If you are an engineer who wants to be more in control of your life and your career and work on a variety of interesting projects, then being an engineering consultant might just be for you.
Engineering consultants are engineers who offer expert advice on a subject or bring a different perspective to virtually any engineering project. They provide independent expert opinion, service, or solutions to engineering or science-related matters to industries, construction firms, governments and other interested developers.
For this, engineering consultants need to have ample hands-on experience to be able to fulfill their multifaceted roles. They have the responsibility to be a project specific boss, an adviser or catalyst who provides actionable decisions to accelerate a project, and a general critic to find flaws in a system and offer suggestions to make it better.
Beginners in engineering consultancy are recommended to be affiliated in firms rather than working as sole practitioners to enhance their decision-making skills in projects. Of course this still varies on the engineering background, the engineers’ technical proficiency, and size of the project being worked on.
But if you ask Stuart B. Brown, founder and managing principal of consulting firm Veryst Engineering, you have to be ‘bipolar’ if you want to become a successful engineering consultant.
“You have to be an expert,” he says, defining what ‘bipolar’ is to him. “And then you have to be able to do everything else,” he added.
After being an engineering consultant for quite some time now, Brown realized that clients hire a consultant for problems which require a variety of skill set. As such, consultants need to develop the ability to understand clients’ problem, empathize with their pain, and find solutions.
“The right response is: ‘Here’s the solution, and I can do it in this amount of time.’ You might not necessarily be using your specialty,” he says. “But if you find a way to solve a problem, clients will be happy.”
Brown elaborated on steps and practices that engineering consultants need to take and adopt to have a successful career. Here are those:
Be better than anyone else in “something”
“When you are young, you must have as an expectation and objective that sooner or later you are going to know something better than anyone else in the world,” Brown says.
“Maybe you won’t pull that off. Maybe you’re the best in the state or the country, but if you have that agenda and you think intelligently about what people will need [or want] in the future, you have the opportunity to get people coming to you because you have that expertise,” he added.
Develop as many tools, concepts, solutions as early possible
For clients to have trust on you, you should be able to show to them that you can do that job if you are hired by them as consultants. One of the best ways to prove that is by constantly thinking of solutions to a variety of engineering problems to prepare for the possible scenarios. This can also be added to your portfolio as a consultant later on.
Offer a strong point of view
While learning is continuous in consultancy, as a consultant you should have that firm grasp of your own knowledge, ideas, and opinions.
“You need to have an ego because no one wants to hear from someone who doesn’t have a strong point of view,” Brown advised. A client doesn’t want to hear things like, “Maybe you’d like to try this,” or, “It seems like a good idea to me.”
What he wants to say is that when you have an opinion, “you should be able to defend it and deliver it competently so that people will act on it and come back to you.”
Don’t be afraid of marketing
Not all the time that engineering consultants have something to work with. This is why it is important that you should be able market yourself and show to them that you are the best man or woman for the job.
“Someone said the best marketing is done by people who may not be the best but who are persistent. Don’t let someone saying, ‘We’re not interested,’ make you disheartened. It is a learning experience,” Brown shared.