Anthony Fasano | Communication & Soft Skills for Engineers, & How to Retain Engineering Talent

 In Being an Engineer Podcast


Anthony Fasano

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What to learn in this episode?

Are you someone who wants clarity on your career options and wants top-notch career development to support your professional growth? If yes, then this episode is for you!

In this episode of The being an engineer podcast, Anthony talks about his life as an engineer and how he’s been able to help engineers develop their careers by building off of his own experience in the field.

So, if you’re ready for some insights that will help you advance your career, listen on!

Who is Anthony Fasano?

Anthony Fasano has a degree in Civil Engineering from Lafayette College and a Master’s in Civil Engineering from Columbia Engineering. 

Like many engineers, Anthony wanted to become a high-level executive in the engineering industry. From a typical employee, working a 9-5 job, he decided to start his own company: Engineering Management Institute, where he became an internal coach and trainer helping engineers become more effective managers and leaders through people’s skills development. This journey inspired Anthony to leave his engineering career behind in order to spend more time helping engineers become better.

You can find Anthony on LinkedIn here.


civil engineering, people, book, engineers, engineering, podcast, company, career, emi, civil engineers, skills, training, read, couple, listening, big, thought, anthony, bridges, develop
Presenter, Anthony Fasano, Aaron Moncur

Presenter 00:00
The being an engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. Enjoy the show.

Anthony Fasano 00:16
And I always tell engineers, if there’s only one skill you can work on, you don’t have time to work on a lot of stuff. Work on your public speaking skills.

Aaron Moncur 00:37
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Anthony Fasano, who is a civil engineer and founder of the Engineering Management Institute where his team helps engineers become more effective managers and leaders through people’s skills development. Anthony is also a TEDx speaker, a podcaster, a PE, and an author. Anthony, welcome to the show.

Anthony Fasano 01:04
Hey, thanks so much for having me, Aaron, I appreciate it.

Aaron Moncur 01:06
Absolutely. So tell me what what made you decide to become an engineer?

Anthony Fasano 01:12
So when I was in high school, I really enjoyed math and really enjoyed science. And I guess when you enjoy those two things, you know, people start telling you that you should maybe look into being an engineer. And I had a friend in high school whose father happened to be a civil engineer. So my parents got in touch with the Father. Yeah, he could use he wanted some summer help. So I kind of had almost like an engineering internship in high school. And I liked it. I mean, I liked civil engineering, because it was all a lot of outdoors work, and decided to go to school and ended up majoring in civil engineering.

Aaron Moncur 01:47
Nice. And was the schooling everything you expected? Or were there many surprises along the way?

Anthony Fasano 01:54
I think for the most part, it was kind of what I expected. I mean, I wasn’t totally sure what civil engineering was, civil engineering is a big field and has a lot of sub disciplines in it. So you know, I think most of my four years in school was trying to figure out, you know, which aspect of civil engineering I wanted to be, and I decided on structural engineering, and that’s not why I ended up in when I went out in the field. So but it was, it was, you know, I thought it was going to be difficult in terms of schoolwork, a lot of schoolwork, and it was, but luckily, my school was a good school, it was a small class. So there was really, you know, you can have real intimate conversations with the professors around help career support technical work. And it worked out great. I really enjoyed it.

Aaron Moncur 02:35
A lot of our listeners are mechanical engineers. And then there are also some civil engineers, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, and technicians or engineering adjacent type roles. For those listeners who don’t really understand what a civil engineer does. Can you share just a little bit about that? And maybe, if you can think of anything, what’s one or two things about civil engineering or civil engineers that the rest of us might not even realize?

Anthony Fasano 03:05
Yeah, so it’s a good question, what I always tell people, if they’re not sure what civil engineers do it just kind of look outside, because everything that you see somehow is impacted by civil engineering, roads, curbs, you know, all the drainage, when it rains, where the water all goes. And you know how it gets back to the streams and cleaned effectively, you turn on the faucet, all the water that comes out that you drink, there’s water treatment plants that civil engineers work on. So it’s really everything in the built environment, civil engineers impact in some way, shape or form, which I think is exciting, because there’s a lots of different things you can do. My wife’s also in a subset of civil called geotechnical engineering, which works in soils and foundations. And so it’s an exciting field. I think what makes it exciting right now is that civil engineers are heavily involved in infrastructure. And you know, right now, at least here in the US and beyond, you know, infrastructure as everything, infrastructure is getting old, which means that there’s a lot of new work that needs to be done to infrastructure. So the civil engineering world right now, is an exciting place to be. And it’s one that I think civil engineering companies will be busy for a very long time.

Aaron Moncur 04:09
Yeah. How was infrastructure infrastructure changing? Or how do you foresee a change over the next? I don’t know. 10 2050 years?

Anthony Fasano 04:18
Yeah, so So I have a podcast called The Civil Engineering podcast. And we do a lot of interviews around this. And one of the biggest ways that it’s changing is it’s becoming smarter. So actually had a podcast episode recently, we’re talking to a professor who’s doing a lot of research on this. And we’re not too far off from the actual roadway, being able to talk to your car. So there’ll be like sensors in the roadway. There’ll be sensors in the car, and they’ll kind of talk to each other for whatever reason, hazards coming, you know, traffic, whatever the case may be. You know, there’s all kinds of monitoring devices now that go on roadways and bridges that monitor how much they move and, you know, the structural safety of these bridges. So I think, really what infrastructure it’s getting smarter. I think that’s a big part of it. I think the other thing that people often don’t think about is, you know, there’s a lot that goes into building infrastructure, building big bridges and roadways. But there’s also a lot that goes into maintaining it over the long term. So if you can build them in maybe a smarter, more sustainable way, it may require less meetings over the long term, because that means is what ends up costing, sometimes more money than the actual construction over time.

Aaron Moncur 05:27
Oh, interesting. Yeah, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Something else that occurs to me and I don’t know, I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this. So humor me for a minute, if you will, you mentioned bridges, right. There’s a lot of planning and execution that goes into the building of a bridge. And that’s a big piece of infrastructure that gets used for, you know, decades and decades, if not longer than that. How do some of these infrastructures these large infrastructures, roads and, and bridges and large buildings and things like that? Have you thought a lot about how they affect or how they, how they? Well, I guess just how they affect the culture of the cities in which people live?

Anthony Fasano 06:14
Oh, yeah. I mean, I think it’s a big part of cities. You know, I mean, I think, you know, there’s certain cities that are known for certain bridges, for sure. When you think of a city like, you know, San Francisco, you think of the Golden Gate Bridge? You know, I know that others, like Pittsburgh, for example, has many small bridges. I know people No, no, think of that when some people when they think of Pittsburgh, so yeah, I mean, I think it gives a lot of character to different cities around the US, I think people go to cities to see some of these structures, which I think is great. And I think that what’s exciting about it from a civil engineering aspect is, you know, you really get the opportunity to work on these projects. And, and part of that working on these projects, and part of the design of them should be thinking about the history of the city, you know, how that how some of that will be reflected in newer designs. And you also have to account for, you know, nature in those areas, right, some cities may get more rain than others, some are much more dry, that can affect the materials that you use the design of the infrastructure, the colors you use. So I think that, you know, infrastructure is, you know, just as much about the culture and the character of the city. And it’s about, you know, being a critical component of, you know, transporting people around the city.

Aaron Moncur 07:29
Right, because it’s not just the infrastructure, right? If you build going back to the example of a bridge, if you build a bridge, you have to think about more than just the bridge. Now you have this migration of people from one landmass to another landmass. And you have to have infrastructure on the other side of that bridge, right, to accommodate this migration of people.

Anthony Fasano 07:51
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when you bring more people to a specific location, then you have to think about the consequences of that knowing what comes along with it. It’s kind of like, you know, when they have the Olympics, in certain cities, some of these cities have to do you know, major work, to be able to host an Olympic, you know, building stadiums, building new roads, building new bridges, and you know, and then of course, they have to handle the crowds. But then you also have to think about, like, what happens when they leave and something like that? That’s a short term occurrence, right? Are they going to use these four other things? Are they going to try to design them in a way that they can continue to serve the community long term, which I would hope that they would, since they’re investing that kind of money into it? So yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of planning that goes into civil engineering as well, you know, trying to think about the future and sustainability. And I think that’s, again, what makes it kind of an exciting profession, because there’s always things going on. And then there’s also older infrastructure that needs to be updated. Or there may be new infrastructure that needs to be built. So there’s, there’s all different kinds of possibilities out there in terms of projects.

Aaron Moncur 08:49
Well, I’m super excited for these smart roads that tell my car which Jack in the Box has the shortest drive thru line.

Anthony Fasano 08:55
So there you go.

Aaron Moncur 08:59
You have spent your career speaking and writing about engineering development in the form of communication and interpersonal skills. Were you always good at this these skills? Where did you have to intentionally develop them?

Anthony Fasano 09:16
So when I started practicing, as a civil engineer, one of the things I knew I wanted to do was kind of move up within the company, maybe be a department manager, maybe be an owner in the company one day. And so what I did was, you know, I’ve always been a big Tony Robbins fan and Tony Robbins always say, you know, if you want to be like someone, figure out what they’re doing, and try to do what they’re doing type of thing. So I looked at all the kind of leaders in the company and what I noticed was like an interesting pattern, which was, yeah, they had decent engineering skills, but they had great management skills, you know, they could communicate effectively. They knew how to delegate to people, they could run their projects, they could speak in public. And so I just really started focusing on all those skill sets. I started reading books, I started watching videos, doing courses you whatever I could do. And when I did that, I saw my career start to kind of take off because of that. And then one day, my boss approached me and he said, you know, we love what you’re doing? Do you think you could go around to the other offices and train the other engineers on these skill sets? And that’s kind of when I got into the whole world of kind of learning and development in corporate training. But that’s really what it was, for me was recognizing that I needed those skills to be successful in my career. And so, you know, I had to learn that.

Aaron Moncur 10:30
Yeah. Can you think of one or two really tactical things that someone listening to this podcast right now could take and apply in their lives right now in terms of improving their communication or interpersonal skills? Just one or two, like, super, really specific tactical things that a person could start doing?

Anthony Fasano 10:48
Yeah, sure. I think listening is one that’s important. I think when you say the word communication, everybody thinks about talking. But it’s only half of it, right? Because the other half, hopefully, you’re listening the other half of it, or more, yeah, or more, which a lot of people don’t, unfortunately, but one of the things that I learned in coaching school that I teach in our classes is, you know, good active listening. So when you’re in a conversation with someone, you need to hear us, you should hear a second of silence between them talking and you talking. So I think a lot of times, what happens is we kind of jumped the gun a little bit, and we’ll be cutting people off. And so you know, making sure that you listen, for that moment, that second of silence, it’s very difficult to do sometimes. But that’s definitely like one kind of immediate impact that you could take to become a better communicator. And I think a second thing that we often teach too, is acknowledging people. So if you’re in a conversation with someone, and they’re saying something to you, by repeating a couple of those words back to them, it’s a very good way to reinforce to them that you’ve heard them that you’re listening, and it kind of really can kind of create some more meaningful dialogue, because they feel like they’re being heard, which is positive. So I think listening for the silence and acknowledging people are a couple of tips that I always try to give to people, they’re not as easy to do as they sound, but if you practice, they can be very beneficial.

Aaron Moncur 12:06
Yeah, I have two thoughts. The first is that we might have a lot of silence in this podcast now, because I’m going to be hyper vigilant about waiting for a second or two after you finish speaking, which is going to drive my editor crazy. And the second one is just just a thought, I don’t know what the follow up after this thought is, but the art or the skill of listening seems like such a almost a boring or benign skill, right? It might not be the sexy things that people are looking for, to really enhance their communication skills, but it’s probably one of the most important at the same time.

Anthony Fasano 12:43
Yeah, because what happens is, if you’re listening effectively, then you can then you know, speak in a way that’s going to more kind of suit the needs of the individual you’re talking to, like, if I’m talking to a client, for example, and I’m just trying to give out a bunch of solutions before really understanding what the problem is, then I may not be able to, that may not be the most valuable response that I can give them. So I think really, when you’re listening, you’re trying to understand what how you can help that other person, you know, and what they need to hear back from you. And I think if you skip that step, you don’t know that what you’re telling them is helpful or beneficial in any way. And to me, that’s just that’s kind of the opposite of how you want to, you know, communicate with people.

Aaron Moncur 13:24
We had a, we put an a pool in our backyard a few years ago. And before we did, so we had a couple of different pool companies come out and give us quotes to do this. And I remember one of the pool salesman, he came out and he’d started telling us Yeah, I’ve been selling pools for 30 years, I’m really good at it. He was very proud of himself. And he says to us that one of the greatest skills I have is my ability to listen. And then he went on for probably five minutes straight, just talking without asking a single question. I thought it was, it was so funny.I’ve done some sales training myself, and they always tell us, you know, you should be listening at least twice as much as you’re talking. And I’ve always found that to be a pretty good rule of thumb. Well, one of the things that your team at at EMI does is help companies develop recruitment and retention strategies for engineering companies. For all the engineering hiring managers out there, what are a few of the strategies that have proven effective in hiring and retaining engineering talent?

Anthony Fasano 14:31
Yeah, it’s a great question, Aaron. And so one of the things that I’ve had the pleasure of being able to do over the last, she’s 12 to 15 years now is have many, many conversations with engineering professionals around their career, whether it’s been one on one coaching, seminars, corporate training, my own experiences in my engineering career. And what I’ve kind of found out is that what engineering professionals want more than anything else is their company to support them in their career growth. In fact, I did a survey recently on LinkedIn and I had over 700 engineers respond to the survey, I think it was close to 60% selected career growth and development is the number one thing they want from the company over pay over a title over benefits over work from home flexibility. And so when we help companies with their recruiting strategies, we try to let them know that that’s what engineers want. And that’s what you need to be talking to them about, right, because other companies are just trying to throw maybe money at them or special special benefits. They want to know that if they come and work at your company, you’re going to support their career growth, you’re going to give them the training they need, you’re going to give them the skills that they need, you’re going to give them the great projects to work on. And so that’s really the fundamental kind of key to creating a great recruiting strategy. And some of the things that we do with companies to help them is we developed something called the EMI career roadmap where we can go into a company and help them design a career roadmap for their employees, because a lot of engineering companies, if you ask someone, know, what are the next steps for you in this company, they don’t know. Like, they don’t know what the career path in their company looks like. And so I kind of tell people that if that’s your employee, they’re on a, they’re kind of on a boat, and they’re just in a fog. And they’re just kind of going out on the water, and they don’t know where they’re going in their career. So you need to provide some clarity for them. And if you can provide that clarity, which can be done with this career roadmap, that’s a huge first step in the process. And then behind that, typically will create some learning and development programs like a project management, training, or people management training, and then we’ll put them right in the career roadmap. So now you could say to someone, Hey, Aaron, you’re going to be a project manager next year, you could see it on the career roadmap, and we’re going to give you project management training to support you through that transition. And like 90% of engineering companies just don’t do that. And so, if I’m sitting across the table from you, and I’m interviewing you, and I’m holding up a roadmap, and I’m showing you these things, you can bet that out of all the companies I’m interviewing with, I’m going to remember your company.

Aaron Moncur 16:59
That sounds like a daunting task for an engineering company or any company to develop their own internal training. Since I’m speaking with you, Anthony, founder of EMI, is that something that could be outsourced to your company? If if we wanted you to help us develop different training programs or not? Is that not really what EMI does? No, I

Anthony Fasano 17:20
mean, that’s exactly what we do. We do learning and development programs, and we do a lot of custom programs. And really, what I can say to any engineering company listening right now is really what you want to have is a good blend in your program. So if you’re a smaller engineering company, you know, we run some general programs, right where like, let’s say 10, companies will enroll a couple of engineers, and we’ll do obsession for 20 or 30 people from different companies. And that’s good if you’re a smaller company. But once you start to become a larger company, you’re going to want a custom program, because you’re going to want to have your verbiage, your templates, all of your stuff in the training, maybe some of your managers sitting in or speaking and delivering components of the training. So we do at EMS, we have our core curriculums for project management, training and people management people leadership. And so we’ll get with a company and we’ll go through a process that we use to help them well, we take our curriculum, and we design it to be their curriculum, essentially, by putting in some of their stuff, and then we deliver it essentially, or they can deliver it with us, or we can eventually train them to deliver it. But the reception to something like that is much higher. And not only is it much higher, but what I tell these companies, Aaron is that when you invest in a program like that, you’re going to get a return on investment in three ways. First of all, it’s a great recruiting tool should go right on your careers page on your website, we have a custom built, you know, project management training that our employees have access to. Secondly, you’re obviously going to get a return on investment if you’re developing project management or people leadership skills of your engineers, because your projects are probably going to be more profitable, most likely better interaction between people. And then lastly, you’re not going to lose as many people as most companies do. So your retention rates are going to be higher. So you’re going to have recruitment, development and retention. So that’s what I tell engineering companies when we work with them, because you don’t want to just think of buying a training program. And you’re just that’s just a last expense. You want to think of it as you’re spending money, and you’re getting a return on it many different ways.

Aaron Moncur 19:16
Yeah. If I were a, a doubting Thomas, I might be thinking to myself, well, that that sounds good on paper, but is it really going to pay off in those ways? Can you think of any stories where maybe there’s a client that you’ve worked with, and you’ve helped them develop this, this training program, and it really like tangibly paid off in in several ways down the road?

Anthony Fasano 19:42
Yeah, I mean, there’s several companies that I can think of that we build training programs for, although maybe something more interesting is one of the companies that we worked with a couple of them. When we go through the process of designing these programs or designing the roadmap, we interview about 20 3040 employees depending on how big the company is. One of the questions that we asked Which is an interesting question is what can another company offer you to entice leaving your company?

Aaron Moncur 20:06
Oh, that’s a great question. I love it.

Anthony Fasano 20:09
And what do you think the number one answer to that question is?

Aaron Moncur 20:14
Wow, what a wonderful question give me just 10 seconds to think about this. The word culture comes to mind, but I hate using it because it feels so trendy and poorly defined, but maybe more more of a sense of belonging of just safety, not necessarily physical safety, but but psychological safety. Something along those lines,

Anthony Fasano 20:39
the number one answer that we get is, believe it or not, is training. Really, most engineers say we don’t get training here, we have some like online programs, we can log into once in a while, but it’s not very engaging. You know, we need more training in management, management transition, how to communicate with people, etc. which was surprising to me the first few times we did that, and we asked that question, I thought for sure, maybe the money or salary or bonus or title or something like that. But it’s not surprising to me, because if I go back to what I told you before, when all the engineers say I’m looking for career growth and development opportunities, that lines up with him saying training. And so that’s just to go back to your question is, if people are answering that question with the word training, then you know, developing these learning and development programs is gonna be a return on investment, because that’s what they’re looking for. And if you don’t give it to them, they’re gonna go look for it somewhere else. And we’ve ended up building some great custom programs. And we’ve delivered one, just recently, we did one. And this is a company that had no project management training, probably a six 700 person company. And project management is critical for engineering company, if you’re not managing your projects properly, you could be losing millions of dollars a year, literally. And so you know, we worked with them, it took us about four or five months, we developed this custom program, and we delivered the pilot program. And the feedback from everyone in their company was overwhelmingly positive. But not just that, the fact is that now you could say that you have a project management training program, every engineering company should be able to say that, whether you have 10 people, and you’re sending people somewhere where you have 1000 people and you’ve built your own. So I just think that we need to remember that. It’s not just about how many hours you can get out of your professionals to work on your projects, you need to continue to support them in their growth.

Aaron Moncur 22:21
Okay, that was great insight. Awesome, thank you for sharing that. I’m going to take a very quick break here and share with the listeners that team pipeline that US is where you can learn more about how we help medical device and other product engineering or manufacturing teams, develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines to characterize, inspect, assemble, manufacture and perform verification testing on your devices. We’re speaking with Anthony Fasano today, Anthony, you wrote a book, which is available on Amazon, and I’m sure other outlets as well called engineer your own success, seven key elements to creating an extraordinary engineering career. How did you get the idea to write this book and what compelled you to spend the time to make it happen?

Anthony Fasano 23:11
So I mentioned earlier that my boss had asked me to do some training within the company I worked for to go around to the other offices and train the engineers and some of the softer skills. And when I did that training, I just kind of took everything that was in my brain, I wrote on a piece of paper, and I kind of came up with like an outline for the presentation, you know, and I gave it a few times within the company. And it went pretty well. Then I decided to experiment a little bit. And I went to some of the local associations, and I, you know, in a couple of venues, and I gave the talk and it was received, like really well. And so you know, sort of going off in my brain like if this is received so well, that means people really need help with these skill sets. So when I left my engineering career in 2009, I started doing the coaching and consulting on full time. I just said right away, I got to put this information to a book, I think it’s going to be easier for me to get it out there to more engineers. And so I literally just got up every morning, got on my laptop and started writing. It took me about 30 days and I had a manuscript just like a draft manuscript, and ended up self publishing that first version of it, and then it did really well. And I was approached by Wiley presses engineering division, I Tripoli Wiley. And they wanted to republish it with some added information, updated version and so as part of their communication series, and so ended up you know, republishing with them, I added some more stuff. And I, you know, I thought that they did a really good job and helped me to improve the book. And I’ve just been, you know, traveling around, I would say, I visited about over 40 US States speaking with topics in the book from Maine to Alaska. I actually went all over Alaska, believe it or not a couple of civil engineering organizations. So it’s been a fun ride. And really, the whole point of doing the book was, I feel like everything in that book, if an engineer reads it, they can really boost their careers because it’s a lot of the skills that we don’t we aren’t taught in school, and I was just looking for a mass way to get it out there too. A lot of people and that’s that’s what took me down that road.

Aaron Moncur 25:02
Yeah. I’m curious about the process of writing a book, I have never written a book. What? What did you? Did you just use like Microsoft Word to put it together?

Anthony Fasano 25:13
Yeah, I mean, I think the key with writing a book is really having a good outline of the book. It’s kind of like, you know, as an engineer, can good planner can think analytically. So if I know I have like 10 chapters in a book, then I can just put them on to like a Word document or any kind of writing software that you want to use, and then just take one at a time just tackle each one of those segments. And that’s the way I do it. I’m working on another book. Now. We do so much content, and EMI, I’ve really gotten used to writing. But yeah, I mean, that’s really the way I did it, I just, you know, kind of came up with an outline of how I wanted the book to look. And then I took it section by section.

Aaron Moncur 25:50
What about the logistics of self publishing? How does that work, I mean, you just finish it and export to PDF, and then put it on some websites for sale.

Anthony Fasano 25:58
Um, I kind of went the route of getting a couple of people to help me someone like a book designer and an editor and then have them, the book designer was familiar with getting it up on the Amazon, that’s one of the things I’ve done in my career. I mean, we have four podcasts, three YouTube channels, three blogs, here, EMI, and I kind of made the commitment very early on, that the only thing I was gonna do was like, the recording, no, I’m fine being on the camera, I’m fine writing it down. But after that, I’m gonna have to get help because I just don’t want to focus on that kind of stuff. I’m my talent is helping engineers succeed, not doing any of the editing or figuring out what buttons to push. But I got a great book designer, and he helped me with the process. And once the thing was edited, he helped me with it. And I’ve been self publishing stuff, since actually, I’ve written a couple other books not related to engineering ever content marketing book, I have a book about finding ancestors that was like a hobby of mine went to Italy and found some family there and connected with them. And so I’ve been self publishing it. Because if you have an audience and you self publish it, I mean, the whole thing about the publishers and helps you to get it to more people, theoretically. But if you have a large audience, which we now have, through BMI, I can sell publish the book and get it out there now through those channels. So it kind of changes the philosophy on it. And it’s also you could get it, you could get the book out there much quicker if you self publish it.

Aaron Moncur 27:16
Can you share? What are a few of the seven key elements that you discussed in your book to creating an extraordinary engineering career?

Anthony Fasano 27:24
Sure. Well, communication is is a big one, of course, we talked about that a little bit, you and I already. Another one that’s really important on the kind of lump these two together is building expertise, right? In the world of engineering, looking, always looking for experts, your clients are looking for experts in certain areas. And what goes along with that is being able to communicate that expertise, which one of the best ways to do it is through public speaking. And I always tell engineers, if there’s only one skill you can work on, you don’t have time to work on a lot of stuff, work on your public speaking skills, even if you never ever have to get up on stage. Because what’s, what public speaking helps you do is to build confidence. And I don’t care what skills you want to build communication, networking, whatever it is, I can teach you all these skills over weeks and months. But if you’re not confident in your own abilities, it’s hard for you to get out there and execute on those skill sets. And so by getting up there in front of an audience, whether you join a group like Toastmasters, which is a wonderful organization, you speak in front of people, and help every time you get up in front of a room, you build confidence in yourself. And that helps you with all your skill sets. So if you’re an engineer thinking, you know, I really want to get better at my Soft Skills, my people interaction skills, go out there and speak in public do sessions lunch and learns in your company. That’s the one skill era. And I think if you invested in it, it can transform your career, because like I said, competence, and it will help you in your conversational skills, too, because it’s just communication.

Aaron Moncur 28:53
It all comes back to communication, doesn’t it? It all

Anthony Fasano 28:56
does. I mean, it really does. And like we talked about earlier, it’s everything you do. You know, it’s the listening, it’s the talking, it’s engaging with people. But public speaking is a way to practice your communication skills where you can really probably for most engineers, push yourself outside of your comfort zone to the point you’re really going to make improvements.

Aaron Moncur 29:14
Yeah, I feel like we always come back to communication on this podcast, I I should just change it from the being an engineer to like being a communicator podcast or something like that. Let’s see. Let’s talk about training a little bit more. Our engineering manager Michael at Pipeline, he says that communication only happens to the degree that the other party understands what you’ve said. So you might feel like you’ve done an excellent job. Sharing your thoughts, making your your your thoughts known, but if the other party doesn’t really understand what we’re saying then communication has not happened. What are a few of the most effective methods that that you have used to communicate engineering lessons to engineers who want to learn.

Anthony Fasano 30:07
It’s a good question. And first, the first thing I’ll say right off the bat is I really dislike the word training. And I’ll tell you why in the engineer, and I use it still from time to time, because in the engineering world, it’s a very commonly used word. Most engineers associate the word training with a one time event, they go to a webinar, they watch a webinar, or they go to a conference for the day. And then they go back to work, which means that they associate the word training with I go to the session, and I come back, I go to do training, and I’m done. Right. And everybody knows that you can’t go to a one hour webinar and and get better at whatever skill you want to learn about, that doesn’t work that way, takes like months, if not years, right to become a better communicator, a better business development person, wherever the case may be. So we’re transitioning all of our verbiage at EMI this year to learning and development as opposed to training. And I think when you think of learning and development training is absolutely a component of that. So if I put on, if we, if you come to one of our programs, you’re going to go through some of our live webinars, which I say is a training session. But then we give you some assignments in between where you got to go out and actually practice these skills on the job. And the combination of those different actions constitutes learning and development and helps people to make real improvements. And I think that’s what we try to do at EMI. That’s different than what a lot of other companies do. And the reason I can tell you that is because I used to get sent to these boot camp trainings as an engineer, where I would go for the whole day, the whole weekend, I’d be locked in a big room in a hotel with a bunch of people that give you a binder, and they throw all this information at you. And then the information was great, it was really good training. But then I would go back to work, I put the binder on my shelf, and I never ever look at it again, basically, right? Like I don’t have the time to look at it, no one was going to support me on an implementation. So we try to do it, EMI would all of our learning and development programs is they consist of some kind of training event, they consist of some kind of assignment where they have to practice it on the job and you know, listen active listening with people that they’re going to go into a conference room with or on a call with. And then also, for up to a year after most of our training programs, we do these quarterly coaching support calls. So if you go through our people leadership course in January, and then in March or April, you’re having trouble you’re trying to connect with one of your team members is not working out, you could jump on one of our quarterly support calls, all of our past participants are allowed to come on these calls and ask any questions they have about implementing these skills, because because we understand that learning and development is an ongoing process. It’s never, it’s never a one time event. And so that’s constantly what we try to preach at EMI and what we try to develop through our programs, that you need to feel like we’re helping you actually make real improvements on the job. You’re not just coming to a webinar.

Aaron Moncur 32:47
Yeah, we like to say that doing is better than learning about doing it sounds like you implement that quite a bit in your non training training 100%. You’ve mentioned the the civil engineering podcast that that you host, and you have some other podcasts as well. There’s the engineering career coach podcast, and I think I saw one or two others on your website. Those two in particular, though, are pretty popular. I think I saw millions of downloads on them. And this is kind of a selfish question, because I have a podcast that I would like to grow. But how did you grow your podcasts? How did you become so successful with those?

Anthony Fasano 33:31
Yeah, so I’ll give you the backstory on it’s kind of the progression of because I think it tells the story a little bit. I just when I started doing the work, I wanted to get out there and do the coaching and training for engineers, right? I was like thinking about it, like, how can I get out there and just let people know that these skills are important and that they need these skills. Because when I started doing this, a lot of engineers and engineering companies didn’t realize the importance of these softer skills. Now, thankfully they do. But they didn’t back then. So I figured let me start a podcast. And we’ll talk about this was the engineering career coach podcast, and I figured I’ll talk about all these different skills that can really help someone in their engineering career. It was funny, because when I was about to start the podcast, a lot of people told me that it was gonna be a waste of time, because most engineers are too busy to listen to a podcast, like around soft skills in their career. And so I was like, You know what, I’m going to give it a shot anyway. So I ended up starting it. And it went really well. We started getting traction. And you know, like I said, I was driving all over the country with my book. So every time I would speak, I would get email addresses, and I would send them the podcast, and it kind of started organically to grow. I really built a big LinkedIn following which was helpful and getting it out there. But I think the one thing I could say about growing a podcast is just the value of the content, right? Like if there’s good value in the podcast and you have a specific audience, I think having a niche audience is important like knowing who your audiences, I think people will find the podcast. But what happened for me was since I have a lot of civil engineers in my audience, because I’m a civil engineer, so a lot of the companies I’m connected with are. And so people sort of asked me like civil engineering questions for the podcast. And so I said to them, I said, Okay, I said, we have listeners that are mechanical, electrical chemical. So I can’t really go that specific on civil on this podcast. But I can certainly start another podcast. And so I started the civil engineering podcast, which again, I had my doubts about, because you know, is, can you seriously have a podcast just about civil engineering. But what amazed me was that that podcast became more popular than the other one and downloads very quickly. Well, which was, you know, kind of a little bit of a marketing lesson for me was that when you have a very specific niche, and there isn’t a lot of content that speaks specifically to them, people are going to find it right. They’re going to go to Apple podcasts and type civil engineering, and they’re going to see the civil engineering podcast, and I’m going to see 20 podcasts on civil engineering. So the civil engineering podcast really started to take off. No, it’s been, it’s been downloaded many times, we’ve had civil engineering, like National Presidents on for civil engineering associations and stuff like that. So it’s been great. And then what happened was, there’s those sub disciplines that I mentioned to you earlier, like the geotechnical engineering, which my wife does, there’s structural engineering. And so we started a couple of niche podcasts in those niches as well. And they’ve grown very, very successfully as well. So really, to get back to your your overall question, I think having a very specific audience and providing them value, is the really the best ways to grow the podcast. And something that’s also been helpful for me is finding some professional associations that are in those niches and working with them. Like, for example, we’ve had some partnerships with some associations where we’ve agreed to bring some of their leadership on the podcast, and in return, they would share the podcast for us to their you know, 1000s of members. And that’s been a really good way for us to grow the podcast.

Aaron Moncur 36:47
That’s a great tip. I like that one, leveraging existing networks out there.

Anthony Fasano 36:51
Yeah, for sure. Okay,

Aaron Moncur 36:53
well, beyond all of the wonderful content that EMI already offers, are there any, any books or training materials in particular that you recommend engineers consume?

Anthony Fasano 37:06
Oh, man, I used to read about a book a week, I’m a big reader. But I’ve slowed down a bit, because what I found is that I get more selective with what I’m reading now. And I end up reading a book two or three times. And then I and I actually have, I have some, I have a stack of note cards here. And then I go through and I make memo cards with the main points from the book, and I put them all in a box. And then I’m able to pull out that book in about 20, no cards, and I can go through the main points of it, which is like, kind of what I’ve been doing lately. But some of my favorite books, I would say are some of my favorite authors. I really like I just read a book by Cal Newport a world without email that I really love. It’s an

Aaron Moncur 37:46
awesome thing. Cal, he wrote deep work, right, he wrote

Anthony Fasano 37:49
deep work. And this is kind of an extension of that, where he’s basically talks a lot about how, you know, we live in a world with MS teams now, and slack and email and all these things. And it’s really difficult to do deep work, because you’re constantly dealing with all these notifications. And so he talks about how emails essentially destroyed our ability to do creative work, because everyone’s constantly being responsive. And so the framework is like, imagine a world without email. And what he’s saying is the way to create that is the building systems into your workday, so that you only maybe have to check it a certain amount of times, or you have a shared sheet with your team where certain things happen in that sheet every certain days. And you don’t have to go back and forth and talk about it and things of that nature. So we’ve implemented a bunch of them EMI. So that’s a great book, another book that I recently read. I think I’ve read it a couple of times already, is business made simple by Donald Miller. That’s a great book. And just talks a lot about building a business and marketing and telling the story to your clients, you know, that’s going to be beneficial for them. So that’s a really, really good one, for sure. And I read a lot of stuff, too, I read some different. I try to read some fiction books too, like at night, just to kind of wind down stuff again. So I got a lot of stuff I read, but Cal Newports. Great. And, you know any and I also because I have the podcast, and I’m constantly asking people, you know what, I asked the same thing as you, you know, what books have you read lately? I get as soon as they tell me a good book, I end up on Amazon buying the book. And that’s how I get a lot of my books. But, you know, I try to read a lot because I feel like one tip from one book and really changed the course of one’s career can change the course of your company. And you know, to me, I think that that’s really valuable. And that’s why I try to encourage people that they do get out there and they do read. And that’s the other thing about the podcast is it’s great to have a podcast because people can listen about certain things, how to be better communicator, etc. But unless they’re doing it, right and taking the action on it. That’s how real change happens. And so I always tell people, if you’re going to read a book That’s fine, but then take action from the book. If you’re going to listen to a podcast, that’s fine. But what process do you have in place to then put that to action?

Aaron Moncur 40:07
Yeah, that’s, that’s really great advice. I love the books that you’ve entered. I’m going to check out that one by Cal Newport a world without email, right? You said, yeah. Yeah, that sounds really interesting. And as you were speaking, a couple of thoughts came to mind for me. One, you mentioned reading, fiction. And I like to read a lot of nonfiction probably very similar to you a lot of kind of personal development style books. But I find that I get burned out sometimes. And I’ll open up the latest personal development book, and I just, I won’t be able to get into it, I won’t be able to get engaged. And lately, I’ve started reading a little bit of fiction, which is not common for me. I’m reading a book right now that my brother gifted me It’s Matthew McConaughey his autobiography, which, at first, I was not interested in it. All right, I thought to myself, Wow, this guy’s like, in all these chick flicks. And do I really want to spend my time reading his autobiography. But my brother said, don’t just give it a chance. It’s really interesting. So I did, and I maybe a third of the way through it right now, this guy had a wild upbringing. It’s it’s a, it’s a fun read, for sure. So whatever your thoughts about Matthew McConaughey, as an actor, his his autobiography is actually really interesting. And I can’t remember what the other thought I had was now, but oh, it was about it was about deep work. Right? I know what it was. If you have an iPhone, or even I’m sure Android has the same thing. But on the latest iOS, they have this, this this new focus mode where it silences all notifications. And they had a focus mode before but it wasn’t as feature rich. And now you can get really specific with it, you can turn it on and off, schedule it for different times during the day. And you can allow some exceptions, if you will always want to get text messages from your wife, you can get that or, you know, it’s a lot more feature rich now. And I found that to be really helpful for me. So I don’t get any no notifications at all. Except for I think the hours from 7am to 8:30am, noon to one and 6pm to 9pm That’s the only time that I get notifications, otherwise, nothing comes through. And it’s been really helpful just in terms of my, my level of well, deep work, you know, really being able to get into something because I don’t know about you, Anthony, but I, I do not have the mental capacity to prevent myself from going down a rabbit hole. If I open up my email, and I see some unread messages in there, I almost can’t stop myself from from reading them. And sometimes I’ll think to myself, I’m just gonna take a quick glance, you know, quick glance, 20 minutes later, like I’m, you know, responding to all these emails, and I’m just distracted from what I’m supposed to be doing. So I find that using technology to to aggressively block all of these notifications that just even prevent the opportunity from me seeing them, it has been really, really helpful.

Anthony Fasano 43:15
Yeah, in fact, I’ll give you one of the things I use on my email to help with that is there’s an app in Gmail called inbox pause, which is really cool. It’s literally a pause button on your email, you can hit the pause button, and no emails come in interesting. Okay, similar to what you said is that you could set it to deliver emails at whatever times you want to have the emails delivered. And so that’s how I have it set up now. And I could set it. So if there’s a couple of clients I’m working with on some, you know, urgent projects, I can let their emails come through. And there’s some filters like that, but for the most part, it’s great, because at the end of the day, and like, this is kind of what Cal Newport says in his book is like, if you check email twice a day, or three times a day versus 100 times a day, you’re not any better off for your clients. So what’s the point? You might as well just pick a couple times in the day and check them nothing’s gonna blow up in three hours, you know, right. So. So the pause app is really beneficial, really helpful.

Aaron Moncur 44:07
That’s a great productivity hack. All right, Anthony. Well, I think we’re getting to the end here. Is there anything else that you think we should talk about that we haven’t covered yet?

Anthony Fasano 44:18
No, I mean, I think that at the end of the day, just, you know, thinking about career growth and development, I would just encourage everybody to definitely push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try to identify the skills that can really be the biggest game changers for you. We didn’t get into the Pareto principle at all, but I pretty much the 8020 rule is something that I pretty much live off of, personally and professionally. It’s a big driver for us at EMI and what we focus on, then if you’re not, hopefully, you know, talk talk about that. Yeah, if you’re not familiar with the 8020 rule, it’s it’s it was developed by Vilfredo Pareto a couple 100 years ago, an Italian mathematician. He was kind of studying the distribution of wealth in the United Kingdom and he noticed that 20% of the people in UK possessed 80% of the wealth in the country. And we noticed that pattern two or three years in a row, he looked at his own land ownership in his home country of Italy, he noticed that 20% of Italians owned 80% of the land. And he started realizing that this seems like an interesting pattern. So we walked outside through his vegetable garden, he took a look at it, and he noticed that 20% of the garden was yielding 80% of the vegetables. So he ended up developing this Pareto principle. And essentially, what it says, We need to know about it is that he boiled it down to 80% of the success in your career in your life comes from 20% of your efforts, you know, 80% of your productivity every week, comes from 20% of your efforts. 20% of the emails in your inbox are important, essentially, right, like 80% of the importance. So when you know that you can kind of look at life and everything you’re doing differently, and just saying, Hey, I just need to focus on those 20% Because they’re driving the 80% of success. Everything else is very minor. And so you know, that’s how we think about what we’re working on each quarter EMI, that’s how we decide on what I’m going to work on every day every week by you know, figuring out my most important tasks based on that. But essentially getting back to career growth. If you think about it, there are a couple of key skills that could be tremendous drivers for you, like I said, the public speaking the communications, you know, when you think about those couple of things, if you focus your energy on those things, that’s going to be the that’s what’s going to drive success for you. And I’ll give you a book that can help Richard Kosh Koc, he is like kind of the the best author on the 8020 rule. He’s got it like, now he’s got like four or five different books on the 8020 rule, you know, one for business, on personal life, etc. I still think his one of his just most simple books living the 8020 way, it’s got a maroon cover, I think it’s still on Amazon, it might not be on Amazon anymore, you can get on eBay. It’s just the best way that describes the 8020 rule. And I’ll give you one last example, the 8020 rule. If you think about the tasks that you’re doing on a daily basis, what the 8020 rule does is it looks at things in terms of the effort versus the impact, right? So you can have a task that’s low effort, and high impact. Gotta have a task, that’s high effort, but it’s still high impact, where you can have tasks which a lot of people get caught up on, which are low or high effort, but they’re low impact, right? So you could be doing something for hours and generate very low impact. And so there’s actually a quadrant, a chart that he has that as the impact versus effort and you can literally drop your tasks into one of the four boxes, and you can really see am I working on tasks that are low effort, high impact? Or am I working on low impact tasks. And to me, you know, it’s funny, because it really applies to everything in life, I always tell people the story is that when I figured out this rule was real, I realized that I only wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time, which is completely true. It’s great, because I always like holds true. So when I figured that out, I live in the Northeast. So every spring, we would put all the winter clothes away, we take out the summer clothes, you’d go in the attic, me and my wife. So when I figured that out to my wife, McLean a second, we’re only wearing 20% of our clothes, we just give away like half of them, we can get everything in one dresser and one closet, never got to go in the attic again. So sure enough, I did that, like five years ago. And it’s great because I never have to do anything. But my wife, of course, didn’t want to do that. So she’s changed things out. But it’s just another example of the 8020 rule at work. And that if you always think about the 8020 rule, you’ll be very successful, because you’ll be focusing on the right things.

Aaron Moncur 48:44
That is such a powerful principle. I’m really glad I asked you what else we should be talking about. That was That was amazing. Thank you for sharing. Yeah, for sure. I’m just thinking about your clothing I had ever thought about applying that principle to the clothing that you wear, right? And like all the money that you could save on these clothes that you hardly ever wear. The same principle applies, of course for your time all the time that you could save if you didn’t spend it on these, these high effort tasks that yield really low results. Yeah, so it was really wonderfully power. Once

Anthony Fasano 49:15
you start thinking about it, Aaron, you’ll see it applies to everything. Like everywhere you look everything around you. It’s just the 8020 rule everywhere. So it’s just a it’s just hopefully, anyone listening if you just start with simple things and apply it like for me, yeah, an example of one last example I’ll give me is every morning when I start work, I usually get up really early and do like one task. I have like 45 minutes to do it. And that’s probably my most important task for the day. This way I get that done. That’s like my, one of my 20% tasks. If if everything else goes wrong for the rest of the day, at least I know that that something very big. I got a proposal out I wrote a chapter in the book, you know, you know, whatever it was, so that’s, that’s another way that you can apply it and get some real results from it.

Aaron Moncur 49:57
Well, now I’m going to start taking a look at my kids. My kids is giving me the most love and joy which 80% Can I just get rid of?

Anthony Fasano 50:05
Right? Oh, my kids. Oh, my kids are sick of the 8020 rule, believe me

Aaron Moncur 50:10
that I’ll show you at 20 Dad. Well, Anthony, this has been just a wonderfully delightful conversation. Thank you so much, again for joining me. How can people get in touch with you?

Anthony Fasano 50:24
Yeah, sure. So I would say two ways, you can go to our website engineering management And please take advantage of all the free content, I told you, we’ve got four podcasts, three YouTube channels, we got a couple of YouTube channels just dedicated on how to get your engineering license for those of you interested in that, how to pass those exams. And just just a host of content that’s free and available. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, just forward slash Anthony J. Fasano just, you know, if you just look me up on LinkedIn, I’ve got a pretty big profile, you’ll find me and I’m putting all this content out there on a regular basis and putting ideas out there. Like the 8020 rule. I read a lot of articles and stuff on my LinkedIn about that. So please, definitely connect with me there and you know, keep in touch with that.

Aaron Moncur 51:05
Fantastic. All right. Well, thank you so much again, Anthony. This has been wonderful.

Anthony Fasano 51:09
All right. Thanks for having me, Aaron.

Aaron Moncur 51:14
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team’s expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team Thanks for listening

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