Distressed wooden desk with a typewriter on it.
(Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash)

By Margaret M. Mitchell

In its 94-year history, Civil Engineering has covered a host of projects in the U.S. and abroad, from structural engineering to transportation to environmental engineering and beyond. But last year for the May/June issue, we deviated from that course to focus not on projects but on the state of civil engineering, highlighting the labor shortage, legislation, advocacy, and other issues that affect the profession. For this year’s May/June issue, we are again briefly changing course from cutting-edge projects to focus on you: the modern engineer. 

Woman with brown skin wearing a black, sleeveless blouse smiles at the camera.
Margaret M. Mitchell

Modern engineers have an array of technical skills and knowledge, be that the principles of good design or the ins and outs of codes and standards. But today’s engineers need to be more than technical powerhouses. They must be problem solvers, critical thinkers, and able communicators who are emotionally intelligent. Throw in leaders, innovators, and collaborators, and you’re on the right track.

Modern engineers must wear many hats, personally and professionally, to forge successful careers.

Some of you have entrepreneurial mindsets and opt to start your own businesses. Doing that takes drive and determination, and patience and perseverance are needed to make businesses grow. But eventually there comes a time when you’re ready to pass the reins. “Managing Leadership Development” takes a look at how civil engineering firms are developing new talent — from owners to managers, senior leaders, and other roles — and equipping them to take these companies forward.

We turn from talent development to an analysis of the messaging that students and parents have received about what it takes to be an engineer. “Change the Message, Change the World” delves into what the engineering community and other stakeholders are doing to spread more positive and updated messaging about what and who engineers are while combating the “concrete” image that civil engineering, in particular, often fights against. Also, read about four engineers who are making a positive impact in “Women creating change.”

Creativity and the Engineer” examines how civil engineers can learn to destress, clear their headspace, and embrace their imaginations to become change-makers. And in this age of burgeoning artificial intelligence, when some technical skills can be delegated, is there more time to dream?

Lifelong Learning for the Civil Engineer” details a study of 19 engineers at five firms in the Pacific Northwest to determine the knowledge as well as the technical, professional, and business skills most relevant for their careers. The lessons learned from this study may apply more broadly to all civil engineers.

And getting back to business, sometimes engineers want to take their skills and expertise “on the road.” As the civil engineering field becomes more global, firms are capitalizing on today’s connectedness. “World View” discusses the steps some companies are taking to expand internationally and to find the talent for these new ventures.

Lastly, we continue our Cities of the Future coverage with “The Best Places for Civil Engineers 2024.” The 21st-century civil engineer plans for the present and the future. In this article, we highlight the top three U.S. cities in our annual assessment and see what they are doing to ensure that they will be the best places to live and work in the future.

Margaret M. Mitchell is the editor in chief of Civil Engineering

This article first appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Civil Engineering as “The Modern Engineer.”