How to excel in your first engineering job in Kenya

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10 Must do things in your first engineering job in Kenya

It took me six years to complete my engineering courses and another five years to land my first gig.

You guessed it right! Those were six long tough years in class plus half a decade of not getting anything out of it.

The story changed. As I write this article, I’m exactly a year old in the engineering corporate world.

Growth over the 12 months has been immense with crucial lessons to learn on the way.

Reflecting on this journey, here are 10 insights on what you must do to excel in your inaugural engineering role in Kenya.

Bid higher

A first engineering role in Kenya usually pays below the industry average. Often, we become victims of underpayment because we bid so low.

Once you have the right skills, bid high even if you’re not feeling confident. The company is hiring you because they see the competency in you.

Positive attitude = growth

The influence of attitude on professional growth is an unchallengeable fact. If you get into that job with a negative attitude, you’re going to stagnate.

I’ve seen engineers and technicians with impressive technical skills and highly competent, but never growing. Why? Negative attitudes.

Often, a bad attitude will show itself in the form of negative traits. Talk of being defensive, rude, resistant, unwilling, cynical, unfriendly, and disinterested in others.

Trust me. Succeeding in an engineering job in Kenya requires collaboration. You can’t work alone and grow an entire company. You need people. People need you.

With a negative attitude, you can’t support your colleagues. They won’t support you either.

That’s why newbies with the above characteristics soon derail their careers.

I’ve watched employees lose their jobs because of unsupportive attitudes.

Your errors matter

As you take up your first engineering job, be prepared to learn from your errors.

First, you’ll notice that a single mistake you make appears more elevated than your 9 accomplishments within the same period.

This is because it’s normal for bosses to recall employees’ tinny faults instead of their numerous achievements.

On the other hand, your bad co-workers will use your weaknesses against you.

Some of your colleagues will try to set you up, give bad reports on your performance, or block your promotions. In the mess, you’ve to use your errors to forge your way.

I learned that it’s not enough to avoid mistakes. It pays more to demonstrate you extracted some crucial lessons from your previous errors.

Let your supervisor notice your commitment to learning from mistakes and growing beyond their impacts.

Smartness isn’t enough!

Many of us think being smart is all you need to succeed professionally as an engineer. However, there is more to professional growth in the engineering field.

This is what I noticed in my first job. Hardworking, honest, and respectful engineers have a high chance of career growth. It’s a natural process. So, align yourself.

Accepting Your Status

Another must-do thing in your first engineering job in Kenya is accepting your situation.

You’re a newbie. Trying to deny your beginner status can cost you dearly.

If you’re going to behave as if you know everything, you’ll brood arrogance within you.

Not accepting your status as a newbie will also block your learning opportunities. You may begin to resist menial tasks. Your colleagues will notice the arrogance in you. No one will support you.

Why accept menial tasks? That’s where everything begins!

You should know your manager will not trust you with complex tasks until you’ve proved your competence.

Showcase your abilities by excelling in basic assignments.

Once I learned menial jobs were tests I had to pass, I focused on delivering those boring assignments 100%. In this way, I managed to display my ability to deliver value.

That’s how I transitioned from handling simple tasks. More complex roles ended up in my hands with salary increments.

Your soft skills are your greatest assets

In your engineering roles, you’ll need to collaborate with other people. Collaboration is essential for your growth and your team’s success.

Soft skills are the personal attributes necessary for you to interact and work with others harmoniously and effectively in your engineering job.

Here, we’re referring to skills like communication, time management, problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, creativity, leadership, interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and work ethic.

As engineers, we often tend to emphasize hard or technical skills. We fail to realize the growing appetite for candidates with soft skills.

Hard skills like AI skills can be well-paying, but you need soft skills to complement them.

I had no “relevant” technical skills to demonstrate to my interviewers.

My only assets were soft skills. I thoroughly sold these assets throughout the interview session. I remember an interviewer making this statement:

“Denish lacks the technical knowledge we need, but he’s rich in soft skills.”

That’s how I got the job!

Why are soft skills so crucial? Why is the demand for soft skills on the rise?

Hard skills are teachable, but soft skills are mostly inborn and hard to teach.

Have you noticed even machines can learn hard skills and perform technical tasks very much above humans?

This explains why robots are now taking up jobs traditionally handled by humans. Those who lack soft skills are panicking.

In short, soft skills will elevate and sell you better than the hard skills you learned from school.

Do you understand your role?

In most cases, companies hire engineers to handle a specific set of duties. But if you don’t understand your roles and responsibilities, you’re going to be everyone’s tool.

Understanding your boss’ expectations of you is essential in keeping yourself in line with your duties. Once you know what you’re hired to do, prioritize them.

I don’t mean you shouldn’t support your colleagues. What I’m suggesting is for you to know what to focus on while doing more than what is assigned.

In this way, you’re presenting yourself as responsible and reliable. You’re subsequently paving for your professional growth.

Learn everywhere, always

Engineering jobs require a lot of learning. As you’re fresh from college, your employer won’t expect you to know everything.

However, they expect you to learn, grow, and become a better version of yourself as an employee.

Here is how I approached learning.

Once I accepted my status as a beginner, I considered my first job a “school.”

I learned from my senior colleagues through observation and by asking questions while making sure I didn’t appear too needy and bothersome.

I also did my online research on the how, what, and why of processes and projects. That’s how I grew and became an expert in handling complex tasks.

In no time, my competence was on the table for everyone to appreciate.

I started training people on how to use systems, handle projects, and prepare and deliver reports.

Do you see how important learning is in your first job?

Do more without complaining

No one wants to work with a complainant. The moment you’re branded a grumbler, you’ll struggle to get to be heard.

If you want to be appreciated and rewarded, you’ve to do better than the rest without complaining unnecessarily.

Denish Aloo

I'm a tech enthusiast with a deep-rooted passion for digital technology and an interest in entrepreneurship. I see endless business opportunities in the modern digital revolution.

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