Gaining Confidence

by Ted Metcalfe

Do I know what I’m talking about?

Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

Experienced engineers are able to make engineering judgements with confidence. Some of the reasons why pipeline engineers using AS2885 may benefit from asking a question in relation to confidence include:

1) Maybe you are required to make a decision in relation to application of the Standard, but just don’t quite have the confidence to do so, and a second opinion would help.

…I don’t know enough about this, but I’ll bet someone else around here does…

2) Maybe you have been told by your supervisor or an experienced colleague that a certain clause means one thing, but their interpretation does not seem quite right to you, and you would like a second opinion without openly challenging your colleagues.

…that’s not what I think it means; I need more guidance here…

3) Maybe you have witnessed what you think might be an incorrect or inappropriate practice, and before making any fuss about it in your own workplace you would like to quietly get a second opinion from an independent source, without disclosing why you are asking.

…I’m pretty sure this isn’t right, but I need confirmation…

4) Maybe you are involved with modifications to a rather old pipeline for which not all of the usual design and inspection material is available, and you are unsure as to exactly how the current Standard should be applied.

…this pipeline is older than me, and it needs help… and so do I…

5) Maybe you are afraid that your question will be considered by other as a dumb question, and you don’t want to ask in the office and risk looking silly for not knowing the answer already.

…I’m not dumb, but I feel that way…

This last point prompts me to describe how I learned a very important lesson about asking questions quite early in my career when I was working in a sour gas processing plant:


Amoco Canada processed a lot of highly toxic hydrogen sulphide gas and the gas plant where I was working had experienced a serious accident. As a very junior engineer I was allowed to attend the meeting of management convened to examine the causes and work out a way forward, but I didn’t understand everything that was being discussed.

At one point I bravely put up my hand and said “Can I ask a stupid question?”

The plant manager replied calmly from the other end of the table “Son, in this industry, there are no stupid questions, only dead people who failed to ask the questions, so how can we help you?”


Ever since then I have had the confidence to ask a question when I didn’t understand something.

You can ask the AS2885.info team any questions which might help you be a better pipeline engineer – that’s what we’re here for.

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