Over last 21 years since I came to this profession of Civil engineering the image about this profession has undergone a metamorphic change. When I joined this profession as a student of Diploma in Civil Engineering I had a different perspective of this field. This image of this profession was of a golden opportunity for me and this encouraged and made me complete my next level of education and then further next. My father carried the legacy of my grand father,( my grand father who was also a civil engineer passed out may be in 1919 or so), and always shared how an engineer should behave, what are the traits and what should be the knowledge level and how much efforts engineer has to put to go in-depth of his subject to deliver the final product. For me a civil engineer was a superman of knowledge who not only possess technical skills but also knows well how to handle almost uneducated, unskilled manpower.
For me among many works an engineer is supposed to do were (few of them are narrated here):
- Reading and interpreting construction drawings, finding discrepancies and escalating it to designer / architect,
- coordinating with many departments and understanding their point of view and projecting it’s own point of view and educating them on the difficulties site and people faces in executing a design,
- designing temporary works like shuttering, designing access to work platform to ensure safety & ease of access. Ultimately even he has to walk on the same access platform or climb on the form-work for checking etc.
- ensuring sufficient work fronts,
- Preparing measurements for bills and ensuring that the piece rate worker is not loosing his wages,
- managing locals so that they allow the work to run smoothly
A single man with multiple responsibilities is what a civil engineer is. Over a period of time a new dimension got added to this and that happened when I got job in Head Office of one of the large EPC contracting companies. And, the new dimension was not very healthy and looked totally different w.r.t. what I was doing so far at project sites. The comfort of working and a sense of achievement it was giving me so far. The new dimension was of service provider to project sites, of providing uninterrupted services in the form of arranging resources, funds, coordinating with consultants and architects for the discrepancies and issues required clarification demanded by site. Initially it all looked good and I was enjoying when suddenly I found that the people who forms the group of service provider had assumed the role of owner of project and instead of facilitating the project they started questioning the question and issues raised by project site itself. Strange!
When I was studying the construction management I learnt that there are many ways to monitor the project progress, cost and how to monitor it and give feedback and inputs to control cost overrun. The systems were supposed to be followed and both project and HO are supposed to discuss issues pertaining to progress and cost based on facts, reports and analysis and not verbally in the form of exchange of words. Now this exchange of words and blame game is something which was new to me. It was a phenomenally different from a professional working of finding solutions jointly and discussing the reasons of faults & failures and finding the way out. It was a phenomenon of blaming others for your own failures and declaring others as culprit.
(Honestly not my way of working! So I was an odd man out, or for that matter many of us were.)
Now the efforts were not on the providing support to project instead the efforts were on to defend the blame, which most of the times were not pertaining to even the department we work-in, lest on to a single person.
From Engineer I was slowly, forcefully and heartlessly (originally a civil engineer), was converting into a diplomat with bureaucratic mind set. From solution provider I was becoming a person with lot of doubts and questions, doubts and questions on the integrity of others, doubts and questions on the real need of the requirement without using my experience and knowledge.
It was a sad state of mind and over that I was not able to come to terms on the weird behavior by the engineers who had not worked on projects for sufficient duration and life cycle of project. I always used to try & figure out that how were these in-experienced engineers even visualizing the problem of project and how would they be able to coordinate with other departments and seek solutions. How would they identify if the question raised by project team were genuine or were they just meant to buy some time to makeup the failure?
I don’t want to leave this open ended but I would like to wait till few other share their personal experience and their point of view or may be by revisiting the individual incidents of my construction life I would be able to solve this mystery of transition from a civil engineer to a diplomat……………………………..
This is an impromptu piece of writing and so any grammatical error or inconsistency is regretted.