Engineering spurs progress through innovation and process improvement. The field includes several disciplines, each with its own specific focus. Successful engineers apply their knowledge and resources in ways that bring ideas to successful completion and projects to a successful conclusion.
For those who are considering pursuing a role in engineering leadership, it is important to have a firm grasp of the foundations of the field at large and specialized expertise in their particular discipline.
In addition to knowledge and experience — which are applied competencies, and therefore highly valuable — engineers use many other abilities to achieve their goals. Engineers have a tendency to prioritize certain concepts or values, giving teams the chance to adopt these in their own work. Some of these concepts and values follow.
It’s been argued that engineering’s focus on innovation is one of the driving forces behind today’s vibrant startup culture. Engineers recognize that no matter how effective or elegant a single solution may be, it represents just one iterative step. There will always be new opportunities to do things even better — based on new tools, techniques, or insights.
For engineering products to be effective, work standards must be uniformly high. Traditional areas of engineering like architecture (where mistakes can be very costly) have positively influenced the development of software engineering and other newer disciplines. Engineers consistently seek to create the processes necessary for repeatable, reliable, high-quality results.
Engineers of all kinds need to be alert to new ideas and trends. Incorporating new techniques can be integral to success, even if the project is already halfway complete. Engineers who take on new challenges and refine their craft are valued in any organization. Plus, engineers who value and apply lifelong learning can help those who come after them attain higher levels of achievement more quickly.
Open Source Sharing
Thanks to software engineering and information technology, the open-source concept has made a big difference in how engineers think. Open source technology that is available to anyone provides platforms and opportunities for engineering professionals from around the world to collaborate. This results in innovative solutions that wouldn’t be attainable with a single organization’s resources.
Speed and Efficiency
Integral to the engineering discipline is the idea of the labor-saving device. The most fundamental and simple machines were all intended to spare human labor. Today’s engineers have remarkable new ways to accelerate and simplify daily tasks. This lays the foundation for a safer and more fulfilling world for everyone, by giving end-users the opportunity to focus on higher-level and more satisfying tasks.
Resources for All Engineers
Knowledge resources may be the most crucial to any engineering organization. When knowledge is crystallized in the form of documentation, articles, or other assets, it helps everyone on the team. Duplicated work is eliminated and old mistakes are avoided.
Certain types of knowledge resources have grown more important in engineering over time. For example, end-user documentation is becoming simpler in many ways — but at the same time, many enterprises are pushing to develop and populate internal “lessons learned” databases.
Along with other forces, the internet has led to a mass democratization of knowledge. Even highly technical data is now accessible to virtually anyone with an internet connection. This has had a positive effect on the engineering profession, enabling insights to be discovered more quickly and disseminated faster.
As a result, engineers can quickly review the latest literature for relevant information at any stage of a project. This, in turn, can become part of the overall knowledge collection of the enterprise.
Some outstanding knowledge resources for engineers include:
- The International Journal of Engineering Science
- The Journal of Engineering
- International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering, and Technology
- Journal of Architectural Engineering Technology
- IEEE Xplore Digital Library
Engineers can also find resources that focus on their specific disciplines.
Aerospace engineering deals mostly with airborne structures and vehicles, such as airplanes and spacecraft. Aerospace is the general term for the industry, while the term ‘aeronautical’ deals specifically with craft that stay within the Earth’s atmosphere. The term ‘astronautical,’ by contrast, deals with craft that fly outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Knowledge resources include:
- Rocket Scientists: Resources for aerospace engineers and rocket scientists
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: Professional organizations for those in the aerospace industry
- NASA Ames Research Library: Compilation of online materials pertaining to aerospace engineering and aerospace concepts
Chemical engineering involves converting raw chemicals and materials into valuable forms. Nanotechnology and biochemistry fall under the chemical engineering umbrella.
Knowledge resources include:
- CheResources: Comprehensive resource site for chemical engineers
- Institution of Chemical Engineers: A community for chemical and biochemical engineers
- CACHE: A learning community for chemical engineers
A civil engineer designs and constructs the environment around us, including roads, bridges, dams, buildings, and other infrastructure. Civil engineering has many subdivisions, including environmental engineering, construction engineering, and transportation engineering.
Knowledge resources include:
- Treasure of Civil Engineering Resources: Compilation of information and resources on the different aspects of civil engineering
- American Society of Civil Engineers: Professional organization for civil engineers
- Civil Engineering: Large list of resources on various aspects of civil engineering
- Civil Engineering News: Special section of Science Daily for the industry
Electrical engineering encompasses anything dealing with electricity, electromagnetism, and electronics. Fields such as power engineering and computer engineering also fall into this category.
Explore these knowledge resources:
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: One of the largest technical associations in the world
- EE Times: News and research for electrical engineers
- Engineering by IEEE Spectrum: Flagship magazine of the world’s largest professional technology association
Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines and deals with mechanics, thermodynamics, and robotics. A mechanical engineer may design machine engines, generate schematics, or oversee the functions of the equipment.
Knowledge resources to consider include:
- GearHob: Mechanical design engineering resources
- iCrank: Portal of resources and information for mechanical engineers
- Mechanical Engineering Magazine: Ultimate news resource for the industry
Maintaining Knowledge to Increase Impact
Knowledge assets provide a chance for peers to review, refine, and challenge new information. Just as in biological sciences, offering a particular resource to the larger community means sparking a larger conversation. From this discourse, entirely new discoveries within engineering are possible.
Engineers shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to participate in the wider conversation within their discipline. Today’s technologies make it easier than ever not only to learn one’s own craft well but to integrate great new ideas from allied fields. Maintaining one’s technical edge requires regularly sharpening perception and sharing ideas. The resulting knowledge and learning can benefit everyone.
Ohio University’s online Master of Engineering Management program can prepare you to engage in these broader conversations while they move the engineering field itself forward. The program focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.