4 Reasons Why All CAD Engineers Need Field Experience

It's an argument we can't ignore

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CAD designer at work. small_frog // Getty Images

CAD engineers live in the Matrix, don’t they? Their world is the one within their computers, creating their technical drawings, plans, and blueprints. It’s an open and shut case of data in and data out, with digital transformation carried out by skilled personnel in offices, not on building sites, right? Yet while a large portion of their time may well be spent in front of their CAD screens, at least four good reasons exist why CAD engineers should also have a regular dose of relevant field experience.

1. Getting Closer to What Customers Want

Enterprises exist to satisfy customer needs. When they do this, they can make a profit. Otherwise, they shrivel up and die. People in those enterprises must make the connection back from customer needs to their own jobs and roles. Even software development engineers working deep within complex systems now get exposure to real life requirements thanks to agile project development methodologies. The big benefit is in avoiding the divergence from customer needs and producing things nobody needs or wants. The same applies to CAD engineering. Blueprints are necessarily abstractions of things in real life, but they still need to map back onto those things. As a CAD engineer, you’ll only really know if that’s true if you’ve seen things like that for yourself in the field.

2. Working Better with the Rest of the Team

Similarly, CAD engineering can be better aligned, more efficient and more effective when CAD engineers know more about the team world around them.

Walking a mile in the shoes of their colleagues in architecture, structural engineering, and design lets CAD engineers better understand the input they receive, and any sensible questions they should be asking about it. Talking to users of CAD engineering output, whether for construction cost estimating in the office or out on a construction site, helps to converge on those users’ expectations and requirements.

As a CAD engineer, you can even do a little informal promotion of the value you bring to projects. Otherwise, other team members won’t appreciate all the effort you put into your job and that would be a shame, wouldn’t it!

3. Getting Employment as a CAD Engineer

Companies often prefer to hire CAD engineers who have relevant field experience, meaning familiarity with the industry (construction management and operations) and business and end-customer needs. The jury is still out about the future of employment in the CAD engineering sector. Information from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US) suggests that drafting jobs in general will not grow much between 2012 and 2022. On the other hand, building information modeling (BIM) that builds on and extends the 2D and 3D information of CAD engineering is on the rise. Smarter CAD engineers will keep their field experience up to date to ensure their career prospects remain healthy.

4. Staying in Touch with CAD Engineering Trends

Like most other business and professional areas, CAD engineering could change significantly over the next few years. CAD engineers that stubbornly stick to their own silo of operation could find themselves out of step with the skills and knowhow needed in the future.

This kind of ‘myopia’ is not new. One of the most famous cases in business was that of the American railroad industry that failed to look beyond its own locomotives and tracks. Air and automotive travel made dents in it from which it never properly recovered. So CAD engineers need to take construction reality checks now and again too, and field experience and feedback is one of the best ways to do so.