Career Guidance Series

Fresh Blood

Published on

Engieering Work
Engineering Work

This blogpost was inspired by someone who wrote to me requesting for advice. The person just finished their degree and are getting ready for the world of work.

Welcome to the field of engineering.

The engineering field is diverse, and there is no boilerplate/template that one can follow and automatically become a good technician/technologist/engineer.

However, there are a lot of things that you can do to make yourself have all those desirable qualities and stand out from the crowd.

Basic Skills that you will need at this stage:


When starting out your career, you have a lot of theoretical information and a little practical experience. In the industry, what is valued are practical solutions to problems - not endless theories. It is therefore imperative that you learn how to be a good listener. After all, you know very little. 

A random quote I found from the internet reads as follows "You were born with two ears and one mouth for a good reason" I find this to contain a lot of wisdom.

Writing things down

Be the persion who is told stuff once, and you remember it forever. You will be surprised how often supervisors have to repeat the same stuff to people under their jurisdiction. It is very unpleasant. They don't tell you, but they don't like it.

Master Execution

In the world of work, formal or informal, you are going to find someone who you shall work for. 

That person is going to have tasks that they are going to give you. 

Let me tell you one secret. Day to day activities don't only include making practical use of the theoretical concepts you learnt from your higher education institutions. We also have seemingly trivial tasks to be done. Many of them.

Let's have an example:
Office filing system - Online and Offline System.

Somebody has to keep the office filing system up-to-date.

Someone has to keep track of all the files to be printed for storage, and templates/forms to be printed for use (as you know, when you want to use the printer is always when the printer either runs out of ink, has a paper jam or someother random thing - always print the documentbefore you NEED to use it)

Someone has to keep the digital filing system up to date. All that technical documentation (manuals, schematics, office admin files, etc) needs to be properly organized. 

Be the one who does the trivial tasks thoroughly. Be the one who is the master of execution.

This makes you useful, because all those trivial tasks that were supposed to be done by your supervisor now have someone responsible. As a supervisor, I can tell you that having your workload reduced by just 1% makes a difference. Be that difference.
When a project comes along, your supervisor will surely select you. You make their life 1% better. They will be willing to invest their time and effort teaching you everything about the project, sharing all the technical documentation and assisting where possible.

Engineering is all about solving problems. 

In the process of solving problems, you shall come across stuff you don't know. It could be a program written in a PLC programming language you don't fully understand. It could be a schematic diagram with seemingly cryptic symbols. It could be a communication protocol you have never imagined existed. It could be anything. 

You need to have good research skills. Not understanding what something is, or how it works is not a problem. The challenge comes when you know that you don't know and you do nothing about it. You are not valuable if you don't offer solutions to problems.

There are several resources available on the internet that you shall use in the research process to solve your problems. I must warn you. There is a lot of misinformation. 

How can you tell the stuff that is legit from the rubbish?

Schematic Diagrams Example: When evaluating schematic diagrams or technical illustrations, apply logical reasoning to determine their authenticity:

  • Logical Flow: Examine the diagram's logical flow and connections. Ensure that it follows established principles and doesn't contain inconsistencies.
  • Common Sense: Trust your common sense. If a circuit or design appears overly complex for its intended purpose, it might be a red flag.
  • Feedback from colleagues: Seek feedback from your more experienced colleagues in your field. They can help you identify flaws or errors in a diagram.

For instance, if you come across a schematic diagram that shows a circuit that contradicts basic electrical principles, like connecting components in a way that would lead to a short circuit, it's a clear indication that the information is unreliable (and dangerous!).

If your information source consistently gives bad and/or incorrect information, then it may be time to move on.

Here is an excerpt from the Bible (Matthew 7:17-18):

"Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit."

To help you out, here are just a few websites I will encourage you to use: 

Jim Pytel - 

Feel free to add more websites to your digital resources workshop.

Read Schematic Diagrams
You will not believe this. There are very many people who cannot read schematic diagrams. I'm not talking about complicated diagrams or anything. I'm talking about very simple diagrams that an apprentice can easily draw in his sleep.

You cannot consider yourself to be a technical person if you cannot read diagrams. 

Verily verily, I say unto you. If you cannot read diagrams you are just as good as someone who is dead. 

Make sure you understand the diagrams that are prevalent in your field. For example If you are in the Electrical & Instrumentation field, and you can't read & interpret electrical diagrams then you better work on it NOW. 

Time & The Importance of Writing Things Down
There is a time for everything. When you have less than 3 years of experience, the #1 thing that you must prioritise is productive time spent at work. 

Be the employee that is #1 to arrive at work and is among the last to leave. Be prepared to endure long hours of work and build up that mental resilience. It is quite common to have to work from the morning and finish late at night.

In some cases due to constraints in the system/process, you may be forced to start work at night. Yep. You heard that right. You can start work at 9pm and finish at 4am the next day. This isn't easy, but with time you will get used to it - that is, if you want to. That's where mental resilience comes up.

Writing things Down:

Do research on work that you conduct. Know that principle of operation of that thing YOU were working on today. 

Know the relevant standards (BS EN /ANSI /IEC), and know how these standards are applicable to the work you are doing.

Writing things down is crucial for your professional development and future job interviews. Here is why:

Recording Your Achievements: When you're in the workforce, you'll accomplish various tasks and projects. Writing down what you've achieved and the specific role you played is essential. It serves as a record of your accomplishments and contributions.

Memory Retention: Human memory is fallible, and over time, details about your past projects can become hazy. Writing them down helps preserve the specifics, ensuring you can recall and articulate your experiences accurately during interviews.

Impress Potential Employers: During interviews, employers are keen to understand your capabilities and contributions. By having a well-documented list of your achievements, you can confidently and precisely communicate your role in various projects.

The worrying trend

I have noticed, with great concern, that people tend to focus on the credentials that the person they are assigned to has. They, ideally want to be personally mentored by a Charterd Engineer with a Doctrate from Harvard.

All the great technicians, technologists, and engineers I know were taught by old madhalas. These people have been doing the same work, the same way for the last 30 years. They are incredibly skilled and they do excellent work. Their advice is incredibly valuable, and by listening to them, you will see yourself avoid mistakes that your peers make, and become the person who everyone goes to for help.

During the learning process, learn as much as possible, from everyone, especially those old madhalas. I strongly encourage you to do learn from them. And don't forget to give them the respect they deserve.


The industry is not a safe place to be. Everything out there is waiting to kill you. Touch a bare electrical conductor with wet hands? You're gone. Work at heights without a safety belt? You're gone. The list goes on. We don't want you to die. Get to understand the safety protocols and make sure you adhere to them. Do all those pre-task risk assessments. Don't do work without a permit, no matter how 'urgent' the work seems to be. If your safety system isn't the best, and you don't have established procedures, then I encourage you to use your common sense while you do your research on how best the safety system(s) can be improved. It is the simple stuff that people do NOT DO that gets them injured.


You have done well. It is time to take the next step and enter the world of work. May wisdom guide you. I wish you all the best!