Two parts of being a successful reliability engineer
Many elements help make a reliability engineer successful.Two such elements are knowing the right people to get the job done and generally being a positive and enjoyable person to be around.
Networked means being well connected
Part of building a career relies on who you know and how you approach your work and peers. Knowing a lot of people, staying in touch, and working to help them solve problems is one part.
For professionals knowing enough of the right people, helping them solve issues, and asking them for assistance when needed is essential. This is what I mean by networking.
More formally, networking can be explained as follows:
Social capital constitutes a valuable resource. Relationships
possessed by an individual can provide one with access to new
information, resources, and opportunities. This information,
resources, and opportunities, both within and outside one’s current
firm, can result in direct enhancements of one’s career, including
promotions and compensation. 1
What exactly is “networking”?
Networking is not the casual and informal chatter of some social media venues; rather. it is the sharing of knowledge.
- You can help those seeking employment with notices of openings you find.
- You can assist with references when someone is asking about a particular type of failure.
- You can join discussions online with your peers for the benefit of any reader.
Having knowledge of your peers’ aspirations and strengths permit you to provide career support or ask for assistance as needed.
Personally, I like to keep a ration of at least 5 to 10 ‘good deeds’ per request I make. By doing so, I feel that I have contributed to my network and hopefully have generated sufficient good will to garner guidance when requested.
As you meet fellow reliability professionals, stay in touch. Learn about their particular constraints related to reliability engineering. Learn about which tools work or do not work in their situation. Learn about better ways to accomplish specific reliability tasks. Most importantly, share what you know with them.
Maintain and upkeep your network
The network if just a list of names in an address book is not as useful as a vibrant and constant exchange of ideas, questions, and advice. Yes, it takes work and time. In many situations, someone has already solved the issue you are facing. Learn from them while being efficient is your best approach to problem-solving.
While at Hewlett-Packard I heard that inside the company we were only three phone calls for finding an answer to an engineering question. To test this idea I called a random number in the Hewlett-Packard directory. I asked about a topic knowing that the expert worked across the aisle from me.
The first call was to a sales engineer who could not help yet thought a colleague in Ft. Collins would know. The Ft. Collins call led me directly to the expert across the aisle. With an established network that first call would not be random and finding the right person with the answer would not take three calls.
By positive I mean a “can do” or passionate attitude toward accomplishing goals, adding value, and helping others.
The song, “When You’re Smiling,” continues with “the whole world smiles with you.”  Starting a conversation with a smile often goes a long way toward being productive, effective, and enjoyable to work with.
As reliability engineers, we often work to find faults in design, resolve field failures, and identify barriers to achieving reliability objectives. This type of information may create defensiveness that does not encourage further discussion.
Yet our approach, with a smile, with a focus on the positive elements of our work, can help the entire team understand the issues, and by working together we can solve them.
Being positive is one reason I like to use reliability (probability of success) as part of the reliability goal phrase rather than failure rate or percentage failed. While 98% reliable and a 2% failure rate (both over one year) give essentially the same message, the former focuses on the success whereas the latter on failure.
We work with a wide range of talented professionals in the process of bringing products to market. We work with people from around the world. We work with a team.
People want to be around others who are passionate about what they do—it’s infectious. 
Reliability engineering is not a solitary endeavor. By working with the combined knowledge of your network and finding the enjoyable elements of your work (thus smiling) you may find additional opportunities for career advancement. Of course, talent and professionalism count, too.
- M. L. Forret and T. W. Daugherty, “Networking Behaviors and Career Outcomes: Differences for Men and Women?,” Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 25, No. 3 (May) 2004, pp. 419–437.
- L. Armstrong, “When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)” [1958 Single Version] lyrics, EMI Music Publishing, The Songwriters Guild of America.
- D. DiSalvo, “10 Reasons Why Some People Love What They Do,” Psychology Today blog Neuronarrative, (Dec) 2012, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201212/10-reasons-why-some-people-love-what-they-do, accessed 14 July 2013.