Comment: Diverse perspectives delivered

November 2006 » Editor's Comment
I believe it is important to provide readers with industry perspectives from practitioners, allied experts, vendors, academia, and clients.
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

For CE News to live up to its tagline, "for the business of civil engineering," I believe it is important to provide readers with industry perspectives from practitioners, allied experts, vendors, academia, and clients. I believe we usually hit the mark, sharing trends, advice, technical information, interesting projects, and news from a broad range of outlooks. The latter group's viewpoint—that of civil engineers' clients—proves to be most difficult to capture; I imagine this is true even for you, a practicing civil engineer.

Gaining a clear understanding of what your clients want, what's important to them, and how you are doing at serving them is foremost on your mind, but can be a challenge to ascertain.

For public works engineers, your clients are a finicky bunch—the general public! You are dealing with laypeople who often don't understand the costs, implications, or importance of the services you provide. Sometimes this means funds aren't available for the projects you feel are most necessary because your "clients" have such a different perspective than you.

Next month, we'll speak to those readers whose clients are the general public, and certainly this accounts for many readers in private practice as well as public works. We'll be featuring an article about the public's perception of the need for sewer infrastructure improvements and why heightened public awareness is necessary to help fix the alarming state of our nation's sewer system. Solutions to gaining better public awareness will be provided. It's time to help the nation wake up to the state of our sewers, which ultimately will improve our water quality, our health, and, for the civil engineering industry, our businesses.

This month's cover story, "Fast track to the future: Emerging trends that will shape mass transit" by Linda Bohlinger of HNTB Corporation, is perfect for civil engineers engaged in transportation services who want to know what is forefront in their clients' minds. Bohlinger shares the results of a study conducted by her firm that aimed to determine the issues facing transportation industry leaders across the country. Armed with this information, HNTB identified trends in mass transit and practical solutions to help the civil engineering profession succeed in serving this growing market.

Besides the fact that HNTB conducted this research, Bohlinger's experience in the transportation industry adds to her credibility in opining on the interests of civil engineers' transportation clients: She previously led the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the South Florida Tri-Rail Commuter Rail system, and was deputy director of the California Transportation Commission, meaning she used to be a client herself!

If you or your firm ever conducts client research that has value to civil engineers nationwide, please contact me to discuss it. Not only could your findings possibly be published in CE News, but you also might help advance your profession and ultimately the nation's civil infrastructure.

As usual, this issue also contains advice from your peers in business. Check out, "The virtual team: Five tips for using your firm's global resources for local project delivery," by Peter Z. Armata, Jr., with Stantec. He shares how his firm creates project teams with members in different offices and helps them work efficiently. Also, Everett Cowan, P.E., Gresham, Smith and Partners (GS&P), shares his firm's experiences with attracting today's young civil engineer recruits in this month's Beyond Words guest column. Generation Y employees value different things than older generations; learn what is working for GS&P, which has been aggressively hiring during the past few years with success.


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