Dirk Bochar, European Federation of Engineers

The only good advice is there is no good advice, counsels Secretary General Dirk Bochar as he marshals his European Engineers into a winning formation

 Making things happen

 RS:      How has FEANI, the European Federation of Engineers, changed during the eight years you have been in charge?

DB:      I think it has widened its membership and its ambitions. In the past we were perhaps too much focused on professional mobility and recognition of qualifications. Now we have developed a wider strategic scope with promoting *STEM, LLL, VET and seeking also the input from industry in a more systematic way. In addition, key officers in the Organisation have become younger and more gender-balanced.

 RS:      Is a federation more difficult to manage than an association?

DB:      In both cases you are dealing with networks of people who have joined together for a particular purpose, ranging from social to business, and usually meant to be a continuing organisation. It can be formal, or simply a collection of people without structure. In either case they are not, per sé, profit-driven in their mission, as companies clearly are. Hence you often have more political dimensions to cope with, related to policy making and strategy. Federation or association management is often underestimated in its complexity and progress is also often much slower than is the case with corporations.

 RS:      You have worked in the fields of science, research and quality control in the past. What expertise did you take from each?

DB:      The expertise acquired relates to the working experiences of being active in these fields in the past. In day-to-day professional life one becomes acquainted, involved and familiarised with many other managerial disciplines such as accounting, legal matters, human resource issues, new IT-technologies, foreign language skills, etc. This engagement in lifelong learning happens almost unconsciously if practiced over many years and with a curiosity to learn new things. Ultimately, what you have studied and graduated in at the age of 22-23 becomes less relevant as life moves on. This is a challenge – more than ever for future generations: learning never stops, be it formal, informal or non-formal.

 RS:      In your day to day work, what gives you most pleasure?

DB:      The fact that no two days are ever the same due to a wide variety of activities, involvement and responsibility. The multitude of contacts, in- and out-house, can be rewarding. In the end, everyone is responsible for his own job-satisfaction and motivation. If you don’t find pleasure in it, it’s better you look for something else.

 RS:      Do you prefer to make things happen rather than waiting for them to fall into place?

DB:         If you are in a leadership position making things happen it is what is expected of you. The word “General” in Secretary General doesn’t merely mean that you need to have a general capability to deal with many different issues. It also implies that you should act as a General in the military sense of the word, when so required. The art is to calculate the right time to deploy the proper tactics to ensure things fall into place.

 RS:      What would you say are your core competencies?

DB:        That is a question for others to answer I would think. But being able to master your trade and put the results of your learning into everyday professional practice is probably the best definition of competence: an appropriate combination of knowledge and skills.

 RS:      What makes a good negotiator?

DB:       Negotiation has been a large part of my work in the past and I enjoyed it in abundance. The core success factor is to be aware that listening is more important than talking, but when talking one should be transparent, eloquent, straightforward and always correct. Cutting corners or shooting from the hip is not recommended.

 RS:      How did you come to invent European Engineers Day (EED)?

DB:      I must admit it was not really the invention of FEANI so we won’t claim ownership of it. But we had noticed that there were many European engineering related bodies in existence and that we were all more or less pursuing very similar goals, while working next to each other. Hence our joining with the European Council of Engineering Chambers and the European Council of Civil Engineers to organise EED jointly every two years.

However, far more ambitious was the establishment last September of the “Engineers Europe Advisory Group” (EEAG) as a FEANI-brand: a continent-wide consortium of 16 European stakeholder Organisations. This consortium, of academics, students, professional and industry organisations, is charged with identifying one or two projects to work on together and thus close the gap between what the market expects and what the institutions deliver.

RS:      What do you do to relax?

DB:       At this moment? Answering your questions.

 RS:      What do you regard as your next major challenge?

DB:         Maintaining the FEANI-network such as it currently exists with 33 national engineering associations and to continue bringing added value to them. If, in addition, we can make the EEAG fly and attract perhaps another three to four stakeholders, then we will have made a contribution to the realisation of the ambitious goals of the EU: a little stone in a big wide ocean.

 RS:      After 25 years in association management, what advice would you give a raw apprentice?

DB:       To be patient in their career-building and to take joy from climbing the mountain rather than focusing too soon on the summit. Find a mentor. Constant guidance in the form of mentorship, is essential.

I further wish them the capacity to understand that information is not knowledge, that knowledge is not intelligence, and that intelligence is not wisdom. It takes time to acquire all four. Because they are young, they may think all four are the same. They are not. However, at the end of the day the only good advice is there is no good advice. If one listens too much to the good advice of others, one risks ending up with only the mistakes of others.


*Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths

Life Long Learning

Vocational Education & Training


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