Early Career

The Art of Asking (And Answering) Questions

Staff Reports

About the author: Hi, I’m Peter. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and am currently pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering at Mississippi State University. There, I am active in American Society of Civil Engineering, and I led the timber bridge team to win the most practical design this past year. This summer I am interning with the Tactical Projects and Technical Services Group in Houston.

Questions arise in everything you do. It is how you ask them, and sometimes how you attempt to answer them, that matters.

Starting at Williams, I had three semesters of experience working at a refinery. I was very familiar with OSHA regulations and had an understanding of API standards, but knew nothing about DOT regulations. Almost immediately, I was tasked with generating material lists and design projects and I knew I needed to understand what DOT regulations affected my projects. Instead of going straight to my mentor to ask what the regulations are for each situation, I began to do my own research. Taking my time, and lots of notes, I learned which of the regulations affected which project and made sure that the parts and design fell within the regulations.

Still, some questions remained. One of the great things I have learned about Williams is the expertise of its employees and their willingness to answer even the most trivial of questions. So, I reached out to my mentor and to his surprise (and mine), I had learned most of what I needed to know by taking the time to research my questions.

By first looking for the answers, I eliminated questions that were simple, narrowing down the selection to the harder questions that might have situational answers. By asking the harder questions of my mentor, our work was more efficient and effective.

Questions are great but there is an art to asking and answering them.