BY BRUCE PEACHEY, P.ENG.
It may seem to most APEGGA professionals that just the
challenge of dealing with their day-to-day practice provides
a significant learning experience. However, the goal
of an engineer or geoscientist’s personal professional
development plan should be to proactively provide insights,
knowledge and tools to better meet those challenges and
to avoid learning from the “school of hard knocks.”
Professional engineering and geoscience planning tools,
like APEGGA’s Professional Development Guideline,
highlight key development areas, reporting mechanisms,
and scoring of PDHs. Yet to really scope your own professional
development project, you need to fully explore what will
best meet your needs. The needs should be driven by your
own career decisions, learning preferences and your work
The foundation that all professional engineering and geoscience
careers is based on is something we call professional
Applying the science and knowledge acquired from other
professional development activities is what engineering
is all about.
Competent practice leads to the sustainable results that
everyone in our global society relies on for their well-being,
whether it is in the form of new products, industrial development,
or the efficient and secure supply of basic commodities
like energy, water and food. So professional practice is
focused on developing our abilities and skills to continually
improve the consistency and quality of what we produce.
This competency component is readily met by most practitioners,
but may be a challenge requiring extra planning or effort
for those in management, unemployed or semi-retired, or
those newly entering the profession, so that they can maintain
or enhance their skills.
On-going changes in technology, work environments, standards
and career direction is what drives the need for formal
activity – courses that many think of first under
professional development. These are a key component in
helping to keep professional practice on track, by ensuring
that practitioners in a given area are working with a shared
understanding of what is required and expected technically.
Usually the need to add these activities to your professional
development scope of work will be highlighted by changes
in your company’s tools, industry standards, or job
situation. Often engineers requiring formal activity will
have some understanding of the content, but have identified
a need to expand, update or renew their understanding due
to a change in some other factor.
In any technology area there is always the case where someone
will find themselves in a situation where they are “one
of the first to practice.” This may result from finding
that methods currently being used no longer meet the need,
or that better methods are now available, so your skills
and abilities are no longer sufficient. It may also result
from a specialized need, or a unique opportunity, that
few have previously encountered.
In these situations it is unlikely that you will be able to find a formal activity
that can provide the required knowledge or skills. So your development scope
must expand to include informal activity to learn more about new ways of dealing
with the issue or new technology. Support for this type of development is often
met by contact networks and technical societies.
Professional competency, whether for engineers or medical doctors, is increasingly
becoming measured by your ability to communicate effectively with the public.
The participation category of continuing competency, consisting of mentoring
or participation in public, community or technical service organizations, helps
to build these skills through interacting with people engineers normally wouldn’t
have much contact with.
Activities in these areas provide the engineer or geosocientist with the opportunity
to test and improve communications ability in a situation where the contribution
can be better observed and appreciated by the public. These also allow us to
enhance our listening skills to learn about how the general public views issues
The category of presentations continues the focus on communications, but in
a technical forum. Knowledge and technical competency are of little professional
use if you can’t convince others (peers, public, employers or clients)
of their value.
This type of activity enhances the professional’s ability to describe
advanced technical concepts, experiences or results to peers, who can then
reward these efforts with praise, and provide feedback to enhance the understanding
and practice. This type of activity also provides opportunities for cross-fertilization
of ideas and technology between industries to provide greater technical leverage.
Contribution to Knowledge
Finally, contribution to knowledge activities, consisting of patents, publications
and reviews of papers, are activities that ensure that engineering technology,
in all fields, continues to expand the envelope for everyone to bring in new
technology in a way that provides validation, testing and proper application,
and provides rewards and recognition for the innovators.
So put some time into scoping out your professional development plan. No one
else has a greater stake in the end product.
Bruce Peachey, P.Eng., spent many years as a project engineering
section head and technical services superintendent with
a major upstream oil and gas producer, supporting career
development for a wide range of technical and engineering
personnel. He is also a former executive director of life-long
learning for the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering,
and past chair of the Edmonton Section of the CSChE.