Siu Fa Ng and David J Stewart share the benefits of being ICE reviewers and the latest trends in the profession.
What interested you to volunteer as a professional reviewer?
Siu Fa Ng: I was initially curious about the role of professional reviewers, so I spoke to one of the mock interviewers who helped me prepare for my chartered professional review.
Reviewers deconstruct written professional development reports, following up with questions to ask candidates on the day of their review.
As a civil engineer, my joy in life is to make a positive difference. Becoming a reviewer myself seemed to be a natural next step to give something back to the industry that keeps on giving.
David J Stewart: I’d always had it in the back of my mind as being something I wanted to do in the future.
It’s now been over 10 years since I sat my own professional review, and I realised that perhaps the future is now.
I’m really proud to be a civil engineer. I understand how important it is that we give time to the ICE to make sure that we maintain standards, but also provide the same opportunities for recognition that I was lucky to have.
Beyond that, it’s a challenge, and I’ve yet to meet a chartered civil engineer who doesn’t like one of those.
What are the benefits of conducting professional reviews?
D: It’s difficult to describe everything.
The first is the increase in knowledge that comes from it.
The candidates I’ve met have worked in a wide range of fields and as a reviewer, I genuinely learn from them.
It’s also a very effective way of meeting my continuous professional development (CPD) obligations.
Beyond that though, I’ve become more rounded professionally. The review process really helps to calibrate your perception of the behaviours we should expect of professional engineers.
I use that in many situations, but it’s a really effective tool when it comes to self-reflection.
Sustainability is a great example of this. The challenges I’ve issued candidates, equally apply to my own projects.
S: I’m expanding my professional network and gained effective hours for my CPD out of these reviews.
I also learn from candidates and the reviewers.
For example, I learned about the roles of Canal and River Trust in providing infrastructure and amenities that improve people’s wellbeing, especially during the pandemic.
I’ve also heard about the solutions engineers are providing to address challenges faced by society, such as emergency works to repair an earth embankment.
It’s an exciting time in the industry and to help professionalise these engineers. I feel rewarded to be able to bring out the best in candidates working in the industry.
How do you become a professional reviewer?
S: You’ll be given training on the purpose of conducting a professional reviews and what’s involved during the review.
I especially enjoyed the end of the training process, which was watching a live professional review.
The very first reviews that I had included making difficult decisions. I’m lucky to have been paired with very experienced professional reviewers who helped shape how I conduct them myself.
D: The training was good, and seeing the reviewers make their final decision was central to that.
Some of the next cohort of trainees actually sat in on my fourth review, which was interesting.
It’s natural to feel nervous when you start conducting professional reviews because you don’t want to let the candidate down. But the reviewers I was paired with were very patient and supportive.
You need to be prepared for a challenge and some difficult decisions but it’s worth it.
Sometimes the gender, ethnicity and engineering expertise of reviewers couldn’t be more different, but I like to think that we form review teams that are well-equipped to respond to the different needs of our candidates.
These differences contribute, rather than detract.
What trends have you spotted in reviews so far?
D: The candidates we come across are hugely diverse, very much reflecting the reach of our industry and the diversity which exists in society.
I’ve only been paired with a female reviewer on one other occasion, but I’ve reviewed numerous female candidates.
It’s not a big sample size but it’s an indication of change to come.
Also, the sustainability attribute is increasingly prominent. Sometimes we can present value engineering as sustainable best practice.
Yes, it normally reduces carbon, but engineers have always been challenged to reduce material usage to save money.
I’m interested in what candidates are doing now that the engineer of 30 years ago wouldn’t have done.
The trend around carbon management is positive. The candidates who can demonstrate that are in a good place regarding the sustainability attribute.
S: More recently, I had my first all-female review.
It’s a sign of progress that more women wish to become professional civil engineers.
There's value in being accessible in how we communicate and nurturing other soft skills like servitude and leadership.
I’ve also been challenged to demonstrate how what I’m doing is helping decarbonise the industry, on top of how I address the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I look forward to the different ways civil engineer candidates can meet such challenges.
Do you have anything to say to potential professional reviewers who are still undecided?
D: If you work in an organisation where there are already reviewers, why not reach out to one of those and see if you can join them in a mock review for a future candidate?
Less pressure, but a chance to see it from the other side of the table. It might be enough to make your mind up!
S: Also, if you’re still stuck on deciding what to include in your Development Action Plan this year, pledge by becoming a mock professional review yourself or becoming a professional reviewer.
You nurture future talent while using your expertise and skills, helping to find solutions for the problems that you face in your career – what’s not to love?