Member Voices

Bringing ASCE to the Workplace: Public vs. Private Sector

By Peyton J Gibson posted 15 days ago

  

Although I’m a recent graduate, I’ve already had the chance to experience working for two different employers in the private and public sector. I’m also an ASCE member, and as the current vice governor of the Construction Institute’s Young Professionals Council, networking chair of ASCE’s Denver Branch, practitioner advisor for the Colorado School of Mines ASCE student chapter, and Colorado State Infrastructure Report Card chair, the support of my employer for my ASCE activities is very important to me.

During my time in the private sector, my employer was very familiar with and encouraging of my involvement with ASCE. They paid for my membership dues and gave me time to attend conferences, like the Multi-Region Leadership Conference and Construction Institute Summit, without asking questions.

In my current position, I’m a civil engineer specializing in concrete dam design at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. I love my current job – the work is interesting and challenging, my coworkers, boss, and workplace environment are great, and I have an amazing view of the Rocky Mountains from our 12th-floor office in Denver. Still, government entities continue to be a little behind the times when it comes to catching up with private industry standards.

Because of the nature of ethics policies within the U.S. Department of the Interior, involvement in professional organizations as a government employee can be tricky – we must avoid conflicts of interest at all costs. My boss was aware of my heavy ASCE involvement before I started (be sure to tell yours too when coming to a new workplace), and he and my coworkers have personally been nothing but supportive of the roles I take.

I’d just started my new job with the Bureau when I realized it was time to renew my membership. I was confident my boss would be able to pay for the dues, as most employers do. However, due to bureaucratic processes and limited funding, I was turned down. My boss has also struggled to get approvals for me to attend conferences paid for by ASCE. I also have to get signatures from not only my supervisor but their supervisor to serve on a national board or committee. It’s still an ongoing learning process, but I’m grateful to have a boss who is championing my cause.

My advice on bringing ASCE to the public sector workplace is to be open about your level of engagement, encourage your coworkers to get involved, and find a “champion” who will help you explain to leadership why your involvement contributes to your work and to the organization.

 Peyton currently works in the Waterways and Concrete Dams Group at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in the Greater Denver Area. She is highly involved with ASCE on a national and local level, holding positions with the Construction Institute of ASCE and the Denver Branch. She’s the chair of the Colorado Infrastructure Report Card. She’s also the practitioner advisor for her alma mater, Colorado School of Mines.

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