Confessions of an Engineer Blogger

Oct 12, 2011

By Dan Kerr

Next week I’ll be participating on a panel at a social media conference in Harrisburg. My panel discussion will feature C-level executive perspectives on the use of social media at work. In my case, the focus will be corporate blogging. The speaking assignment is so far outside of my comfort zone that I decided to commit some perspectives to writing.

My favorite explanation of blogging motivation is by Ken Mueller, in his post 10 Reasons Why I Blog (And Why You Should, Too!) While his post effectively describes my own blogging experiences, I’ve found three additional reasons to keep cranking out the content.

It Builds Writing Muscle. My mom was a full blooded, first-generation Italian who graduated high school as valedictorian. She participated on her collegiate speech and debate teams and later became a high school English teacher. Words mattered in my family. That said, my engineering education was decidedly left-brain focused. I’ve spent a good part of my adult life trying to play right-brain catch-up. Blogging helps me to continually develop my communication skills. Writing is like exercise—the more you work at it, the more developed the muscles become.

A Recruiting Tool. There’s a tendency among executives to focus on the bottom line when executing any marketing strategy, blogging included. I’m asked questions like, “How many new customers has it gotten you?” A happy unforeseen consequence of the blog is in the recruitment of a different sort of “customer.” That is, future employees and colleagues. Young tech-savvy folks find us through our blog and related Google searches. Many of them like what they see and seek us out. They write things like, “I saw the work you did at the East Lycoming School District and that’s the sort of thing I want to be involved with.” Since we started blogging, recruiting has taken a new twist, with young, highly marketable job candidates knocking on our door. This, alone, makes our blog an essential business tool.

The Splinter Effect. I chose to work for a large contractor under the belief that it would make me a more effective engineer. Think about it: How many engineers have immediate access to the cost, schedule, and constructability issues implied by daily design decisions? But when I left my old consulting firm, many colleagues spoke to me as if I was leaving the engineering profession. I shrug off that attitude now as I did 14+ years ago. I like to say that engineering for a contractor makes you learn in dog years. There’s strength in diversity. Anything we can do to foster interaction among our diverse skill sets makes our business stronger. Our blog is doing that.

I could share many examples, but my favorite is the case of our shop manager, nicknamed Splinter. He and I couldn’t be more different (see graphic for proof). Our responsibilities represent the full breadth of McClure Company activities. While he’s focused on fabricating high-quality large bore pipe assemblies for our men in the field, I’m writing proposals or preparing for our next evening board presentation. Our paths don’t cross frequently enough.

But Splinter enjoys The M Files blog, especially when we talk energy. We occasionally pass each other near the coffee station. Instead of exchanging an obligatory, “How ya doin?” or “What’s up?,” we share our views on energy or the latest blog post.

It’s given our respective worlds a new opportunity to intersect. We’re speaking the same language and, whether he realizes it or not, he’s contributing to our written content.

I have more stories to share during our panel From the C-Level: Why Should Business Engage. Hope to meet you there!

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Dan Kerr

Dan Kerr is the Director of Energy Services for McClure Company. A full service mechanical contractor and energy services firm, McClure Company is the largest company of its kind in central Pennsylvania. They are one of 23 companies across the country to be accredited by the National Association of Energy Services Companies (NAESCO) to do energy performance based contracting.
A 1991 graduate of the Penn State school of Architectural Engineering, Dan is a registered Professional Engineer. He serves as vice chair ofthe American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineer’s (ASHRAE) technical committee for design/build contracting (TC 7.2), as a board member for NAESCO, and as an advisory board member to Penn State’s Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence (PACE).
Dan lives in Lancaster with his wife and two teenage boys. He enjoys participating in endurance sports, including an occasional Ironman triathlon.
Dan is the author of McClure Company’s The M Files energy and construction industry blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @RunOnEnergy.

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