Job Title: Engineer
Type of Company: A public utility.
Education: BS, Biology BS, Mechanical Engineering MA, Mechanical Engineering
Previous Experience: I worked at one of America's largest computer companies.
Job Tasks: I am Director of Contract Management for our construction division. This means that I am responsible for negotiating and managing over $300 million in annual spending on construction services, including engineering services, building distribution lines, trenches dug in roadways and storm emergencies.
A typical day for me might include developing technical specifications to describe the scope of work required; identifying contractors and evaluating the local market's ability to furnish the services we want; identifying internal costs and trying to determine if out-sourcing is a cost-effective and performance-enhancing alternative; identifying key performance indicators to track and reward performance, and developing and issuing Requests-for-Proposals (RFPs). (An RFP is a document that defines the scope of work and formally requests a pricing and schedule commitment from a company that's bidding on it.)
I am also involved in developing our contracting strategy: whether to use unit pricing (cost/unit is ideal for work that's repetitious) or T&E (an hourly time & equipment rate, better suited to amorphous kinds of work) or lump-sum (a not-to-exceed price) or more progressive arrangements such as target pricing and other incentive-based performance measures. To manage the contractors, we track KPIs and work performed to budget and schedule.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are working with hands-on construction people, developing an understanding of the variety of services that our company deliver, driving improved performance, and developing creative approaches to doing what we do more cost-effectively.
The worst part of my job is the backlog of work that I have to get done -- and the inertia I encounter when I want people to change the way they do things.
1.) When beginning your career, don't be afraid to move around the company and try different things. The more varied your experience, the better you'll be at your job and at understanding how it fits into the bigger picture.
2.) Get good at the basics -- especially understanding financials! Everything comes back to "budget" and "profit" at the end of the day.
3.) Spend some time working in a construction environment.
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