By Dennis D. Truax, Ph.D., P.E., DEE, D.WRE, F.NSPE, F.ASCE

To be a civil engineer is to be a servant leader. Through our work, we serve our communities and shape people’s lives. But as leaders in the profession, we can also be change agents. Right now, we’re on the horizon of transformation. More than ever, we need to recognize our professional responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public by being servant leaders in our workplaces, communities, and profession. Every one of us has a unique opportunity to be a servant leader, impacting our built world today and tomorrow.

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Dennis D. Truax

Many civil engineers value stewardship, community service, and living high-impact lives with a rewarding work-life balance. However, as the workforce grows to include a new generation of engineers, it’s evident that the workplace is based on a 100-year-old model focused on product and profit.

Increasingly, this environment is run by individuals who don’t see engineers as professionals but commoditize us as replaceable staff. Here, creativity is often stifled, as it’s more about following the codes, precedents, and policies. Billable hours are valued more than productivity or seizing opportunities to directly contribute to society. And if opportunities to succeed and innovate are lacking, many will leave our profession when we need them most.

The solution to creating an effective, successful workplace is engaged people. Engaged people are more involved with their work and compelled to do their best; they will work smarter, serve better, and innovate more.

This is where we — you, I, and ASCE — come in. Together, we can help transform the workplace into one that fosters innovation to meet the challenges facing our profession today and in the future. With our collective effort we must embrace a new model of productivity. Through partnerships with agencies, firms, and companies, we can help design a sustainable workplace that enriches the spirit of engineers.

But our efforts require the collaborative engagement of members and Society leaders to prioritize member needs, maintain professional integrity, and facilitate workplace transparency, equality, diversity, and inclusiveness. I encourage you to invite anyone in the profession who is not a member of ASCE to join our organization to engage with the greater civil engineering community and become the servant leader that we need them to be.

ASCE provides civil engineers the opportunity to be servant leaders on a global scale. Our organization serves members around the world, from our various geographic units and institutes to our student and younger member programs. The Society stands at the forefront of civil engineering advancement with leading initiatives like the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Future World Vision, and Dream Big. ASCE also supports our professional development with resources such as our internationally revered suite of publications, a plethora of continuing education programs, and a focus on professional licensure.

You can also expand your individual role as a servant leader by participating in ASCE Mentor Match. Your service as a mentor would make you a positive force in the lives of those who struggle with finding their place in the profession.

This is an exciting time to be in this profession. I hope you share my enthusiasm for the challenges we face because, ready or not, civil engineers, this is our time! If we each accept our opportunity — no, our responsibility — to undertake the challenges of being engaged and helping others to engage with us, we can make our vision of the future a reality.

Our work is cut out for us, and we need your help to be part of the solution. Will you join me in accepting ASCE’s call to become a servant leader? 

This article first appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of Civil Engineering.