Ask an expert on Coronavirus: Managing the business of engineering with Michael Sheerin

Michael Sheerin provided expert advice to engineers and others involved in the business of engineering

By Michael Sheerin March 27, 2020

How is COVID-19 affecting professional aspects of engineering? Consulting-Specifying Engineer checked in virtually to ask engineers and building experts about how Coronavirus is affecting the business of engineering. Hear from Michael Sheerin, PE, LEED AP, CEO, TLC Engineering Solutions Inc., Orlando, Fla.

Question: What business practices has your engineering firm changed? This might include virtual meetings, online-only education or some other change for the staff.

Sheerin: We had advised our staff to halt nonessential travel and attendance at industry events, though now most everything is canceled or rescheduled anyway. No vendor lunch-and-learns. Limiting in-office gatherings even. Biggest deal for our firm is testing the capability of remote work technology for the entire company. While this started as a precautionary act, it has quickly morphed into a real possibility due to school closures, municipal directives and recognition of our role in enhanced social distancing, especially in instances where we have offices with real cases already identified.

Question: How is your firm handling travel to visit clients or projects?

Sheerin: Essential travel only. Coordinating with clients to continue necessary interactions via videoconference. Onsite visits as needed and for emergency support activities only. 

Question: What new ways is your team virtually traveling to trade shows, conferences or events? Where are you finding success?

Sheerin: We have been approached to provide videoconference presentations, mostly related to health care industry prep efforts. Most industry events are on hold now, but we had initially offered to present virtually when this was just starting to unravel. We expect that as this first wave of adjustment to COVID disruption to workflow passes, but folks are cautious about starting back up on industry events, that virtual presentations will be how things restart. We all need to learn and grow and share info. Right now, we are all just focused on this important issue (COVID), how we can protect our staff, and manage our business as best we can. You cannot waste any bandwidth on anything else

Question: What supply chain issues are you experiencing? Is your firm dealing with any challenges with materials or products from manufacturers or suppliers?

Sheerin: Knock wood, no issues.

Question: What advice do you have for other firms? What best practices would you suggest for working in an unsure environment?

Sheerin: Reach out to others, whether partners or competitors, if you have a question or are struggling. Chances are they have the same issues and sharing may help uncover things that you hadn’t thought about but need to get in gear also.

Author Bio: Michael Sheerin, PE, LEED AP, CEO, TLC Engineering Solutions Inc., Orlando, Fla.