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“Learn how to excel at your first engineering job.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

Start the job right

Do your best to excel at your first engineering job. Arrive early and leave late. Start a notebook, mine was handwritten; yours will be on your computer. Record information, such as: formulas; code rules; contacts; and anything that you might need again. Ask a lot of questions, but avoid the same question a second time; consult your “notebook”.

I soon learned that my first boss could never answer a question with a yes or a no. His answers always came with a story and a long explanation. This was often frustrating, when we were up-against a deadline. But, it taught me related things; helped me to remember the answers; and gave me an understanding of the “why”.

Fill your “notebook” with knowledge.

It is critically important that you stay up-to-date. This involves weekly reading including: magazines in your industry and in your specialty; code updates and interpretations; business trends; and current affairs. This will aid you in your present job and help your future engineering firm to thrive and prosper in any economy. Dedicate at least two hours a week to this task. Always have something with you to read.

Start to write “white papers”. A white paper is a report or guide to help readers to understand an issue. When your work involves a new technical issue, read about it and take detailed notes in narrative form, including definitions of the various new terms.

Add this “white paper” to your notebook. I didn’t learn about white papers until I was in practice for over 20 years; start as soon as you have a job. After you have prepared a “white paper”, re-read it several times and commit much of the information to memory. When the subject comes up, you will be able to discuss it like an expert. You will gain a reputation as the “smartest guy in the room”. White papers will serve as a useful future reference and possibly the basis of a magazine article, authored by you.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Start by doing your best to excel at your first engineering job.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit to find out more.

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