Any pathway within civil engineering is full of speed bumps. Although there are countless options within the field, we may sometimes feel stuck, uncertain of what we should and could do next. Should we make the leap and move into a leadership role? Do we want to move into a leadership role? Should we switch between organizations? Today’s episode will answer these career questions we all have.
Our guest today is Mark Crossfield, an accredited coach at Bravo Coaching and a chartered civil engineer who has already led multi-disciplinary railway and highway infrastructure teams in the UK. He helps people make exciting and transformational career changes as well as figure out the next steps they should take in order to up their game in the career path they already have. As civil engineers, all of us fall into at least one of these two categories.
We all go through moments in which we question ourselves whether our career is exactly where we wanted it to be, if we’re working with something we’re truly passionate about, or if we should–and want to–change paths. This episode will give you the golden tips to answer these questions.
Mark Crossfield – https://linkedin.com/in/markcrossfieldbravo
Bravo Coaching – https://www.bravocoaching.co.uk
Your Bravo Career Podcast (Apple Podcasts) – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/your-bravo-career/id1539137736
Institution of Civil Engineers – https://www.ice.org.uk
CEA Podcast Ep. 60 – Becoming a Better Public Speaker with Neil Thompson – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxnJVIU4dTc
Toastmasters – https://www.toastmasters.org
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell – Grab the book here
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills, by Steven Novella (Course Guide Book) – Grab the book here
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills, by Steven Novella (Audible) – https://www.audible.com/pd/Your-Deceptive-Mind-A-Scientific-Guide-to-Critical-Thinking-Skills-Audiobook/B00D9473WC
School of PE – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
Haven’t joined up in our free community? What’s wrong with you? J/K. Ok, just go there and join a group of like-minded civil engineers! – https://ceacommunity.com
Join over 4000 engineers like you and learn the tips and tricks to passing the FE and PE. We even have a free resource for you! – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
Civil Engineering Academy’s Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
If you need exams, solved problems or courses, make sure to check out our home base – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: Hey! What's going on, everybody? Welcome back to another fun episode of the Civil Engineering Academy podcast. I have Mark Crossfield on. How you doing, Mark?
Mark Crossfield: Doing very well. Thank you, Isaac.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. And Mark's with Bravo Coaching, which I've talked about earlier. But excited to have him on. He's in the UK, I'm in the US. So we have to coordinate that a little bit. But, you know, it's good times. Mark, I would love for you to just kind of dive into your own background, and really how you started this Bravo Coaching program.
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for that opportunity. So, well, I'm an accredited coach, a licensed career coach, a master NLP practitioner based in the UK, as you've mentioned, working worldwide to help people to love their job and have a great career. However, I am a chartered civil engineer, and I previously led multidisciplinary highway infrastructure teams in the UK, probably for about 28 years --- I was checking the date, so it's about right --- serving coach for 15 years. So I started Bravo Coaching in 2019, working as a full-time career coach. And now I get to help people all around the world with their careers, and particularly enjoy working with civil engineers to support their career development.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. What are -- I mean, I visited your website. It seems like you have a lot of material there. What are some things that you have on the site that you're mainly helping people with, with their careers?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. So there are three main challenges I find that people have in their careers. The first is they're not quite sure what they want next. They need some sorts of career clarity. So I have a package that helps with that. It's a career-clarity package. And then the second challenge can be about making the leap. So maybe they know what they want in their career, but they're having difficulty making the leap. Maybe having difficulty leaving the present organization or moving to a new organization. You know, went through the interview process, doing presentations. So I help with that process. And then the third category and the third pack is how can people have an impact at work? So maybe, you know, the first six months in a new job, they want to have a really strong impact or maybe it's the new boss come in and they want to really up their game. So I help people to really have an impact at work by working through with them on the coaching session. So yeah, those three categories, probably, cover most basis, I would say.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. I think a lot of civil engineers are, you know, in one of those categories at various points in their own career. I myself am a working engineer and find myself kind of going through that, you know, as we speak. So it's one of those things.
Mark Crossfield: Absolutely. The reason why I'm doing this is because I was in that category as well. I was in a, you know, a really good job in terms of civil engineering, but it wasn't a good job for me. So I know what it's like to be in a role that just doesn't fit. So I want to help people to find their ideal role, one they're going to really get excited about and help them to move them to that role as quickly as possible. So that's why I'm passionate about this work I'm doing.
Isaac Oakeson: That's exciting. So take us -- I think a lot of people here in the US are always interested in what it's like in other countries for a civil engineer to become a professional engineer. What that entail over there in the UK? What does an engineer need to do to be a working professional over there?
Mark Crossfield: Okay. Yeah. Good question. So, well, the equivalent to the professional engineer, your PE, in the UK, and in many other parts of the world actually, is chartered engineer. So that's CEng, chartered engineer. So most engineers aspire to becoming a chartered engineer and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. I'll briefly tell you how you go about doing that, comparing with your system. So getting chartered is similar to your route. You have to do a four-year degree. So in the UK you do a masters in engineering degree in civil engineering. So I guess that's similar to what you do.
Isaac Oakeson: So you're calling a master's a four-year degree in civil engineering. Is that what you're calling it?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. Previously it was a three-year degree. But probably about 10 years ago, maybe more than that, they changed it. You have to have a four-year degree in civil engineering rather than a three-year.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. So I guess here in the United States, just so I guess everyone's aware, in the US you have to get a four-year bachelor's degree to become a civil engineer. Any additional education -- In the US, if you got a master's in civil engineering, it's typically an additional two years of schooling here in the US. So that's interesting. Anyway, sorry. Keep going.
Mark Crossfield: No, that's interesting to know. There isn't really an equivalent in the UK of your Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, your FE exam. There isn't anything like that in the UK. What happens is, once you graduate, then you enter a period of professional developments, and in the UK it's called Initial Professional Development. And thinking in -- I'm right saying this? In the US it's four years, is it? And that's, that's how long you --
Isaac Oakeson: Yes. And that actually depends on each state, but most States require four years of experience before you can actually get your license to be a professional engineer. But yeah, you're right.
Mark Crossfield: Okay. So four years is probably, I would say, on the minimum side in the UK. Most people take a bit longer to do their initial professional development. Because it involves, you know, doing lots of work with your supervising civil engineer in the organization, there's regularly regular annual meetings, and you have different attributes that you need to achieve within the industry, different things you need to learn about civil engineering, and all those gotta be signed off before you get to the final hurdle, which I guess is similar to your final exam, your PE, I guess, which is a professional review process. So this is a final hurdle you've got to leap, and that involves submitting a couple of reports on projects you've worked on and also about your professional development. And it entails an interview and some sorts of examination at the end to make sure that you've achieved what you should achieve by the point you've got to the review. And you pass that, then you become a chartered engineer in the UK, and then you can use the CEng and you become a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. So I'm just curious, does this person that you're working with, they become like a mentor to you? Does it trade off? You know, are you always working with the same person that signs off on your experience and work? I'm just curious how -- Is there a bond there that maybe this person becomes a mentor to you in what you're going through, or is it simply a formality to get your CEng?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. So each organization has a supervising civil engineer. That person is responsible for all the people that are going through training within the organization. So in bigger organizations might be 20 people going through the process. That person is responsible for all those engineers. However, because that is quite a big role that that person has, they have delegated engineers. Now, those delegated engineers do act a bit more like a mentor actually. So they have a much closer relationship with the trainee, making sure that they monitor and support that development. So it's quite a good arrangement in many ways to have the one person overseeing the whole thing. And they see the trainee once a year, and then they have the delegated engineer that will typically actually meet you on a quarterly basis for a formal meeting, but probably see you in between those times as well. So you do get quite close mentorship in that respect.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow, that's interesting. So I guess as, to carry on that conversation, many engineers are looking ahead to their future obviously. Some of them want to be leaders, some of them just want to be engineers. I'm curious, what kind of hurdles do you see that are in place for engineers that want to become a leader?
Mark Crossfield: Well, I would say probably the biggest hurdle is the mindset. I think the mindset does get in the way of making that journey to becoming a manager and a leader. And I think once you get your head around the fact that -- You know, this is a moving platform we're all operating on. People leaving the industry all the time, people retire of course, people lead the organization. And therefore there's always opportunity for new managers, new leaders within the organization. And actually that is something that is very positive to know about. And I sort of think people know that, but I think you have to understand that the opportunity will always be available. So I think mindset is the first thing to think about. So think about the situation in your organization but also thinking about what is possible for you, and starting to think about having a possibility mindset about if you're interested in becoming a manager or a leader. Cultivating that mindset that that could be possible for you at an early stage, I think is quite important because some of us perhaps don't see that early on. And to start to think about yourself in that way is quite useful, such that when you asked when you develop as a professional engineer, that you take opportunities as they arise.
Mark Crossfield: So I think probably, you know, leadership -- Mindset is probably the first challenge. If I say a little bit about my story. So, I started out really as a graduate engineer and then I started working as a senior engineer in an organization. And then as I started to develop myself, an opportunity came up to be a manager in a different organization. And for me at the time I remember feeling like that was quite quite a big leap. And it wasn't until I actually started the role that I felt a bit more comfortable in that position. So I think also there is elements of sometimes you don't always feel ready to make that leap, and sometimes you have to make the leap. And when you arrive there, then you start to feel more comfortable in that position. So again, it's about mindset really. Sometimes you have to overcome the mindset initially, but making that leap does help.
Isaac Oakeson: That makes a lot of sense. I think with every step in this engineering journey, a lot of it does have to do with mindset. I know over here in the US, even passing these difficult exams, is also a mindset game too. But definitely wanting to be a leader -- You know, sometimes engineers have their heads so focused on the work, you kind of don't see what's in front of you. And I like how you said this was -- You know, everything's in motion. There are people retiring, people take other opportunities, and over time your opportunity, your chance to become a leader can come up very quickly. So Mark, I was just curious, what area of engineering did you kind of go into?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. So I started out, I'll say, highway engineer originally. Although I did actually spend a year working in railway engineering actually as well, but primarily it was highway engineering. In the area where I live I worked in what we call local authority, and it's quite one of the bigger ones in the UK. So I had responsibility for all the highway and bridge design. And therefore I got involved in quite a few interesting project, New highways, new bridge projects. And it was quite interesting for a while. And then I started being drawn more into the project management side of that role. And then eventually a management position came up and I moved into that, and that led on further down the line to a more of a leadership role. So that's how my development happened. And I might mention later on if it comes up, how that affected me in terms of my enjoyments in those roles, what other people might want to consider in terms of their own development, if that's helpful.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Yeah. We'll touch upon that. Hopefully we can touch upon that. I kind of want to go back to people that are interested in becoming a leader in their industry, a leader in their workplace. I mean, you talked about mindset. So if somebody does have the mindset that they want to be a leader, what additional advice or skills could they maybe think about pursuing or focusing on in the roles that they have to help them eventually become, you know, a leader when that opportunity comes up?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Because there are skills that you can develop now and nurture that will definitely help you in management leadership roles. And I think one of the -- Probably three I can think of off the top of my head. I mean, one of the threshold skills I think is essential is public speaking. I think this is such an important skill. And it's so important to be competent at public speaking earlier in your career, because you don't want to wait until later in your career when it's expected that you'll be good at this to be able to do that. So the sooner you can start developing your public speaking skills, the better. So that's one thing. The second thing is to study how to get the best out of people. So start to recognize how people become motivated, what gets people working in the best way, and look at how other the managers work with you and other people and see what works well and what doesn't work well. And then probably thirdly, become a good problem solver. So become good at solving problems in the workplace, because if you're a good problem solver, that is really a good transferable skill to use in management and then in leadership. Because what also happens in your career is that problems just get bigger. So if you've got the skills to be able to deal with these problems when they're small, then it does make it easier to deal with them when they get bigger.
Isaac Oakeson: Now, when you say that, are you talking about any kind of problem, or specific engineering problems, or just conflicts within any project? I've noticed that, at least in my own career, engineering problems -- You know, you can solve those. But it seems like the bigger conflict is maybe, like, communication problems that you're having with other departments or trying to get information or questions answered in different arenas. I mean, is that what you mean?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. I suppose is having a methodology to deal with problems in a way which is going to be something you can use later on. So one thing you can think about is, first of all, how you define the problem. So the first thing you do with any problem, I think, is to trying defining what the problem is, because quite a lot of people rush in thinking they know what the problem is when they've not thought through exactly what it is actually they're dealing with. So that is so transferable. Once you're able to define a problem, then you're off to a good start. And I think, secondly, it's about then coming up with ideas to solve the problem and not necessarily evaluating those ideas, but just capturing as many ideas as you can. Then do the analysis of the options you've got to look at the the best solution.
Mark Crossfield: Now that is a simple sort of three-step process, but you could apply that at any point in your career to most problems. So having a process of doing that, it can be really helpful. Now I know that when you start getting involved with lots different people, in problem solving, it can get a little more complex. But as leaders, and your audience, of course, are future leaders, having that methodology in your head and be as communicated [inaudible] helps those people to become good at problem solving as well. And then, you know, once you've been able to set the agenda for problem solving as a group, it becomes even easier to solve the bigger problems that might challenge you.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. I can tell, you've put a lot of thought into that and that's a great. A lot of detail there. So thanks for sharing that. I'm also curious, you know, sometimes engineers don't want to be in a leadership role. Like, if somebody is unsure whether they want to be a leader or they're worried about maybe even the skills that they think that are needed, do you think that there's any sort of tests or advice that you could give an engineer to see if maybe that would be a pathway for them or not? Because I feel like people don't know what they don't know, and unless you take a step forward and experience something, you know, how would you ever know? So I guess, if an engineer is questioning whether they can even do that, is there anything that you think they could do to test out to see if a leadership role might be the area they want to go?
Mark Crossfield: This is such, such an important question. I'm glad you've asked actually, Isaac. Because for me, there is sometimes in the industry, this idea that we all gravitate towards management and then leadership. And that is the right path and that is the path we should all be thinking about. But actually, we're all different. So I think it's about understanding that, first of all, that that is not right for everybody. Some people may want to stay as really excellent engineers. Maybe the projects get bigger, but they don't particularly want to move into management or leadership. And that's okay as well. Or maybe they want to be really excellent project managers, and the projects get bigger, more exciting, but they don't particularly want to move into leadership role.
Mark Crossfield: So first of all, knowing that there are different roles with engineering, and civil engineering in particular, and that the industry is so -- There's so much to offer in the industry that you can find a role with that industry that best suits you. Knowing that is good to start off with. And I think, I would say, in terms of looking at how you can check if it's right for you, there's a couple of things you can think about. One is to think about your values. So what is important to you about your career and your work? And start to think about -- You know, if you can list those values, you know, what matters to you about the role? And for some people, you know, making a difference and having an impact on lots of people, and managing organizations, and shaping the look of the industry, you know, that can be really important to them. For other people, they have different values. Maybe it's about, you know, having satisfaction in completing engineering solutions and completing really excellent projects, but not necessarily going for roles that maybe require leadership skills.
Mark Crossfield: So I think it's about thinking what is important to you, firstly. And then also starting to think about your skills. So think about what you're good at in your career, firstly. And also what sort of things do enjoy doing? I sort of gravitated to management because I quite like working with people. I was fascinated by what motivates people. And for me it was like a natural inclination to move towards management. But for other people, they might not have that same inclination. Management and the skills requird as a manager might not be something that you're interested in. So start understanding your skills and your strengths, I guess, and also what's important to you. Those two things help you to understand yourself better and give you a sense of whether management and then leadership might be something that you're interested in checking out.
Isaac Oakeson: That makes a lot of sense. For me, I also think about lifestyle changes too, you know? If you're in a leadership role that that might take a little more time out of your day, but you have real impact on the organization and the decisions that they make and, you know, you have to kind of balance those things. So it kind of depends on what you want with that. Speaking of leadership and all of these different roles, I know there's a lot of different leadership styles out there. Is there any that you feel like you gravitate to or that kind of rise to the top in your mind?
Mark Crossfield: I guess as a coach, I probably should say a coach style leadership is probably the most effective, I guess. This is where a leader is focusing on identifying and nurturing individual strengths of each member in a team. And that can work really well on a project in particular. So I think that's quite a good leadership style, but I don't think it works in every situation. I've also seen servant leadership. So really you become the servant of the people that are working for you, and everything you do is about making their job easier and making their tasks easier. I quite like that as well, actually, because that is about recognizing that those people that are working for you, you know, they're the people that bring the real value to the organization, and the more you can make their job easier and to make their path clearer to success, the better. But I also think, and this is slightly controversial, that sometimes a more direct or more autocratic leadership style can be beneficial, particularly on projects where there's very little headroom in terms of time and you need to get the project finished pretty quickly, and there's not a lot of opportunity to have that sort of more servant leadership or the coaching style, where really a more directed approach is needed. But I would say -- So I think it is useful sometimes to have that.
Isaac Oakeson: Mark, that sounds like every project.
Mark Crossfield: Yeah, I know. I recognize that. And I think I was just going on to reflect on that. I don't necessarily think that is a good thing if that's the only style that you have. So I think that should be more of a sort of last chance saloon style if you like. Maybe don't rely on that. You know, it's not the ideal leadership approach to take, but it sometimes can be useful if needed.
Isaac Oakeson: So speaking of that, this question comes up on a lot of areas, but the difference between a leader and a manager, what are your thoughts surrounding that?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah, I think that's -- I mean, we could probably talk for three hours about this, beause that's such a big role. So, okay. Let's think about this in terms of civil engineering. So let's simplify the function down to three things, actually. So project, planning, people. So if we talk about the project, I think a manager is organizing, doing day-to-day management, maybe project management, whereas a leader in terms of the project bit is doing the vision for success, inspiring action, connecting stakeholders, thinking about the longer term project issues. If we come to the planning side, then the manager is coordinating, resourcing, doing procedures, getting things done, but the leader is thinking about the strategy, the long-term planning, critical problem solving, thinking and innovating. And then finally, we come on to the people's side, a manager is recruiting, evaluating, small command and control. But when you get to the leader, this is more about coaching, developing the team and seeking followers and inspiring the team. So I know I've widened the definition a little bit, but I think---I hope, guys---is helpful for your audience.
Isaac Oakeson: No, that's perfect. I really likk how concise you've made that. And I think it's spot on. And I think, at some level, everybody is a leader at some level, you know? You are over your project, you are the engineer over that. And so, you know, at some level everybody has leadership skills that you're going to have to develop at some point. So that's just part of being a civil engineer in the arena that you kind of got into. So, good points. As we wrap this up, Mark, is there any resources out there, books, anything that you'd like to mention to the Civil Engineering Academy audience that they might find helpful in this journey?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. So there's three things I would recommend. So, I mentioned public speaking earlier on, and I did listen actually to your episode with Neil Thompson, and I do echo his sentiments about it's something you've got to do. So you know, join Toastmasters, get a Zoom group going, join Clubhouse. Practice you're speaking somewhere where you can get better. So that's my first tip. Secondly, study leaders. So read about what leaders do and reflect on what good leaders around you do as well. My favorite book on leadership is actually a book called Shackleton's Way. This is a book by Dava. No, it's not by Dava. Sorry.
Isaac Oakeson: You got a copy of it there.
Mark Crossfield: Yeah. I've got a copy.
Isaac Oakeson: Show me that. We're recording this too.
Mark Crossfield: Let me show you that. So that's by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. And this is an amazing book because it's about the Antarctic Explorer, Ernest Shackleton, and his leadership tips all the way through, but each chapter has summarized advice on leadership. So it's an excellent book read. The final tip is about problem solving. And the book or the audio program I would recommend is called Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills, by Steven Novella. And I got this in Audible, although you can you come by the book actually. But the audible series is excellent. And this is a really good way to understand how your thinking skills work and how you can sharpen your thinking skills. So I recommend those three resources for your audience,
Isaac Oakeson: Those are great. We'll link all that in our show notes and make sure everyone's aware of them. I have yet to either listen to that or read that other book. So I will. I'm going to dive into those as well. So those are great. Well Mark, I appreciate it. What's the best way for people to reach out to you, connect with you if they want career coaching or any of your other tips and advice? I want them to connect with you. So what's the best way to do that?
Mark Crossfield: Yeah, sure. So I'm on LinkedIn, so people can find me there. I'm on LinkedIn. But I mean, my website is bravocoaching.co.uk, and the website talks about what I can do and then what I can help you with, my career coaching. But also my podcast, which is called Your Bravo Career. So if you're interested in finding out more about how you can love your job and have a great career, then maybe subscribe to the podcast.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. Well, I really appreciate you jumping on. You've shared a ton of tips with us, and I can just tell that this is your bread and butter, this is your forte, and you really enjoy this. So I really do appreciate you jumping on.
Mark Crossfield: Thanks, Isaac. I really appreciate you having me on your show.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, thank. We'll see you next time.
Mark Crossfield: Thank you.
Isaac Oakeson: Bye.
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