As one of KTM’s founders has pointed out in the past, the word confidence can be reassuring or concerning. On its own, of course, it’s a fairly neutral word that denotes “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.”
Let’s look at how confidence relates to the professional world generally and to engineering more specifically.
Steering Clear of Arrogance
Unfortunately, confidence often closely borders arrogance, “an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.”
In other words, not a great way for people to interact.
As professionals, it’s important to make sure that our confidence in our abilities doesn’t morph into a sense of superiority over anyone else. That’s a given.
Naturally, we should all value expertise. But which expert would you rather listen to: one who treats you as inferior for not sharing their niche or one who treats you with respect and takes the time to communicate clearly and make sure you understand each other? That desire to treat others with the respect that we desire for ourselves led to one of KTM’s core values of living out the heart of a teacher: being kind and ready to help. We believe this approach is vital for healthy professional relationships.
Pursuing Well-Founded Confidence
Even with arrogance off the table, confidence itself can be empty. Arguably the most dangerous situation is for a professional to project confidence without possessing the skillset to follow through on their envisioned success.
Professionals—in our case, professional engineers (PE’s), technical designers, welders, and fabricators—need to dig deep beneath our confidence, grounding it in competence and making sure it’s based on “sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill, or strength” to perform our services well.
How do you prove your own competence? Or how do you know that your service provider is competent?
One method for establishing competence is through time and repeated success. This is where healthy business relationships become so important: The more a customer works with you and sees that you can deliver on your promises, the more they’ll trust you as a competent vendor (and recommend you to other customers).
You could say that the above method is a sort of proof by trial and error. But you don’t always have the time to prove yourself by trial, or the option to make errors without causing serious harm. Another way to demonstrate ability is through professional qualifications and certifications.
In the case of engineering, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) was founded with the goal of “creating a world where the public can be confident that engineering decisions affecting their lives are made by qualified and ethically accountable professionals.” To that end, the NSPE has a strict code of ethics that licensed engineers are bound to. This code requires engineers to prioritize public safety, honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior.
Earn a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited engineering program
Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
Complete four years of progressive engineering experience under a PE
Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
Most engineers are also required by their licensing states to complete continuing education credits to ensure that they maintain their skills and stay up to date in the field.
The bar for competence is high. Whether you’re looking for engineering, manufacturing, or other services, don’t by swayed by confidence alone. Make sure you’re dealing with a competent supplier who can demonstrate their ability to deliver services that are both efficient and safe.