How To Become A Great Engineer like John A. Roebling – Part 2 OF 2

The following is a summary of Episode 38 of my podcast, The Engineering Career Coach (TECC) Podcast. I will summarize the main points in this post; however, you can also listen to the show through the player below or by subscribing on iTunes. I offer a career-changing tip at the end of each podcast session.

In this session of The Engineering Career Coach (TECC) Podcast, I will finish my interview with historian Clifford Zink who wrote The Roebling Legacy and bring you 10 more characteristics that made John Roebling a great engineer.

In this second half of the interview, Clifford discussed John Roebling’s engineering projects and proposals and 10 more characteristics that made Roebling the great engineer that he was.

The following characteristics were discussed in detail in this episode:

  1. Develop a marketing mindset. Roebling wrote articles to railroad journals about his wire ropes to market himself. Think about how you can market yourself as an engineer.
  2. Be entrepreneurial.  Roebling solved the problem of inadequate cables by developing wire ropes. Entrepreneurs identify problems and come up with solutions, similar to engineers.
  3. Become a great communicator.  John Roebling was able to communicate well through his articles and spoke really well with people. He also learned other languages and became fluent in English even though it wasn’t his native language. 
  4. Become a good writer. Many engineers think that because engineering is a technical profession, they can avoid writing and speaking, but writing is a huge part of engineering and one of the most important things we have to do to communicate with people. The way John Roebling wrote that letter to the railroad journal proved that he was able to effectively communicate with other people, both through speaking and writing.
  5. Instill confidence in others. Roebling was able to work with groups of people, and inspire them and help them to be confident. That is one of the characteristics of a true leader.  If you can do that in your engineering teams, you’re going to be a great engineering leader.
  6. Learn to effectively present proposals. John Roebling made people want to accept his proposals because they were thoroughly and beautifully presented. Your company will definitely appreciate it if you are able to present your ideas effectively.
  7. Be aware of the culture in the community you work in and be sensitive to it. As an engineer, you will work in some type of community. Think about this: are you sensitive to the needs of the community or are you just working with your own interests in mind?
  8. Make an effort learn about items outside of your specific field. As a civil engineer, John Roebling learned about architecture and was able to bring the two together. You don’t need to be an expert in every field, but understanding other fields that touch your field can help you to become a better engineer, especially if your company offers multiple service lines.
  9. Exhibit intensity. Intensity can drive you towards your goals and will be helpful for you; it certainly did for John Roebling.
  10. Don’t stray too far away from your chosen field. Maintain balance. Know your field and other aspects of the field but do what you’re good at and let the other experts do the rest. John Roebling knew about architecture enough to consider it in his projects but he did not do the architecture, he let the architects do it.

Check out Part 1 of this interview for the first eight characteristics on How to Become a Great Engineer like John A. Roebling.

Which of these characteristics is most important to you in becoming a great engineer?

Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success, found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website at to access all of the free engineering career resources he has created to help engineers succeed.