Exceptional Engineers & Leaders: Dave Hill – The Re-Engineered Engineer
Do you ever stop to think about the exceptional people who are in your circle of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and workmates? Who are the people who inspire, motivate, and help move you forward in your life? This article is to recognize a Vietnam Vet and to highlight the importance of having exceptional human beings surround you.
Christmas 2011 and my elderly, jolly neighbor is at our house having dinner. He is one of those exceptional people who are “wired” to help others. He once noticed our house gutter drainpipe had blown down and he “took care of it”. On another occasion, he cut down a dead tree in our front garden and brought the limbs and branches to the local recycling depot. When he clears leaves in the fall, he usually clears them from numerous houses on each side of his own. When my wife came back to the house one day, and found the back door open while I was on a business trip, he checked the house room by room for any possible lurking thieves.
While at our dinner table, he told us that he had been at the Lowe’s hardware store that day and was wearing his baseball cap that had a small worn US Army emblem. A stranger stopped him and asked, “Did you serve in the forces?” My neighbor answered, “Yes,” and the stranger handed him a gift card for $25, and said, “I would like to give you this as a small token to thank you for serving our country.” The stranger then walked away. My neighbor stated, “You know, I served two terms in Vietnam over 40 years ago, and that stranger was the first person to ever thank me.”
As a seasoned engineer and professional speaker, I think about people who have been “guiding lights” and forces to help encourage me and help me succeed in life. People who have the positive spirit and can see their way through any turmoil. People who can find happiness and positive energy wherever they go. Mentors, who have pushed, challenged, and encouraged me. Strangers who have interacted with me and helped me see that there are many good people in the world.
Having worked for over three decades, I understand the importance of companies hiring not only technical experts, leaders, and exceptional communicators, but also good human beings who are trustworthy and who will instill an aura of positive energy that will motivate others.
Some traits of exceptional engineers and leaders:
Inherent positive attitude
Impeccable ethics and can be trusted
Open door policy where direct reports can discuss problems
Invites feedback and encourages people to speak with candor
Strong, healthy sense of humor
Exceptional communicators trained in skills such as negotiation, listening, and conflict management
Makes friends at work
Values work-home balance
Treats fellow workers as human beings rather than “just employees”
Recognizes and rewards direct reports at every opportunity
A presenter’s peers can save the day with clarifications, humor.
Business Communication Skills: Colleagues to the rescue
Learn presentation skills that give you the tools you need.
Imagine you are in a room full of highly technical engineers. You are an employee of a consulting company that is presenting information to them on various research topics. As you give your talk you expect pointed questions, cynical remarks, sarcasm and even some playful humor. At the back of the room sit your peers, waiting their turn to present.
I attended this meeting with other consultants, some of whom were relatively new to the field and some of whom had Ph.D.s. Their presentation abilities ranged from those who could remain calm through the question period and provide good answers, to those who were scared to death and couldn’t answer the questions very well. Age and experience did not seem to be a factor. A few of the younger speakers coped quite well, and I suspect they had gained experience and training at college and other venues.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Culture of helpfulness: As the presenters were challenged and questioned, they occasionally froze trying to understand the technical question and form an answer with adequate detail. I hate to see anyone put on the spot (I have been there myself), and it made me feel good to hear the presenter’s peers at the back of the room jumping in to help clarify the question and provide information. This is an excellent culture of employees who have an inherent instinct to help each other and make sure that all are successful. This in turn maintains the image of the research/consulting company, which is hoping to make a sale.
Exceptional workplaces have a strong focus on making sure employees have good communication skills, a sense of balanced fun and respect, and trust for each other. Instead of sitting at the back and smirking as the presenter “crashes and burns,” fellow employees will do anything to help advance each other and the company.
Death by public speaking: The second visual I have from the meeting was that of a relatively young consultant who was presenting. It was an image I have seen before in different forums, and it haunts me. The young man appeared scared to death and was nervously coughing and clearing his throat. His peers helped him out when they could, but his stress just grew. I was relieved when he finished and sat down.
Fright and poor presentation skills are preventable. Organizations such as Toastmasters International can help a person become a good speaker in six to 12 months and an exceptional speaker if a person stays longer. The cost for six months of public speaking training can be less than a tank of gasoline. Many companies send their employees to Toastmasters to help them succeed. Find a club at www.toastmasters.org.
You have to laugh: The third visual I have from this meeting is that of an experienced presenter trying to get a video to work in PowerPoint. The documentation for his research project included a high-speed video of a large test explosion, which would show a flame running through a flammable vapor cloud and transitioning into a fearful explosion. Explosion videos are one of the highlights of these presentations, and everyone waited in anticipation.
The presenter spent a minute or two trying to get the video to work but was unsuccessful. “You will need to act out the explosion,” one of his peers shouted from the back. Another shouted: “Can you do an interpretive dance?” The presenter was the type who could take the humorous comments in stride, and the room erupted in laughter. With the laughter in the room the failure of the video became inconsequential and the presentation continued without it.
The presenter’s peers knew that humor was appropriate for him. They knew he had a sense of humor and would “play with their comments.” I am sure you would agree that the comments would not have been appropriate for the previously described stressed presenter. Humor is a great tool to have in a meeting or presentation, but be careful it does not cross the line and hurt someone. If there is a single person in the room who would be impacted negatively by the humor, it is not worth it.
Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
Do you ever stop to think about the exceptional people who are in your circle of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and workmates? Who are the people who inspire, motivate, and help move you forward in your life? This article is to recognize a few people and to highlight the importance of having exceptional human beings surrounding you.
It was an early Saturday morning in May, 2004. I was at the sideline cheering on my son who was playing soccer. One of the other parents, a policeman called Joel, arrived very late with his son, and I saw that he looked stressed. I asked him what was up. Joel said that he had been rushing all morning and was a few miles from the soccer pitch when he saw a bad car wreck on the side of the road. The emergency vehicles were already there, lights flashing and cordoning off the crash area. Joel saw that a car and a cement truck had been in collision. He was off duty and rushing to get his son to the soccer game on time, but his instinct told him he should stop and see if he could help out. His voice was stressed and emotional when he said, “Dave, I am so glad I stopped. I was able to hold the hand of the young woman in the car, and comfort her… as she died.” Even though I have not seen him in years, I will never forget him and his kindness.
Fast forward to this Christmas and my elderly, jolly neighbor Jerry is at our house having dinner. He is one of those exceptional people who are “wired” to help others. To give you some recent examples, he noticed our house gutter drain pipe had blown down and he “took care of it”. I had a dead tree in my front garden, and he cut it down for me and even removed all the limbs and branches to the local recycling depot. When he clears leaves in the fall, he usually clears leaves from numerous houses on each side of his own without prompt. When my wife came back to the house one day, and found the back door open while I was on a business trip, our good neighbor checked the house room by room for any possible lurking thieves. When he visited his daughter before Christmas, he drove to Ohio from Dallas loaded up with tools to help renovate her house.
While at our table, he said something that impacted me. He told us that he had been at the Lowe’s hardware store that day and was wearing his baseball cap that had a small worn US Army emblem. A stranger stopped him and asked, “Did you serve in the forces?” My neighbor answered, “Yes,” and the stranger handed him a gift card for $25, and said, “I would like to give you this as a small token to thank you for serving your country.” The stranger then walked away. My neighbor stated, “You know, I served two terms in Vietnam over 40 years ago, and that stranger was the first person to ever thank me.” What a terrific act of kindness.
In my own world, I think about people who have been “guiding lights” and forces to help encourage me and help me succeed in life. People who have the positive spirit and can see their way through any turmoil. People who have spirit and can find happiness and positive energy wherever they go. Mentors, who have pushed, challenged, and encouraged me, many times making me take uncomfortable steps to force me to stretch my capability. Strangers who have interacted with me and help me see the good in the world.
Having worked for nearly 30 years, I understand the importance of companies hiring not only experts, leaders, and exceptional communicators, but good human beings who are trustworthy and who will instill an aura of positive energy that will motivate others.
Albert Einstein wrote: “The ideas that have lighted my way and, time after time, have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth”.
Some Traits of Exceptional Employees:
1. Inherent positive attitude
2. Impeccable ethics and can be trusted
3. Open door policy where direct reports can discuss problems
4. Invites feedback and encourages people to speak with candor
5. Strong, healthy sense of humor
6. Exceptional communicators trained in skills such as negotiation, listening, and conflict management
7. Makes friends at work
8. Values work-home balance
9. Treats fellow workers as human beings rather than “just employees”
10. Recognizes and rewards direct reports at every opportunity
11. Coaches and mentors
12. Leads by example
Dave Hill - Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
It was August 28th, 2005. Hurricane Katrina was slamming the southern coast of the United States with her destructive effect. It is estimated that more then 1,800 people lost their lives, and that there was in excess of $80 billion dollars in damage.
As corporate engineers working out of Dallas, we wondered how our co-workers were coping at our chemical plants in Louisiana, at their homes, or wherever they had evacuated to. Hurricane procedures and plans had been put into effect and safe shutdowns of the processing units had been ongoing way before the hurricane hit, but nothing was to prepare for the social and industrial infrastructure devastation. After the hurricane, the communication channels opened up slowly through satellite phones.
High level meetings were being held to get an understanding of the damage levels, the infrastructure capabilities, and the potential to get our chemical plants up and running. It was on one of these conference calls when production capability was being discussed that someone in senior management interrupted the conversation and stated, “Folks, lets focus on helping our employees first.” Those words struck a cord on the conference call. They are words that I will remember.
Since then, there have been other major storms hitting places such as Houston, Texas. I have never experienced the wrath of a hurricane, but I ask people to tell me how they coped in their time of need. I hear stories of our company purchasing a stockpile of electrical generators, storing them, and transporting them to hurricane zones for employee families to use. I hear stories of interest free loans of up to $10,000 to help people repair homes. I hear of supplies of food and fuel which is used to keep employees and their families fed, and also help them get their lives back together. I hear about employees turning up at each other’s homes to help with repairs. I read about huge corporate donations of money helping communities recover.
As an engineer, I deal with my fair share of stress, frustrations, and even occasional annoyance at the company I work for, when things are not going my way. Sometimes I have to mentally “unplug my negativity” and see that progress is being made, and that there are a whole lot of things to be proud of.
This article is about the importance of being proud of the company you work for, why businesses should always look for ways to positively impact the communities and world, and communicate them to all employees.
Some Of The Things That Immediately Come To Mind That Make Me Proud Include:
• The company I work for manufactures chlorine which is used in widespread applications. The year 2008 was the 100th year anniversary of the use of chlorine for treating water. In the early 1900’s, the average life expectancy in the USA was in the range of 49 years, whereas now it is in the range of 75+ years. Chlorine treatment of water has significantly helped increase the lifespan by minimizing the spread of diseases such as typhoid.
• The organization provides rent free corporate office space to a charity cancer research organization.
• They have employees organizing United Way fundraising events with prizes and fun activities. This happens at the corporate and chemical plant level, and encourages all employees to participate.
• They support and help organize blood donation events.
• Upper management recently sent out an e-mail to communicate how an employee who had been trained in CPR by a chemical plant nurse had recently resuscitated someone involved in a swimming pool accident.
• The corporation supports local high schools. They provide interns with the opportunity to get workplace experience.
Why Get People Focused On The Positive Impact Of A Company Or Business?
• The Great Place To Work Institute surveys over 80,000 employees a year to help develop a list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For. When employees from the best companies are asked why they consider their company a great place to work, one of the top 10 responses is “our company has a profound impact which affects the lives of everyone in the world.”
• Employees will tend to be more energized and engaged if they feel that the work that they do is important to the company, and the products or services the company provides are important to the world.
• Recently, I was talking to a woman about great workplaces. She works for a marketing company and was very exuberant when she stated that she loves her job, loves her boss, and loves the company she works for. She then went on to state that if her business was to ask her to sign a lifetime employment contract, she would do it without hesitating! Would your company or business benefit from employees that “fall in love with the company” and are upbeat, energized and loyal?
What Can You Do To Get A Positive Message Out To Your Employees?
• Organize a periodic newsletter that you can include positive stories
• Develop a web page that is used to capture examples
• Use the company e-mail system to communicate
• Encourage employees to share thoughts and stories
• Identify company “champions” to manage submitted information and communicate it
Dave Hill is a speaker, author, coach, and award-winning storyteller. He was also a finalist in the 2004 World Championship of Public Speaking.
He helps people develop excellence in presentation skills. Picture engineers, computer programmers and project managers delivering clear concise information, with flair and energy, illuminated with stories and even humor.
Dave’s passion is to work with employees and leaders who will benefit from excellence in presentation skills. He conducts keynote speeches, seminars, workshops, and coaching.
He is the author of the book Applause and Accolades – Attention-Grabbing Presentation Skills: Get Noticed and Promoted. The hardcopy version can be purchased at: http://davehillspeaks.com/applause-accolades-book/. The Kindle, Nook and E-book versions can be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and I-Tunes.
Dave is known for his Irish wit, stories, and strong sense of humor, which he incorporates into all his programs and published works.
For more information on Dave’s speaking programs, workshops, and coaching, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: http://www.davehillspeaks.com.
Dave Hill, Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
Feedback from a High School Intern Pursuing a Career in Engineering: “I have finally settled in here at Texas A&M. I wanted to once again thank you for the amazing and enlightening internship, which has strengthened my drive to pursue a career in engineering. As promised, here is my take on the internship.
One of my favorite parts of the internship was meeting with so many different people in different fields. This really expanded my view on what was really out there and as a senior in high schoo;, being enlightened as to what kind of fields there are other than what you are interning in helps in your decision as to what you want to start in at college. Another part of the internship that I very much enjoyed was the visits to the chemical plant. Before going to the chemical plant, I would hear the title “Process Engineering” and I was very confused, but talking with the engineering project manager about it got me very interested. Also, being able to see another place for chemical engineers and being able to see what is available with a chemical engineering major was something that I was looking for in the internship.
I also enjoyed learning the safety side of things. Putting together tox-sheets showed me how much effort goes into safety and how before I took it for granted. Learning about transportation and logistics in a company was also very enlightening. I already had an idea that transportation was complicated, but actually being a part of it showed me how important it is to the company. Though I enjoyed seeing what transportation was about, I wish that I could have had a project with engineering project manager that possibly introduced me a little more to engineering. Other than that, I enjoyed the internship and appreciate that you took four months to help guide this high schooler, while most would accept nothing less than a person with a year of college under his belt.
Once again I would like to take a moment to thank you for everything you have done for me. I will use my experiences with the chemical corporation and your teaching to guide me as I take the leap into college and soon into a career.
What can we learn from this?
1) I am proud to work for a company that supports an intern program. It empowers high-schoolers by helping them understand and experience life as an engineer.
2) Some of these interns may have such a good experience that they might end up applying to work for us.
3) I have found out that some of the school districts have formal intern programs where students can apply for an internship. They are accepted on criteria such as grades, career goals, hobbies and an interview with the School District Intern Coordinator. Our interns have come from the Richardson school district in Texas. If they have a positive experience and then decide to work for us, we are potentially getting the cream of the crop.
4) Recently, I discovered that there are high schools with Magnet campuses all over the USA. These are schools that get more focused towards career niches, e.g. The School of Science and Engineering in Dallas school district that has been recognized as among the best public schools in Texas.
5) Being proud of the organization I work for is an important component of what makes my job good. No job is perfect, and there are trade-offs. If an employee is considering jumping ship to work for someone else, this could be one of the factors that convinces him or her to stay – “the other company is offering me more money, but why should I move when the organization I work for makes me feel proud and treats me well?”.
6) The importance of good career choice is clear to me when I look at my coworkers and friends in the community. Some of them are in their 40’s and 50’s and still changing careers; even I have changed careers three times. Some of these people are deeply unhappy, caught in a rut in a working environment that does not fuel their passion- they cannot find a way out. They are handcuffed to pay checks, awaiting benefits to lock in, or feel they are too old to make a change – what a tragedy. This really helps drive home my passion to help young people get it right early on.
What can you do?
1) Set a goal to provide high-schoolers with an internship at your workplace, get the information on how it can be done, and help make it happen
2) If you own a business or can get permission for students to visit your workplace, why not contact schools to see if there is an opportunity for you to provide a real life career day for students that are considering a career in your type of industry
3) Participate in career days at schools
4) Talk to your kids and help them find their passion, listen to them and guide them. Once you start narrowing down the options, make the effort to find out how to get them to visit people in that business and learn the positives and negatives of the jobs. Help them learn what the trade-offs are
5) Give them the knowledge and help them set specific measurable goals to get grades that will make college become a reality. Reward achievement to encourage progress.
6) Before enrolling your kids in a school, take the time to visit the school and talk to the teachers and principal. Find out what challenges the school faces so you are well aware of the success potential. We live in a world of choices; make the effort to make good educated ones.
Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
I have had an interesting, colorful, and prosperous career as an engineer. Very little has been planned in my life; however, I have been very lucky that I have nearly always stumbled in the right direction, allowing my career to blossom.
I grew up in small towns in Ireland, and career guidance was non-existent. Even when I went to a boarding school, there was nothing in place to steer me in any one direction. Fate was a major factor. We now live in a world where career guidance is a lot more accessible, career days at school and research on the internet opens up doors of understanding.
At an early age, engineers show the signs of technical inclination, but when reaching a point where they choose a specific type of engineering to pursue, there appears to be some randomness. My conversations with up and coming engineers indicates the initial choice may be “what sounds cool”. In other words, young engineers may not get it right the first time. Stumbling around to find one’s way to a fulfilling career is still the norm.
Dave Hill – Chief Engineer Officer
Looking back into my past, I remember living in a small town in Ireland called Rathdowney. There was a one room schoolhouse where the teacher taught all grades, and whose first task in the morning was to light the coal fire to keep the room warm. The schoolhouse had outside shack-like toilets. Fast forward a couple of years, and I am studying at an engineering college in Glasgow, Scotland, and I had been sponsored by a British shipping company called the Bank Line, and they were paying for all college fees, accommodation, food and even travel back to Ireland for vacation. On top of that, they paid me a small wage.
At the age of 20, I flew out to Bombay, India, as an engineer cadet on a cargo ship. About eight years later, I was wearing four gold and purple stripes on the cuffs of my engineering officer uniform, indicating that not only had I reached the top qualification as a chief engineer officer, I was also working at that rank. By the time I was 25 years old, I had traveled around the world seven times, and by the time I finished this 14 year career, I had been to 75 countries. This career ended literally the day I got married. Four years earlier, I had met a Canadian girl in Darwin, Australia, while we were both working on a square rig sailing ship. I was on the sail training ship for a year traveling from Australia to the Caribbean via the Indian Ocean, around South Africa and up the South Atlantic.
When I moved to Canada, I transitioned into a career as a machinery loss prevention specialist for the property insurance industry and stayed at that for 6 years. That career transitioned into a Corporate Principal Risk Engineer Career in Dallas, Texas, working for a chemical corporation.
While working for the chemical corporation in Dallas, the company would sponsor high school kids to come to our department as interns. They were high school kids who were just getting the inkling of wanting to become an engineer, and my company was providing them with a unique opportunity to explore this further. It fascinated me to learn that when I asked the question, “Why did you choose to become an engineer and what prompted you to decide to pursue a certain type of engineering?”, the frequent answer I got was, “I was good at math and science and my teacher suggested that I become an engineer. The reason I chose a particular specialty in engineering was because it sounded cool!!!” Based on this feedback, it looks like career choice still has some “randomness” and there is still a need for stepping stones to allow young engineers to stumble in the right direction.
At my kid’s middle school, I do keynote speeches to educate the students on success strategies, and do educational sessions to help them decide if an engineering career would be a good fit or not. I talk about how I had continuously built my foundation with a passion for learning, and this had allowed me to change careers and each time reaching greater fulfillment.
TEN THINGS YOUNG ENGINEERS CAN DO TO GET NOTICED AND PROMOTED
1) Understand your passions and find a career that might be a good fit
2) Choose a job that will be valued by the organization (you will lose energy if you do not have this vital component)
3) Develop a passion to learn, expand your knowledge and skill set to the limit
4) Use you time well, pursue a routine of learning by listening to personal and professional development material while exercising or driving to and from work. Develop skills in communication, negotiation, conflict management, listening, management, leadership and presentation skills etc.
5) Find a career where a company recognizes and supports the importance of professional and personal development (ask if they have an audio library etc.)
6) Supercharge your learning ability by having mentors. Many experienced engineers are thrilled to be asked to help someone out by sharing knowledge and experiences (ask!).
7) Find a company that will provide you with a structured career path
8) Ask for uncompromised honest feedback during performance reviews
9) Develop a positive “can do” attitude. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer – get yourself noticed.
10) As your career progresses, determine what aspects of your job excite and energize you and what aspects you dislike. Develop a plan to move your career in a direction where you do more of what you like and less of what you dislike.