Back in the mid-1970s I worked at an engineering-architectural firm that introduced me to the idea of writing and having this work published. It was not something that I had ever given a thought to prior to working at this company. In fact, it is probably not something many people in this business think about or set as a professional goal.

At the time, the firm offered a small amount of money as a financial incentive that really didn't entice me to rush to a typewriter (no laptop computer back then). Still, the thought had been planted in my brain that engineers could and should get their work published. With this idea in mind, and working on an interesting and challenging hvac design at the time, I came up with this clever title for a project case study: "Energy Conservation Through Value Engineering."

The First Article

The article was based on my initiative to "single-handedly" simplify the sheet metal distribution layout as a means to reducing project first cost. Taking this savings, I designed into the job an energy recovery wheel and an energy-efficient kitchen hood exhaust and makeup air system. My construction budget, as I recall was $1.88 million. When the bids came in, the hvac low bidder had a price of $1,881,000. I guess that reinforced the phrase, "To be good, you have to be lucky."

In September 1976, my first article was published in an engineering magazine that featured the design engineering, estimating, and value engineering case study of this particular project. The story was picked up by a publishing company that included it in its book highlighting energy conservation measures. In each year that followed, I managed to get at least one article published.

By the end of the 1980s, I was fortunate to have multiple articles published annually. As the 1990s rolled around, writing had become a hobby, as well as a means to share experiences, opinions, and a vehicle for me to continue to learn about the building industry.

Also, in 1993 I was given the opportunity to begin my first monthly column in Engineered Systems magazine as well as publish a book on managing people. This first column "Energy Technology" was the brain-child of then editor Anne Hayner. Since then, the column has changed its name and focus to "Today's Engineer" and then again to the column that it is today: "Tomorrow's Engineer." At the same time, I'm working with my third Engineered Systems magazine editor. I tend to be persistent!

The More the Merrier

Based on the very positive experience and the knowledge gained from "putting your thoughts on paper," I have encouraged others to do the same. As I celebrate 25 years of writing, I think I am most proud of those who took my recommendation and have "told their story" and shared their experience and opinions. Collectively, fellow engineers, administrative assistants, account executives, project managers, facility engineers, and my oldest daughter have taken the time to share their expertise with our industry.

This business we are in is challenging, interesting, and rewarding. Making the time to provide added insight into the business can only help improve it. The byproduct of one's writing effort is that it inherently differentiates the author from those who don't make the time to share experience, opinion, and knowledge. It also provides the writer with the opportunity to meet and/or communicate with others who provide feedback to the publication. With e-mail today, interaction and feedback is so easy to achieve, and I appreciate and enjoy the responses. Through writing, I have had the opportunity to be included among other engineer-writers, which I consider to be a great compliment for me. Picking up an engineering newspaper or magazine and reading someone else's work has added value because you can "put a face" to the author and recall how you spoke with that person somewhere along the way, in your career.

Also through writing, I believe I am better prepared when called upon to speak and make presentations. Writing helps you organize your thoughts. It also helps you learn how to convey these ideas to others whether the individual is an engineer or simply someone who is interested in what you do.

Today, I don't go anywhere without my laptop, filling the empty time I have sitting in airports and hotel rooms. A believer in "time management," I have been able to fill these empty hours over these past 25 years while continuing to learn about the business, people, and technology. ES