/ Articles / ReEngineering The Engineer: Keeping It All Together

ReEngineering The Engineer: Keeping It All Together

Douglas Fitzpatrick on July 28, 2023 - in Articles, Column

There’s never a dull moment in the life of a small business owner. As I look back over the last 40 years—and especially the last 20—there have been workload cycles to manage, staff to mentor, economic fluctuations to weather, technologies to champion, marketing challenges to overcome, and all the while trying to strike a balance between work and not work.

For me, getting up each morning wondering what the day will bring has always been the motivation to go to work. The excitement of learning something new never gets old. Getting to the end of the day knowing I’ve solved some type of challenge—whatever size it may have been—and grown in the process, is the reward. There aren’t many professions where you get to be a problem solver every single day and love it. It’s what we engineers are wired to do. And it seems the older I’ve gotten, the more rewarding it’s been.

Don’t Let Up

Last year, I spent about nine months seriously talking with another firm about combining our resources. It was quite the distraction for me, but I think I managed to handle it pretty well, making sure I kept my eye on the ball (the FEG ball), just in case. Finally, at the end of the summer/early fall, management’s “true colors” showed up, and I put an end to the conversation. Disappointing, but I know the firm and myself are in a better place for it in the long run.

Any good sports coach will say you have to run all the way through the finish line to win. You can’t start cruising just before you get there, thinking you’ve got it all sown up. The competitor you don’t see behind you can steal the win.

I’m not suggesting having a small business is like a race. It’s not a competition—and there’s certainly no trophy—but there is a parallel. Just like a race, you must constantly maintain that focus and dedication to make it to the finish line.

One of the unintentional consequences from last summer, however, despite my best intentions, was to allow a little of that “what could be” creep into my head before it should have. The thought of getting some help with business things and being able to spend more time with corporate innovation and my young engineers (and their young engineers) caused me to let my guard down a little. In fact, I didn’t realize it was going on until I called things off and started refocusing mentally and emotionally.

So I used that opportunity to rethink everything. It was still me; it was still my firm; it was still our reputation and our portfolio, but everything else was up for grabs. We moved our office. We moved our cloud provider. We changed our phone provider. We changed our intra-office communications. We revisited all the software we use.

While this all looked like a good idea on paper last fall, it ended up consuming way more of my personal resources than anticipated. It all turned out for the better, but it wasn’t easy, and it’s time to restore some of that work/not work balance.

A Fond Farewell

One of the ways I’m adjusting is to refocus on my firm and staff. With our current workload and the drama during the last few months, it has been increasingly difficult to find those ideas to share about “reengineering” ourselves. So, it’s with a heavy heart that this will be my final column.

I’m forever grateful to Informed Infrastructure for allowing me to share my thoughts with you during the last eight years. I hope the nuggets of wisdom shared through the years have been helpful and changed you in a positive way to becoming better engineers. Maybe they’ve helped you think about your engineering career a little differently. Maybe they’ve inspired you to get better at some of the softer skills of engineering. I hope so; that was the goal. In a way, it’s been therapeutic for me.

It’s more than just the numbers and equations that make us great engineers and employees. Embrace the challenges you come across. Learn from them. Share them with your younger engineers. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It might open a whole new set of opportunities for you. Reengineer the engineer in you!

Editor’s Note: We can’t thank Doug enough for everything he’s done for this publication and its readers. We’ll deeply miss his insight and engineering wisdom, and wish him the best in everything he does going forward. 


Avatar photo

About Douglas Fitzpatrick

Douglas G. Fitzpatrick, P.E., is the founder, president and practicing engineer of Fitzpatrick Engineering Group, a 14-year-old structural engineering firm specializing in commercial and healthcare building design.

Comments are disabled