Member Voices

An ASCE membership login is required to participate in discussion forums and ASCE Mentor Match. You must login to participate. 

Learning about Thrive?  View Video Tutorials here

Advice and wisdom from a mentor who knows

By Steven Rienks posted 01-30-2024 03:42 PM


Steven M. Rienks, P.E., PMP, M.ASCE, is director of engineering for American Surveying and Engineering in Chicago.

He’s also been active in ASCE’s Mentor Match program, sharing his experience and wisdom with younger engineers.

And in this Career by Design Member Voice article, to celebrate January being National Mentoring Month, Rienks shares some of that same experience and wisdom with readers.

Did you end up on the path in civil engineering that you originally thought you would?

I started out as an electrical engineer major. So, the answer to this question: No, I was not on the civil engineering path.

Through many trials and/or tribulations, I have worked in an environmental department, field inspection, surveying, and highway departments. The younger engineers need to seek out opportunities to become a “well-rounded civil engineer.”

Do you think that you chose the path in civil engineering that was the best fit for you?

I was not so sure at the beginning of my career, but, upon reflection, my career has been very, very fortunate. I have worked in, lived in, and visited 20-plus countries on six continents. To the younger engineers: Try to get some international experience with your company.

What projects are you most proud of that you were a part of?

Being part of the construction management team on CTA’s Orange Line to Midway Airport, working on the Central Area Circulator for the city of Chicago, and the preparation of plans, specs, and estimates for the city of Chicago, IDOT, and IL Tollway.

What do you think are the most important things a civil engineering student can do to help them find the path in civil engineering that is the best fit for them?

Get your undergraduate degree and get out into the workplace. Save grad school for once you have been out of school and into the real world for 10 years. And participate in ASCE’s Mentor Match. There is value in being either the mentor or mentee. This program is a two-way street, and we learn as much as we give.

How was your work-life balance? 

If you ask my wife, she will probably say, “Not good.” For today’s engineers, work-life balance is more important than ever. Today’s technology requires that we be available 24/7/365. We need to work to live and not live to work. Your company’s culture should recognize this and provide the means and methods to control after-hours communications.

Tell us about your hobbies.

I am a recovering/serial remodeler/homeowner. Might have something to do being a civil engineer and working on projects. Projects, either at home or at work, have six constraints: scope, budget, schedule, resources, quality, and risk.

Also, running an occasional Chicago Marathon. Full disclosure: I’ve yet to qualify for the Boston Marathon, “the Mother of All Marathons.”

Finally, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: “As a decades-experienced professional engineer, I am an engineer in training, i.e., a lifelong learner.”

Why do you think mentoring so important?

The firm SAP HR Research has examined 43 studies over the last 30 years. Guess what they found? They found a positive correlation with the career outcomes of mentored versus non-mentored employees. Those with mentors received higher compensation, a greater number of promotions, and felt more satisfied with and committed to their career. And they were more likely to believe that they would advance. Furthermore, 76% of people view mentors as important to their overall success.

Remember, the level of consciousness that got you where you are today is not the level that will get you where you want to be. Think big with mentors!