During my sophomore year of high school, I decided I wanted to be an engineer. It was my sophomore year of college before I decided specifically on civil engineering.
2. What classes/activities/clubs did you take in high school that you think were helpful in preparing you for your career?
- The Junior Engineering and Technical Society (JETS)
- High school drafting class
3. In what activities or clubs did you participate in college that helped you achieve your goals?
- American Society of Civil engineers (ASCE)
- Society of Woman Engineers (SWE)
- Engineers Week
The social activities are important because students rely on each other and form study groups when classes become difficult. It’s important to know your fellow students and to be comfortable enough with them to call them at midnight because you just cannot solve the differential equation that will be on the test in the morning.
4. What courses/programs of study did you take in college to work toward your career?
Physics, calculus, and communications
5. Did you participate in an internship/cooperative education program?
Yes, I had a co-op for a total of four semesters.
6. What was your first job out of college?
I was a construction field engineer for Turner Construction Company. I had the job offer six months before graduation.
7. What are the required skills that are needed in your field?
Communication skills are extremely important because you have to relate engineering information to people without the technical knowledge of an engineer. Also, critical thinking skills are important because many times an issue will come up that needs to be resolved immediately. Despite working on a construction site, there is also a great need for computer knowledge.
8. Was there any kind of special training involved in your career after college?
Definitely. I have job-specific training for about four hours a month, and once every six months we have a three-day job-specific seminar.
9. What kind(s) of compensation can a new graduate expect in the field of engineering? What about after five years? Ten years?
I immediately had a competitive salary and received benefits within the first month. After one-year of working for the company, grad school is paid in full as long as the classes are job specific. The ability to move up goes very quickly, and within five years, I will probably be a project engineer running my own construction job. In ten years, I may be a project manager overseeing several jobs.
10. What kind(s) of personality type works best in this field?
In construction engineering, it is good to be open-minded and laid back without being a pushover. It is important to gain the respect of the people working on the construction site, as well as the owner of the project.
11. Are there any physical demands to the job?
The physical demands depend on the position. A person in pre-construction and sales has a non-physical job and spends many hours reviewing plans that are being considered for construction. In my position as a field engineer, there is a little more physical demand. A field engineer inspects the progress of the job constantly, which creates a need for a lot of walking and occasional climbing of ladders. As far as physically constructing anything, that is not done by the engineer.
12. What are the three most important pieces of advice you would give someone who is interested in the field?
- Co-op—This is a great way to get to know if this is truly what you want out of a career. Also, it gives you a head start when looking for a job after graduation because you already have a couple years of experience.
- Take communications courses, both written and oral. Communication is the key to getting a job done on time and under budget. A construction engineer is always in a team-like atmosphere.
- Be ready to learn after graduation. Aspects of construction engineering, like all engineering disciplines, change rapidly. In order to succeed, a person must be willing to seek further education and evolve with the industry.
13. What do you wish you would have known about the field before you became an engineer?
Construction engineering is not a regular 9 to 5 job. It’s good that I’m a morning person because the work starts as soon as it is light enough to see. There are some Saturdays and some long days, but that should be expected in any job no matter what the field.