Technical Communication to Rebuild the Big Easy


USACE NOLAU.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District Headquarters


David Lovett is a professional engineer from New Orleans, Louisiana.  He works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, LA.  As a Structural Engineer, Dave assures the safety and prosperity for the residents of New Orleans by providing a man-made barrier against the turbulent Mississippi River and its various flood stages.  He works with other engineers possessing various technical specialties to maintain a safe existence for the inhabitants of South Louisiana.


The Path to Engineering


Dave began pursuit of his career in Civil Engineering with a Bachelor’s of Science from Louisiana State University.  He always had a strong affinity for math and problem solving, so it seemed natural to pursue engineering.  He learned early on that through group projects and study sessions, communication is one of the most important skills to succeed as an engineer in the modern era of Civil Engineering.


The Skill of Conveying Ideas


Dave says that communication is key for succeeding in engineering.  “While technical skills are a must for a young engineer, communication skills are equally critical for success as a young engineer.”  Dave has found that an engineer who can convey ideas to fellow engineers throughout various government agencies efficiently, has a greater chance of having a collaboration of ideas go smoothly in a humongous project.  On a daily basis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deals with projects that are essential to the commerce of the United States, and also makes sure that New Orleans continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina.


Written Communication


Written communications skills are integral to having projects come into fruition.  Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a worldwide organization, many times the engineers involved in projects never get a chance to meet face to face.  As a result, technical writing whether through memos, reports and emails, is vital to the success and timely delivery of a project.  Dave says that when he started as a young engineer, he learned quickly that writing his technical responses to supervisors and co-workers “was instrumental in [his] technical development.”  Now as a Section Chief in the Structures Branch, being able to effectively communicate with his staff on administrative and technical expectations through email is important to ensure proper execution of various tasks and making deadlines for projects.


If Dave had a Time Machine


While covering the technical aspects of communication, Dave brought up an interesting caveat to our conversation.  If he had a time machine, he would have stressed even more that the art of communication would be the most essential tool in his development as a future leader, and compulsory to retaining the knowledge from experiences he would encounter as a young engineer.  Going into further detail, he said if he could have spoken to a younger Dave, he would have said to use the oral and written technical communication skills to “gain knowledge from the experienced supervisors.”  The organization has a wealth of knowledge, and by prosing various technical questions to superiors, he was able to stand above his peers in gaining valuable information that is not taught in a textbook.


Technical Communication is an Ongoing Learning Process


When asked about his progression within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dave said that he is still learning how to be an even more efficient and capable leader, which he does everyday by using his technical communication skills.  In order to handle disputes on ideas and the strenuous work load, Dave says “the art of leadership cannot happen without the art of communication.  They go hand in hand.”


Umar Raja, Guest Blogger


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