“It was the best career decision of my life”

It’s Engineers Week, and we’ve asked members of the KE team to share their perspectives on their work and the A/E/C industry.

Below, Karpinski Engineering President Jim Cicero, PE, LEED AP, talks about why he chose consulting engineering and what it takes to succeed.

Karpinski Engineering President Jim Cicero

The field of engineering is incredibly broad. Why did you choose the A/E/C industry?

I was a senior at Akron University. I went to a career fair, and I saw many companies that offered jobs to electrical engineers. In most cases, they were jobs that were very focused on their products or processes. And most of those jobs consisted of going to the same office every day.

The week after the career fair, a company was offering a free dinner to listen to them talk about career opportunities at their company. Heck, I was in college, so I could listen to a lot of hot air for a free dinner.

To my surprise, it was a consulting engineering company that was presenting. This was the first time I had heard of this career opportunity for electrical engineers. They discussed how every project is different and how they are out of the office about half of the time getting to know their clients or working on construction sites. They talked about how it was a people business and how you needed to be a people person to be in that type of engineering.

After eating a good meal and listening to them talk about consulting engineering, I was sold. I signed up for interviews the next day. And, as they say, the rest is history. I was given an offer, and 27 years later I feel it was the best career decision of my life.

For an engineer, technical proficiency is essential to success. That’s not all it takes, though. What personal qualities help an engineer succeed?

Our business is categorized as “consulting engineers.” As such, we provide consulting services to our clients. This requires us to have very good people skills. We need to be able to communicate complex engineering solutions to a variety of people. I have had to communicate our engineering design to other engineers, doctors, trade contractors, attorneys, professors, teachers, etc….Depending on who the audience is, the conversation may be very technical, or it may be a very simplified description of what the system is going to do for them and their building.

As a consulting engineer, we are also part of a much larger team. Therefore, understanding others and building relationships with team members is critical. On some projects, there are literally hundreds of people that participate in the design and construction of a building. We are just one of those pieces in the puzzle. If we understand our role and the role of all the others on the project, then we can certainly help the team be more efficient and successful.

Finally, there is their work ethic and creativity. Since our projects are all unique, the solutions are not always apparent. It takes a special individual to have the work ethic to keep researching solutions until they find a technical fit to their particular engineering challenge. Many of our projects are technologically or architecturally challenging. These projects need a creative personality to find a one-of-a-kind solution so that it satisfies that technology or architectural element.

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