The consulting engineering career path requires a high degree of personal initiative and professional effort. Long hours and constant travel are hallmarks of this career path. However, this path offers unlimited opportunities for engineers
to deal with different problems, organizational types, and personnel.
The challenge of interacting with different people in different environments is probably one of the most significant features of the engineering career path in the field of consulting. It distinguishes it from the engineering career path in industry, government, or academia. This does not mean that variety does not exist in the other engineering career paths. It simply means that consulting engineers must always expect change and diversity to be a regular part of their career. Consulting also provides an excellent exposure to a wide variety of businesses and industries. In addition, there are many people to learn from and many people to get to know.
Consulting engineers often deal with personnel who represent different levels of authority and competency within their own organization, as well as within the client’s organization. Consulting engineers must have the ability to interact with all levels of authority and competence in order to bring each project to a successful conclusion.
Another phenomenal resource that engineers in the consulting industry have is their own colleagues. Consulting engineers on the whole have a relatively high degree of education. In addition, they are all proficient in at least one major area of the business activity. This exposure to a very diverse set of competent individuals is a tremendous asset to the professional development of consulting engineers. It provides a background that the consultant can utilize to analyze future problems.
The Relationship with Clients
It is important to remember that the role of a consulting engineer is one of service. It is not enough for an engineer in this area to keep up with the latest techniques in his or her discipline. Consulting engineers must also possess the ability to apply objectivity, experience, understanding, and time to the solution of each client’s problems. Above all, the recommended solution must fit the client’s own environment. This is often the most difficult challenge that engineering consultants face.
Consultants not only have to recommend the correct solution but also one that the client can implement. Making a recommendation that cannot be implemented by the client can quickly lead to client dissatisfaction. In fact, doing so can be very similar to making an inaccurate recommendation.
This aspect of consulting is often a challenge and an education for the new consulting engineer. The new engineer has been trained in the latest techniques and educated in the appropriate engineering theory. He or she knows that the recommendations are theoretically or technically correct. However, if they do not meet the expectations or needs of the client, those recommendations may be totally useless.
In the end, a correct solution but a dissatisfied client is lost business to the consulting firm and a setback in the career of a consulting engineer. It is important to remember that in consulting only two things matter: the quality of one’s work and the satisfaction of one’s clients!
Schedule and Travel Demands
All consultants work at the discretion of their clients. Therefore they must work at peak performance at all times. This is particularly true for consulting engineers. The nature of their work often requires unpredictable and unlimited time commitments. Consultants are often brought in during crisis situations. They are expected to do whatever it takes to solve the problem. In other words, one cannot rest until a solution is found.
It is such situations that can lead consulting engineers to feel that their time may not be their own. The pressure of deadlines and the extensive amount of travel required are factors that govern the professional lives of consulting
Certainly the traveling aspect of consulting can be viewed as a disadvantage. It can also be viewed as a broadening feature. Travel provides exposure to a wide range of cultures and lifestyles and can be a real advantage for the engineer in consulting. Nonetheless, there is a negative side to considerable travel. One has to be able to adjust to it, particularly in one’s personal life.
Consulting engineers typically work long hours, and the time spent away from home can be significant. The inability to adjust to these realities can create unsatisfactory personal situations and adversely affect the consultant’s work. Therefore, it is not surprising that travel and the demands that it makes on one’s personal life are the major reasons why individuals leave the consulting profession. That is why more and more consulting firms are making significant strides in addressing “quality of work life” issues.