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Learn the Language of Government

Written by: Carol Ellinger Haddock, P.E., M.ASCE
Published on: Jul 5, 2022

Photo credit: Feng Yu/Adobe Stock

I wish I’d known earlier in my career the common language and policy framework that can help engineers succeed in the world of public administration budgeting and funding. It would have saved me considerable frustration.

In 1999, I was working as a program/project manager for the Harris County Flood Control District, in Houston, where I ran programs that were funded by our elected county officials. But while my entity struggled to get the allocations it needed, people from other departments seemed to present their budget cases in much clearer and more compelling ways.

Why, I wondered, are they getting fully funded and we’re not? Do they have some background knowledge or standard way of presenting their cases that I don’t know about?

The answer was yes — but fortunately there were ways to learn what they knew. Some can be guided by mentors while others might pick up this knowledge through on-the-job experience. I did it by earning a master’s degree in public administration and urban management from the University of Houston.

The courses, held in the evenings so students could continue their regular jobs, taught me how engineers can speak the language of elected officials and regulators.

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