November 15, 2016

Becoming the Business-Minded Designer: Civil Engineer Career Spotlight

Civil engineers design some of the most practical systems we experience everyday: transportation systems, city plans, structural designs, water distribution systems, land reclamation projects, and more.

As inherent problem solvers, civil engineers create efficient, safe, ethical designs. Every time one of these designs is optimized, even more creativity is required to make the next improved iteration. Civil engineers often work in teams of professionals with diverse specialties, including construction, agriculture, infrastructure, water, waste, utilities, and city planning. Because creativity thrives on multiple perspectives, civil engineers have the opportunity to harness the diversity of such teams to create the best possible designs.

This team leadership role is a natural progression of the civil engineer’s career path; the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) lists the following mid-career roles as stepping stones on the engineer’s way to business executive and senior management:

In government: Engineering Manager
In consulting: Program or Business Unit Management
In industry: Program Management
In construction: Project Manager

To succeed in these roles, civil engineers need not only top problem-solving and design expertise but also leadership and people management skills. By applying their design skills to learning leadership, engineers can accelerate the performance of both the long- and short-term teams they’re part of – in return accelerating their careers and those of their team members.

How to Apply Engineering Design to Learning Leadership

In a previous article on creativity, we stated, “Using the principles of design in business is a method of problem solving that considers all options, starting big and working toward practicality, to find and create the best possible solution for all stakeholders.” Civil engineers are already experts at applying design learning to the technical tasks of their jobs. But how can they apply it to team dynamics? Consider these methods:

Learn to balance business and quality goals through inclusive problem-solving rather than by process of elimination.
Ensure every possibility is considered by drawing out big-picture ideas from every team member before disqualifying options.
Use appreciative inquiry to drive productive, inclusive strategy sessions.
Analyze your daily interactions to create trust and enhance team performance.
Discover management practices that drive teams and individuals to flourish concurrently.
By opening up your team to more possible solutions, discover new problem-solving process optimizations.
Uncover hidden business opportunities that new team processes allow you to pursue.

Civil engineers have the unique opportunity to influence entire teams with their problem-solving skills – if they learn to apply design to management. They can only do so with the right design learning training – one that’s designed for the creative, problem-solving leader.

Are you interested in transforming your engineering career with a design-focused management degree? Register for our Create Change Challenge by December 15 for a chance to:

Compete for a scholarship and spot in our design-centered MBA program
Show off your vision for change
Experience Case Western Reserve University’s campus in Cleveland
Meet Weatherhead faculty, alumni, and like-minded potential employers

Find out how you can apply your inherent, critical ability to create solutions to harness the potential of your team. Contact us for more information.

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