It’s no secret that the work of an engineer is demanding. We are responsible for translating dreams into realistic and functional projects. For keeping up on the latest trends in technology, materials, energy and security, while hitting deadlines and meeting client demands. For maintaining a positive attitude while anticipating worst-case scenarios and for creating safeguards to ensure they don’t occur.

Our work is certainly not a nine to five job, and we have a lot to try and fit into a 24-hour day. But while the work is important and understandably takes priority, it’s also crucial that we make time to stay engaged in the industry we belong to, and the engineers we partner with. Joining organizations, participating in mentorship programs or even grabbing coffee with colleagues can help foster ideas and spur creativity.

When I joined the board of the New York State Professional Engineering Society (NYSSPE), I knew it was a chance for me to meet other professionals in my discipline and gain insights from their experiences. I understood I’d be responsible for helping get other young engineers involved, and to potentially organize an event or attend a networking session.

What I didn’t realize was that I would also gain skill sets outside of my immediate specialty, including management, planning, public relations, advertising and finance. That I would regularly engage with both colleagues and competitors to learn what they were working on, what they were paying attention to and what I should keep an eye on to become an industry leader. I was pushed way outside of my comfort zone, and while it was sometimes tough (and perhaps a little awkward), it made me a more well-rounded professional.

Joining groups outside of our day-to-day project work allows us to expand our horizons and receive experience we may not have access to in our careers. It also gives us a network of individuals we can reach out to for insights or problem-solve. For example, I originally met Ted Fowler through NYSSPE when he was at a competitor firm – fast forward and years later, we’re still bouncing ideas off of each other, just now as colleagues.

It’s our duty as professionals to make sure we’re providing the next generation the tools and insights needed to continually better our work and the profession. There are plenty of options out there to choose from, but here are some I’ve been a part of if you need inspiration:

So get out there! Make your mark, and learn something new. You’ll thank yourself for years to come.

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