Challenges confronting industry and society today demand solutions that go beyond engineering. That’s why RTM Engineering Consultants is launching Beyond Engineering, a podcast that specializes in sharing stories about innovative design, collaborative development and exacting execution that help buildings, businesses, and the people working inside them, work better.
In the inaugural episode of Beyond Engineering, David Piluski, a mechanical engineer and principal at RTM Engineering Consultants, talks about being an engineering technologist. He shares with podcaster R.C. “Bob” Dirkes how he began his journey as a technician and why he credits integration of digital design, communication and project management tools for much of his success as a technologist.
Here is an edited transcript of the discussion:
Bob Dirkes: Tell us about your role at RTM Engineering Consultants.
Dave Piluski: I’m a mechanical engineer by profession and education, and a licensed professional engineer with credentials in multiple states. I spend much of my time interacting with our clients, studio leaders and project engineers. My counterpart and I manage engineering operations and business development for the [Headquarters] office. Day-to-day I’m typically reviewing calculations and designs, consulting with and mentoring the team, writing engineering reports and preparing proposals.
Bob: How did you get started in this industry?
Dave: My father owned a small mechanical and electrical engineering firm. I began working at his firm in high school. I would clean up the office and file the large-format paper drawings that we used at the time. That evolved into on-the-job education. I learned about the type of engineering that we did in the office and the basics of building construction. I was able to get experience drafting designs, working with a team and interacting with clients. These are some of the same things that I do today, they have just evolved over time.
Bob: It sounds as though it was a true mentoring environment where the experienced people were working side-by-side with you.
Dave: Working at my father’s firm definitely opened doors. Although, expectations were very high. First, it was just a job. But later I saw the opportunities. I saw there were places to go and the work gelled with how my mind worked.
Bob: Where did your formal engineering education come in?
Dave: I attended a variety of schools over time due to events that took place in my father’s business and in my personal life. It took some time, but I eventually gained the credentials that I needed for a leadership role in this type of engineering business.
Bob: What did your journey look like? How did you arrive at where you are today?
Dave: After working at my father’s firm, I took some time to work on my own. I was a contract consultant for some other large firms. I built a partnership with a former associate of my father’s and spent about 15 years doing that. Eventually I moved on and landed at a mid-sized firm out of Waukesha, Wisconsin, as a principal and director of operations for a new office. About nine years later, I accepted the invitation of a great friend, and another former employee of my father’s, to meet RTM CEO Tony Mirchandani. I’ve been here three years and I haven’t looked back. It’s been wonderful.
Bob: You mentioned large-format paper drawings. Are you referring to blueprints? I can remember an entire room filled with blueprints and the process of translating them from Mylar to blueprint paper. I even remember the smell of the chemicals. How quickly has this process evolved? And how does that large-format process apply to what you do today?
Dave: Just like every other industry, today electronic drawings and PDFs are at the forefront. Most interchange between designers and constructors is via PDF. Although, I did have to go into the office today to actually sign and seal a set of drawings for a jurisdiction. So, sometimes, that still comes about. But, in general, we’ve moved to a full electronic drawing format.
Bob: We often argue that being a technologist is not all about technical skills. Practical experience and business acumen, along with knowing how to apply technology to solve problems and operating as part of a team is always in the mix. Why do today’s challenges in business and society require skills that go beyond engineering?
Dave: I’ve learned that while the fundamentals of what we do and how this industry operates are largely the same, no matter where you go, the operations and core values of a team of people can be highly unique. It’s these core values that have propelled RTM to apply our expertise in areas to expand beyond engineering.
Engineering is the application of science and art in collaboration with design to implement a successfully operating machine or system. If a firm is dedicated to quality outcomes, the key is differentiating and setting yourself apart as a team of technologists focused on taking the next step.
Bob: Elaborate on those core values. What are they? Can you give us some examples?
Dave: We’ve established our core values based on the acronym: CORE. “C” means we are collaborative communicators. We listen, we learn and we solve. As engineers, we understand that nothing thrives in a vacuum, so we take that into all we do. “O” means we believe in overall unity. We succeed together. We fail together. That’s really the essence of teamwork. “R” means we operate in an atmosphere of respect and trust. We do the right thing for our clients and our team. We believe in integrity and ethics and that forms the basis of all we do. “E” means excellence in engineering. We consistently work to find the right solution for the project. And while this is fundamentally what we do, we don’t take it for granted because it cannot stand on its own.
Bob: There may be a perception that working in a highly technical field is more about executing processes and running machines than it is about people and problem solving. Give us some perspective. Are RTM’s core values typical in this field?
Dave: As a firm, we see ourselves as engineering technologists doing the practical work in the laboratory of what is the built environment. By combining our core values with the science and art of engineering, we can deliver consistent, quality products to our clients. We seek individuals who are passionate about building their skills beyond engineering and moving into engineering technology.
Listen to this entire conversation and find future podcasts here.
Beyond Engineering is a podcast from RTM Engineering Consultants, a MEP and Civil engineering firm that goes beyond a typical consulting role. Listen as RTM technologists share stories about innovative design, collaborative development, and exacting execution that help buildings, businesses and the people working inside them, work better.
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