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As a structural engineering consultant, I have often wondered what sets one engineer apart from another.

Each engineer has his different strengths that help him to serve his client better.  Some engineers are wizards with the code, good with analysis, some are creative, and some are just good at solving problems.  Certainly, these are all great traits to have, and hopefully you have all of these in your engineer or the engineering team that you are working with.

Recently, I asked a couple of my clients – an architect and a contractor – what they thought was the most important trait of their engineering consultant.  They both came back with quite similar answers. In both cases, the key trait for them was simple: that their engineer listen to them.

This may not sound like the most exciting answer.  It is not performing finite element analysis or picking through the wind and seismic codes that is the difference maker.  It is that when they have an idea that they want to pursue, they know they can reach out to their engineer and discuss it without immediately having the idea shot down.

While their idea may or may not work, the important thing is that they are heard, and that the idea is given genuine consideration.

Does your engineer listen to you, and do you consider this to be a key trait?