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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Civil/Structural Engineer Has His Dream Job

Are you looking for your dream job? This Civil and Structural Engineer did. This is a true career story, as told to Other professionals have also shared their stories with us, like a Banking Branch Manager and an Electronic Engineer.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

I am a civil and structural engineer, and have been one for eight years now. I work for a medium sized consulting firm that works with private businesses and the local and state governments on both private construction jobs and civil projects.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

On a typical day, I attend meetings with my boss and clients, correspond with coworkers, and collaborate on projects. I primarily double check coworkers' math and schematics. I also go onsite from time to time to supervise the construction efforts.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?

As a Hispanic male, I have never really encountered discrimination in my professional life. You hear things as a kid, but those are kids. I have never had an issue with employment because of my ethnicity. In fact, my immediate supervisor is Hispanic as well!

Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?

I am fluent in Spanish which helps when communicating with the construction workers and laborers who are sometimes not as fluent in English as I am in Spanish. Being clear about a design feature is crucial, so I am thankful for this.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say my job satisfaction is probably a 7 or an 8. As I advance at the company I am sure it will get higher, but overall I am very happy doing what I do.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

One of the hardest parts is getting used to some of the specific procedures and remembering all of the building codes and things you have to keep straight. It was never really covered in school as well as it should have been in my opinion.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

It's not that they don't teach about the building codes in school, but I think they should have been covered in more detail.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

In some ways, I have always worked in the construction field. I worked as a construction worker during high school and so choosing to study civil engineering seemed like a logical choice. I thought it would be easy since I had already worked in it. Engineers come at construction from a different angle though, so I had to get much better at math and look at things from a scientific point of view. It has definitely made me better at understanding the construction process.

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

The best part of the job is seeing the building finished. It is a long process from conceptualization to completion, so the finished product is a beauty to behold. I am always pleased to see my efforts rewarded with something concrete, no pun intended.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

The worst parts of the job involve internal disputes. A lot of engineers and architects like doing things their own way. This means people can get their toes stepped on, and that's bad for the design process. The squabbles can consume time if the supervisors do not step in. Fortunately, this is rare. Most of the people are agreeable enough.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

My job is only ever stressful when deadlines start approaching. Most of the time I work 40 hours or so a week, but that can be stepped up to 50 hours if things are getting crazy. Sometimes I take work home with me, but that is often for my personal benefit more than anything. It helps keep things smooth at the office.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

At a company this same size and with the experience I have, a civil engineer could expect to make between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. Considering I come from a lower class background, this is good money. I am very happy with the level of pay, especially combined with another income from a spouse.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

If I had to choose the most rewarding moment I have experienced, it would be working on refurbishing some historic buildings. I am a fan of history and so I enjoyed preserving my city's heritage.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

On the other side, the more challenging side of things always involve when business negotiations change in the middle of construction. If pricing or payment changes, sometimes we have to halt construction and this is very frustrating. Fortunately, this is also very rare.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

If you want to work in this field, you definitely can do it. It typically requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in civil engineering for my specific position. Some of my coworkers are architects, however, and we do similar work. One problem I encountered is that my math was not as strong as it needed to be, so you may want to practice that. In college you will be required to take Calculus 1, 2, and 3, as well as many other math classes. These are hard but doable if you study and work hard.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

If you can hang in there and get the degree, it is well worth it. The money, benefits, and job security are great. One recommendation that I make is to get a Master's degree as well, either in civil engineering or a Master's of Business Administration. This sets you up for a role as a supervisor and can result in a salary closer to $90,000 a year or more.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I get around three weeks of paid vacation a year, ten paid holidays, and sick days. This lets me travel and take time off as needed. The longer I stay at the company, the more time I get off.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

If I could pick what I would be doing in five years, I would probably still be at the same company in the same line of work. I would like to advance to the position of engineering manager. Like I said earlier, that gives a much higher salary and great experience. Plus, I feel ready to take on a more managerial role.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

This is my dream job and I encourage everyone to take a second look at the career field.

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