Looking Beyond Office Jobs as a Maintenance Engineer

There are many engineers that work not in new production but in maintenance and repair capacities. These specialized engineering positions call on a whole new skill set that engineers involved in new production don’t typically get to use. Top engineers must be able not only to design from the ground up, but also to understand what was in the original designer’s mind. Software engineers called in to complete a project, maintenance engineers overseeing a complex commercial HVAC system, and designers upgrading an existing system are some examples of these in-demand specialists.

Large facilities such as college campuses and high-rise office buildings typically employ a cadre of engineers for the maintenance and improvement of its physical buildings and mechanical systems. Some maintenance engineers work in highly specialized environments; from amusement park rides and animatronic figures to the vital flood control systems protecting vulnerable coastal populations, maintenance is essential. To achieve success with these specialized systems, maintenance engineers undergo extensive education about the specifics of their jobs.

Prepare for a career that involves more maintenance than new construction by focusing on the following.

Research Skills

Some of London’s underground sewerage system was installed when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, yet these passages are still in use in a thoroughly modern city of millions. How do maintenance engineers begin to deal with centuries of construction? They start with outstanding research skills. They study plans that go back decades to understand the unique challenges they face and come up with site-specific solutions. Great research skills are an asset in any line of work, but they’re mission-critical for engineers working in specialized fields.

Thorough System Knowledge

Whether you’re in charge of a building on the National Register of Historic Places or welcoming visitors to safe fun in Tomorrowland, you’re going to need a thorough run-down of its intricacies and eccentricities. Entry-level positions may allow you some flexibility here, but working above entry-level requires mastery of the systems you’re overseeing. Set aside time for continuing education on specific aspects of the task at hand, including a clear understanding of what’s gone before. Working with engineers who know the job well and can mentor you is a significant bonus, so whenever possible, pick the brains of those who have been there the longest.

Proper Prioritization

Some maintenance engineers focus on a narrow task, while others have to be generalists, particularly if they work on a small team or in a highly specialized environment. It’s often up to the discretion of the chief maintenance engineer to prioritize incoming workflow. If that’s you, this means you need to be an excellent organizer with a clear view of the appropriate order of tasks Safety for workers, visitors, and the work site itself are always top priorities, but other elements factor into setting an effective work flow in place. For example, a project to convert a historic hotel into a shopping center may also need to take the time frame into account to ensure the facility opens in time for holiday shoppers.

Unusual Hours

If you’re working as a maintenance engineer on a unique project, you can expect to put in some hours that aren’t on a standard 9 to 5 schedule. Systems can fail at any hour of the day or night, and they don’t take weekends or holidays off – which means you don’t either. The good news is that you’ll generally be well compensated for your extra effort, either with overtime pay or a larger overall salary.

Unflinching Professionalism

A unique work environment also comes with unique stresses at times. Maybe you’re staring down the start of hurricane season with a levee system that isn’t yet complete. Maybe your zoo’s ventilation system went out in the reptile house. Maybe you have an elevator filled with foreign dignitaries stuck on the top floor of your historic hotel. Whatever it is, you need to deal with it now.  Such situations can test the mettle of any engineer. If you’re stay professional, competent, and cool during minor and major emergencies, you’re sure to move up in your organization.

For many engineers, improving and maintaining existing systems has its own appeal. If you’re one of them, consider looking outside the traditional venues for a career you can truly make your own.

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