.
The good thing is that there are contact management apps nowadays. You can compartmentalize your contacts- suppliers, specialists, laborers, and so on. With the right contact management app , you can reap the following benefits.
1. Strategic Alliances
Referral fees are sweet. Receiving a check from an old acquaintance because you recommended them to the project you are currently working on may not be an SOP but if it comes, you have the budget for a fancy dinner or a family vacation, all depending on how much you receive of course.
It is ideal to establish your network early, like during your university years. That is when you meet other students taking up engineering courses. For example, you took civil engineering and later, got into residential projects. Someone from the electrical engineering class may be into developing housing units as well. You can easily refer him to your developer because you have an idea of how he performed way back in the undergraduate days and most likely carries a good professional portfolio as well.
2. Expanded Knowledge Library
Deep but narrow or wide but shallow, that is the question. However, this is the age of information and we can easily swim to different waters. There might be electrical theories that can be tried on fluid flow, especially when you understand voltage deeply. And vice versa.
Knowledge of chemistry may be beneficial for material engineers. Marine engineers may take notes from a marine biologists about how different aquatic life functions so that first can improve their work more.
It’s not imperative that you are in-depth with other fields. The key is knowing who is an authority in those other fields. You just have to be able to ask the relevant questions and understand the basic terminologies in order to sustain a professional collaboration.
It is nice to have a reliable circle that can give technical opinions about your innovations. Peer review helps improve your new machine or novel methodology discovery. After you have performed your calculations and achieved repeatable results to make a conclusion, a review not only from your mentors and colleagues but as well as from other stakeholders or possible users would be beneficial.
If you have a good network, getting insightful feedback would be easy to come by. This would be great especially on product development as usually, you need fresh eyes on something you have been working on for a long while.
4. Updates on Career Path
When you are operating in the same environment for a long time, it’s difficult to scale how your practice and proficiency translate to the outside world. Connecting with other professionals allows you to get a better understanding of how other people in similar positions go on to have more successful careers. This is called upward comparison. This psychological theory implies that when people compare themselves to someone they perceive to be superior, it motivates them to gain similar achievements.
If you’re eyeing a C-level post in the company on the career ladder, it is not enough that you know only what your institution demands for such a position. Your fellow engineers would be aware of those needed upgrades as well. On the other hand, your connection with several engineering managers even from other industries can be beneficial. It gives you more knowledge regarding people aspiring to be principal engineers than your work colleagues. When one from your network finally gets promoted, you can either directly ask him what he did or simply note the certifications he took and the achievements he fulfilled.
5. A Virtuous Circle
Engineers in the technical field don’t need to accumulate contacts for their work consciously. However, if you will compile all the various suppliers showcasing their innovative designs, the numerous specialists servicing that instrument, or even the more than a dozen consultants that you need signatures from, you might be surprised to know you can already fill an A0 size paper with their contact information and more.
You don’t necessarily need to be at a friend level with all of them. Just keep their calling cards instead of inattentively giving them to the document controller. Better yet, have a contact management app that offers the option to store not only contact typical contact details but also some notes about the person.
Let’s say you’re a building engineer. A salesman walked into your office in order to have a product demo about a new technology in waterproofing. Instead of focusing solely on the technicalities of the product, you can get a little more pleasant with the salesperson and maybe you’ll be able to get better deals than the ordinary sales pitch.
6. Foundation for Your Own Company
Network, network, network. This is not exactly taught in engineering economics but business graduates already know. You can set up your consultancy in a prime location. However, if your brand is unpopular, you’re just making one person rich: the landlord.
You may have the most efficient system design, but nobody will hear about it if you can’t market it properly. Hence, you will hire a marketing officer and what does he have to do? Build a database of people where he can sell your product.
If you already have accumulated and organized contacts, you don’t have to put up much effort to find initial clients. You save the budget to hire a marketing officer for later when you want an expansion.
7. Compounded Interest
It may be HR’s job to hire and fire technicians and laborers. However, keeping a record of all the workers you’ve handled may come in handy.
If you start your own company, it will be easier to have a ready list of employees you want to hire. Pulling up a list of personnel from your phone is more convenient than tracking them one by one after a long time.
Another case in point is as the project is near to end. It is normal to reduce manpower hence some of your team members will have to be let go. Your list of good workers can easily be shared with your other fellow engineers who are just at the peak of their work at another construction site. You share your manpower like you (sometimes) lend your tools to other engineers.
Later on, when you are the one needing extra manpower to recover lost hours due to force majeure, you can easily pull some guys without question on the quality of their work. This mitigates the risks of poor workmanship and possible unprofessional conduct as you have worked with these crews before.
It’s never too late to build your people network. You can gain this new skill set or upgrade your basic knowledge with the help of some contact management tools. Do so and reap more of the benefits of human connections.