“Inspiraneering” your career

When my professional career started at age 18, I have to admit I was not sure of any definitive endpoints!  I did not have a grand plan.  What I did have was a general direction of where my life was headed, and a load of energy to “improve the world.”  My general direction was pretty basic – obtain a university degree in engineering, get a good paying job to support myself and then just “work it.”

Looking back, it’s been one wild and fun ride, and it’s not over yet!   My fundamental guide posts were simple: “deliver beyond expectations” and “if you want something, ask what you need to do to earn it.”  I was not looking for handouts, but I was looking for honest advice.   Most of the time I got honesty.   I also had to deal with some really small-minded people; however, that is life.   Don’t spend any extra energy on them, nor allow them to rattle you.   Don’t complain; just go around them and move forward. 

By someone’s view, I am supposed to be inspirational.  I only feel inspirational during those moments when a few people have given me the wonderful gift of thanking me for helping them during some time in the past.   Those people have no idea how much their comments give substance to my spirit.  I am now starting to do it for those who have helped me, as I am a product of their efforts and example.

IChemE Fellow and President of AIChE, Deborah L Grubbe (Image Credit: AIChE)

I have done more than I ever dreamt possible.  I will not bore you with my life story; you can read about me by googling variations of my name.  So, in the spirit of being inspirational, here are some tips I have found helpful in my journey:

  1. “Networking” means helping others achieve their goals. Networking means giving, not taking. You have to invest in your network before you can earn the right to take from it.
  2. Never, never, never give up. (Sir Winston Churchill)
  3. A successful person recovers quickly and learns from a failure.
  4. Be true to what you stand for, realizing that people will trust consistency over time.
  5. Life is not about you; it is about what you do for the larger whole.
  6. Actions really do mean more than words. Talk less.  Listen more.  Act properly.
  7. Be smart around taking risks. When it really matters, take big ones.
  8. Success comes from doing the hard work: day after day after day after day after day.

And, here is some advice to engineers who are starting their careers:

  1. Social networking is not professional networking. Don’t get them confused.  Do both.
  2. Be a member of your professional society and use it to do your professional networking.
  3. Understand the advantages of role models, coaches, mentors and sponsors. Everyone relies on knowledge and information gained by others.   Make sure you are dialed in.  Share what you know when it will help the situation.
  4. Realize that sponsorship is given and is never asked for. You can ruin an executive relationship by asking the executive for sponsorship.  Allow the executive the good feeling that results from giving you an opportunity without you learning about it until later.  Then say, “Thank you.”
  5. Do your homework before each business interaction (daily).
  6. Consider your professors to be your first chemical engineering colleagues. Make sure you leave your university with a good reputation, as it may follow you.
  7. Remember that our profession is global, but is relatively tight. Mind your reputation with care. 
  8. Always attribute comments and ideas to others by name; it is professional courtesy.