Architects and engineers share the secrets of success

Architects and engineers have sounded off on ideal characteristics for success in their respective fields.
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Last week, Construction Canada reached out to the architects and engineers in its readership, conducting a one-question survey: What’s the most important quality for achieving success in your profession?

For architects, the most-cited response involved communications, in both directions. Many discussed the importance of being able to articulate ideas, but also, as one person put it, “being an exceptional listener.” Design does not happen in a vacuum, and several respondents pointed out having strong communication skills enables smooth teamwork.

“An architect has to be able to describe ideas on very theoretical items to clients, but also speak technically with engineers and contractors,” wrote one person.

“People skills! There are a lot of personality types to manage in this business—from client to contractor—that require an even temper and the ability to smooth ruffled feathers,” said another.

At the same time, being a good talker helps with another aspect of the business—networking and the ability to pull in clients and projects.

Top qualities for a successful architect, as named by Construction Canada readers. (Click to enlarge.)

Other qualities that came up several times included “analytical thinking,” “flexibility,” and “education/intelligence.” (On the less positive side, one person suggested the best asset is “a willingness to invest the sum total of their youth into a profession that is chronically undervalued.”)

Here are a few more responses:

“Creativity in finding esthetic, technical, and economic solutions.”

 “Respect: respect for the client’s needs, respect for the relationship of the project with the physical and natural environment, respect for the budget, respect for the quality of life inside and outside the project, and respect for the properties of the materials used—all expressed without pretensions, simply, clearly.”

 “Pre-tender co-ordination review between architectural floor plans and sub-consultant plans and details. With this not being done, it leads to many change orders, change directives, and site instructions that need to be tracked until the end of the project, leading to cost increases.”

 “Architects need to be problem-solvers. The world is facing enormous problems that first need to be identified and analyzed before creating beautiful, economical, and simple solutions. Of course, the solutions also need to be marketed to make maximum impact.”

 “The most important quality is to be reasonable. Exercise a reasonable standard of care in detailing construction drawings, specifying materials and systems, and in administering contracts between owners and contractors. Perfection is an idealized goal. Being reasonable is realistic.”

 “The ability to look at a design problem holistically and keep the big-picture idea in mind through every phase of the project.”

 “Finding the balance between private interests and public good in every project, and nudging clients ever closer towards the latter.”

 “There are many ways an architect can be successful—I define success in architecture as making a significant contribution to at least one aspect of the profession throughout his or her career. This can take the form of marketing, client engagement, design, technical, or financial aspects of the practice. To be successful at any of these endeavours, the most important quality an architect must have is a passion that drives and sustains them in the pursuit of their goals.”

On the engineering side of things, communications skills were again highly valued, followed by leadership and professionalism.

As with the architects, the engineers prized people skills that encompassed both speaking and also taking in information.

Qualities of a successful engineer, as named by Construction Canada readers. (Click to enlarge.)

“If we take technical excellence as a given, the ability to listen actively and understand what others are saying is the most important quality an engineer can have,” wrote one.

“Be honest, humble, respectful, and polite to employees and clients,” said another.

Practicality and flexibility were mentioned a few times, as were the need to be competitive and embrace life-long learning. Under the category of “Other,” calmness, honesty, and critical thinking were also offered.

Here are some additional responses:

“In my opinion, the most important quality of successful engineers is their emotional intelligence… the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goals….  By using emotional intelligence, an engineer can successfully manage the various relationships involved in a project to assist in that project’s completion. Emotional intelligence can allow an engineer to create positive relations and outcomes and ultimately create a successful business.”

“Clear, calm, methodical thinking with the ability to convey ideas and thoughts in a precise, understandable, and engaging manner. A successful engineer must be able to both lead and mentor those around him and be committed to the success of the team. Successful projects are not the result of one engineer—they are the result of a successful engineer and his team.”

“In my opinion, there is no way to call one of the qualities as the most important quality. It is a basket of qualities working together hand in hand that makes an engineer successful. This includes proper education, experience, and properly defined work responsibilities (and variations an engineer is allowed to manoeuvre on scope, time, cost, quality)… Above all, it means creating an honest and free-of-game-playing work environment for the engineer.”

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