Matthew Loos is an experienced project manager in the civil engineering industry. He works as a project engineer at Jones|Carter in Fort Worth, Texas. In this interview, we discuss Matt’s new book, The Business of Engineering.
It is not very common that an engineer writes a non-technical book. What inspired you to do so?
Have you ever gotten an idea stuck in your head that you just couldn’t let go of? A time when you couldn’t go to sleep because the idea was consistently begging for your attention?
That’s what happened to me. The idea for this book hits me right before bed, as most good ideas do. I couldn’t go to sleep after the idea struck me. I spent half of the night writing the chapters of this book in my mind. I had been thinking about the idea of engineering and how it relates to other career fields, even the non-technical ones. I was disenchanted with the trifling number of classes I took that prepared me for the business world. These were the initial thoughts that eventually led me down the road into thinking about engineering as a profession going forward.
As this industry continues to pursue technological advances, engineers will be required to take on more leadership positions to capitalize on these advances and help communicate the advantages of these developments to others. These leadership positions will require engineers to utilize skills not commonly taught in higher education. This is where the story of the Business of Engineering emerges.
Can you tell us about how you wrote the book? How much did you rely on your own experience and instinct; how much information and inspiration did you draw from others?
This book was written with approximately 50/50 mix of my own experience and the experience of many others that have walked this path before me. My idea was to mesh my fairly recent experience with the higher educational system here in America with that of my professional experience since graduating with my engineering degree. I do not have decades of experience to draw from so this is where the other 50% of the book comes from.
While studying for numerous business classes in school, I became preoccupied with these visionary business leaders. What separated these men and women from the rest of the engineers throughout history? What made them so successful in the businesses they formed and managed? How could I become as successful (or more so) as these incredible engineers? Needless to say, I came away with more questions than answers. As famous English writer Sydney Smith once wrote, “What you don’t know would make a great book.” This book was my quest for a clearer vision of success in engineering. This book was written to answer these questions for myself, and hopefully for others such as your followers.
You talk about a mindset. Is there something in a typical engineer’s mindset that you’d like to change and why?
In short, the skills that made engineers successful in the past, will not be the same ones that will allow them to be successful in this Fourth Industrial Revolution we are now coming into. A world with AI, IoT, and machine learning. As the global economy becomes even more intertwined, the technological skillset provided by engineers will be even more necessary in day-to-day business management decisions. In contrast, the wildly expanding breadth of technological advances will require the modern engineer to utilize common business proficiencies to communicate these advances. This is why the mindset of the Business of Engineering is so important.
You have laid out some practical frameworks for engineers in the book. What are they about and how can they help engineers succeed?
Yes, I’m a fan of books that provide action items for readers follow. Actionable items help to reinforce ideas and help readers to see real improvement in their own personal and professional careers. In the Business of Engineering, readers can expect to find real-world frameworks to become better communicators, generate creativity in their workflows, utilize deadlines to produce fantastic results, and much more. Each chapter of this book contains a theme with actionable outlines to help engineers succeed by seeing greater results in their professional career.
Engineering is becoming automatized. We read about artificial intelligence and machine learning and how they will disrupt the business. What do you think will happen to engineers?
This is a great question! I enjoy discussing the future of our profession with others. I think that technology is meant to compliment human endeavors, not to necessarily replace them. I believe that initially, AI will help to bring greater productivity to the engineering profession. We have seen that in the past the increase of technology brings about an increase in productivity. Once systems become even more advanced, I do see some engineering jobs becoming replaced by these systems. However, with the reduction of existing engineering jobs will come new fields of engineering trades not currently realized. I think it is an exciting time to be in this profession and am looking forward towards its advancement in the fourth industrial revolution.
What advice would you give to young people who are considering an engineering career?
First, I would congratulate them for pursuing such a fulfilling and potentially difficult career. My advice for a budding career in engineering would be to start with a base of integrity and healthy respect of others. Once you have these two foundational attributes, you can move to the next important trait for a successful career in engineering…persistence. Nothing worth truly accomplishing comes without persistence. If the young readers of your excellent blog are looking at achieving a successful career in engineering, tenacity will be necessary in not only completing their degrees but further success in their career as a whole.
There’s a Kickstarter campaign for your book that runs until June 1, 2019. Can you tell us how it came about?
Thank you for asking about this! This is a great opportunity to not only get a copy of the book, help in the mission of spreading these ideas, and even grab some great courses from one of the leading engineering management trainers at that Engineering Management Institute. We thought the idea of pursuing a grassroots campaign for this book would be the best way to build up a strong following of like-minded individuals to share in our journey.
How has the campaign gone so far?
The campaign has gone very well! We have met our initial goal of funding after only a week and are continuing to spread the word. Our goal is to have well over a hundred backers of the campaign, and we are well on our way!
If our readers would like to contact you, how can they reach you?
The best way to contact me would be to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I am a huge proponent of this site and check it regularly. My LinkedIn link is: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-loos-pe-leed-ap-a1172599/