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Seize Every Opportunity with Civil Engineer Garey Duncan, P.E.

The midday sun blazed with its piercing heat as Garey Duncan walked for lunch. In the bustling city of New Kingston, Jamaica, affordable and available parking is a luxury enjoyed by a select few. Without a doubt, it was more beneficial to travel by foot. As he strode along the sidewalk, he noticed a steel structure being erected behind the zinc barricade of a construction site. Only a few months before, he read about steel structure design and had put his knowledge to practice by designing a steel structure on his engineering software.

Diverting from his original plans for lunch, Garey went unto the construction site to speak to the foreman. He reasoned that there is always something to learn from someone with implementation experience. The foreman was more than happy to tell him how the steel was fabricated offsite and welded together for all the pieces to fit together. Since Garey had designed his own steel structure, this visit gave him a much deeper appreciation for the details in making sure his design is constructible. Zig Ziglar once declared that, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”. Garey was prepared and his hunger for knowledge and growth propelled him to seize the opportunity as it presented itself.

From as early as high school, Garey was drawn to subjects such as Technical Drawing and Physics and he exceled in them as well. In the first year of high school (Grade 9 in Jamaica), he had to choose subjects that would determine his career. He researched and discovered that Civil Engineering matched the subjects he loved, so he began to follow that path. He explained that this field involves the creation of structures, designs and systems for civil society, for example, environmental engineering (wastewater management) and transportation engineering (highway and roadway networks and routes). At the University of Technology, he pursued an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering, and has now attained his Professional Engineer (P.E.) licensure.

This is Part 2 in our short series on how to boost your professional development in the post COVID-19 era. We sat down with Civil Engineer Garey Duncan to get his perspective on professional development, and how you can make use of what is available as you journey to your ultimate destination.

Make the Most of On-the-Job Learning

In his own words, "an engineer is always learning." As Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti also concluded: “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” This means that no matter your profession, you can learn invaluable skills that will build the bridge to a business you want to start or another rung on the career ladder that you want to climb.

Right now, he is learning the irreplaceable skills of contract and project management, and interpersonal skills. He meticulously reviews each contract so that he may use the contract language and clauses when communicating with contractors and consultants. Also, he now knows what to adjust in the project scope for cost effectiveness, while still maintaining functionality and technical soundness. As a technical officer, the nature of his work mandates that he works closely with a social officer to provide a balanced approach to those they serve. It has taught him the importance of communication, collaboration and active listening to the end-users that will use his designs. He is driven to care about their concerns and issues before simply erecting a structure or designing a solution. All these skills are useful and critical as Garey is now in the process of establishing his own consultancy firm.

Pursue Professional Training

In our post-COVID world, there are numerous opportunities to be exploited through online learning platforms. Garey advises every professional to complete a course in entrepreneurship and social media marketing. With the first option, you are able to identify and understand your market, manage your business and discern when there is a lucrative opportunity. With the second option, you learn to optimize various platforms that make it affordable and accessible to successfully promote to your market.

For engineers and other professionals in technical fields, it might be tempting to only stick to your field. However, he encourages persons to learn a wide range of things and not box yourself in. When internal and external training opportunities are provided by his workplace, he attends every one of them. He has learnt about waste water testing at the Ministry of Health and Wellness; first aid and hazardous material at the CEAC Solutions Company Limited and now at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, he has been trained in writing effective Terms of References and writing effectively in the workplace. Garey puts into action what Tom Peters, business author and speaker advises: "If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shade."

Your Ultimate Destination

As we learn from Garey's story, numerous opportunities will present themselves. The destination of your professional career is dependent on what you do with those opportunities.

Garey ultimately wants to be known for his competence and sound engineering practices. He works in such a way that his designs are done in the realm of compliance, laws and codes set by the profession. His work should be able to stand the test of time. Therefore, he takes learning very seriously and seizes every opportunity that presents itself.

Proverbs 22:29 states, "Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank." We look forward to seeing Garey Duncan change the course of human history with his innovations.

Garey A. Duncan is a Civil Engineer who is registered with the Professional Engineers Registration Board in Jamaica. A graduate of the Faculty of Engineering and Computing, of the University of Technology, he was awarded the Desmond Young Award for being the top civil engineering graduate for the class of 2015, as well as being included on the faculty’s Dean’s List for his academic performance. He has worked in both the private and public sector as a civil engineer where he has gained substantial experience in engineering design, surveying and construction project and contract management. He is extremely passionate about his profession, always seeking to improve his competence whenever possible. His main interest is in engineering design and his ultimate aspiration is to establish his own consultancy firm, where he can focus on improving as a design engineer and establishing himself as a top tier consultant on the island.

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