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How Did I Become a Consultant? I Went to Engineering School

When you start out in engineering consulting it’s exciting. You jump from project to project, site to site, and you work on the big activity on that site at that time. It’s a great experience. As an automation engineer, it is a profound experience to code something in the office and have it go through testing and eventually find its way onto the site. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the real-life reactors with the name tags matching the graphics and modules I had helped code.

It’s a great experience to see so many projects and work on exciting new technology all the time. It is truly enriching.

The Thing with Consulting

The thing to watch out for, being a consultant, is you don’t have to own the result. As consultants, we are not around for long after the equipment has been installed. With so many stakeholders, so many decisions made, we don’t have to take undue responsibility for our recommendations.

As engineering consultants, the greatest solutions will always come from a true understanding of who the customer is: as if we were the customer.

We are designing and implementing a solution for someone who’s betting on us with their hard-earned money. It’s a big responsibility to carry and it can be easy to subconsciously forget as we jump around from one project to the next. Someone has to work with and maintain what we build.

The Good Consultant

Ask yourself – How would I build it if it were my money? If I had to live with this implementation for the next 10 years, would I be proud?

Long-term thinking is always a challenge, but seeing a project through and following up on your implementation is the most important thing you can do as a consultant. It is so important for us automation engineers to accumulate the scar tissue of owning our recommendations and designs. Without ownership, we are only getting a fraction of the learning that’s available to us.

All too many consultants, when asked, ‘What is 2 and 2?’ respond, ‘What do you have in mind?’ – Norman Ralph Augustine