Envelope #5: Be a friend, not a jerk

Hey happy Thursday! This is Back of the Envelope – the place to be to learn a quick thing or two about SE (whether you are a friend or a jerk).

Today, I am going to talk about "amiability" (aka being friendly).

(Estimated read time: 2 minutes and 31 seconds)

According to Bo Jaquess (current SEAOSD president), "amiability" is number two on the list of "what it takes to excel as an engineer." (link)

(Which by the way, I talked about #1 here).

Bo says:

"For better or worse, you must work with other people.

The architects, contractors, MEP engineers, welders, and rodbusters are working toward the same goal as you are: a successful project.

And all are under pressure of some kind, just like you are.

Being 'a pleasure to work with' can be a real factor in your firm landing the next job with that client, as well as your upward mobility within your own firm. Aside from the fact it's just the decent thing to do."

Totally agree. Going to riff off on this and add a few of my takes.

To me, being a decent human/engineer also means that:

1/ You are not a jerk

2/ You are not prideful

3/ You don't react to sh*t immediately

Let me elaborate.

First: You are not a jerk

This is obvious, and most engineers I know are pretty friendly and polite (most of the time).

But the test of character really happens when you are under a lot of stress.

You know, at times when you have deadlines after deadlines, and you haven't slept well in days.

That's when you really got to watch out.

Pay attention to how you react to clients when they call. And pay attention to how you respond to emails.

Do you sense animosity and anger in yourself?

If so, time to step back and pause before you press send (I've done that a few times myself).

You just prevented yourself from becoming a jerk.

Next: Don't be prideful

Now, this is more common among engineers.

What is prideful?

It means that you think you are better than another person.

"But that contractor just doesn't get it! He butchered my beam and is now asking for help after the fact!"

Yeah I know. I've been there...

But nobody knows everything, so that guy probably knows something that I don't.

If you catch yourself thinking like Scar, time to re-evaluate.

Third: Don't react to sh*t

Every day, there will be things that annoy you.

Plan checkers will say that your design is not safe (it is) and does not meet code (it does).

Cost estimators will accuse you of increasing the structural cost between DD and CD.

Architects will ask for your drawings two days before it's actually due.

(These may or may not be based on personal experience 🙄)

Whatever it is, sometimes you may feel the need to "react" immediately.

Perhaps fire back with an angry-ish email defending yourself?

Or perhaps in your mind, you pictured yourself as Will Smith (and the person that made you upset is Chris Rock)?

Now before you do anything, just remember this quote from the man on your hundred dollar bill:

"Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."

Benjamin Franklin

(sorry Agent J)

Again, take a step back, take a walk, take a deep breath, then come back to the situation to see if you feel any differently.

By not cascading the negativity downstream, you might have just made the world a better place (at least a little bit).

And that is part of being amiable.

That is all for now. I know this stuff is not exactly engineering, but it is important to talk about.

Hope you liked it.

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