Active involvement in professional organization is a must for any serious engineer

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Highways, Infrastructure, Military, Water

Habitat for Humanity build
Habitat for Humanity build

Last month as I was flying to Washington D.C. for an American Council of Engineering Companies meeting, I had to ask myself, why? Why am I active in professional organizations when my job doesn’t require it and I am so busy?

My life is hectic. I just wrapped up four very large proposal efforts. I’m on the phone or in meetings all day with business development activities with numerous clients and teaming partners. I’m personally managing six projects for two separate clients. And, I oversee the activities of a 40-person group. I routinely work nights and weekends.

So why be active in a professional organization?

Because I enjoy it.
It brings me, Mead & Hunt and our clients many benefits.

Activity in a professional organization allows me to interact with other engineers. We share experiences and discuss challenges and solutions in a non-competitive environment. My personal community of practice has significantly expanded with involvement in ACEC and the Society of American Military Engineers. Mead & Hunt clients benefit when my connections help me to better deliver solid solutions to technical or resource challenges.

Serving on a professional organization volunteer committee or team is a great way to meet and work with potential teaming partners (and sometimes clients). I can observe how well individuals work and interact, and vice versa they evaluate my skills and work style. If someone provides excellent work on a volunteer team when they’re not being paid, you can usually count on them to perform well as a teaming partner.

Publications distributed by professional organizations allow you to shine a light on a client’s project. It also allows you position your area of expertise by contributing to the engineering body of knowledge. For example SAME’s The Military Engineer provides excellent information on interesting projects, techniques, procedures and technical innovations. I try to write at least one article each year.

Education and professional development opportunities are a significant member benefit for professional organizations. I have definitely increased my engineering technical knowledge through the many technical sessions I have attended at ACEC and SAME.

Advocacy with government agencies for the betterment of their practice and industry is part of many professional organizations’ mission. During my four plus years on ACEC’s Federal Agencies and Procurement Advocacy Committee, I worked closely with the defense agencies to identify and solve issues with procurement policies. As a result believe I helped the architecture and engineering industry, and most importantly the government and the taxpayers.

For me involvement is more than just improving my professional profile and adding info on my resume. Professionally I believe it is important to give back. Most engineering organizations support science, technology, engineering and math programs and scholarships. Some also provide financial support to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Engineers without Borders, Blue Star Mothers, Wounded Warriors, and others.

But what is the most important reason I’m active in a professional organization? Because it’s fun! The people I work with in ACEC and SAME – all volunteers – are some of the best folks around. They know how to work together to make things happen and also how have fun and enjoy themselves. I look forward to attending meetings.

Being a professional engineer is much more than working on studies, designs or construction projects as part of your job. Being a professional engineer involves community involvement, contributing to the engineering body of knowledge through presentations or publications, and contributing to your community. Activity in a professional organization helps me meet all of these.

Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

About the Author

Miro Kurka, PE, PMP, knows water is an incredible resource. “I help resolve issues that prevent us from engineering water infrastructure that would make our citizens safer, wealthier and happier.” A retired US Army officer, he managed the Corps of Engineers’ program in Tulsa, Portland and Afghanistan for 30 years, bridging gaps, overcoming obstacles and tackling large challenges. He loves traveling and meeting people.

Read more posts by Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

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