Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-11-2022 09:43 AM

    "Bridging Career and Life" is a new ASCE career Q&A video series with @Luis Duque, a young bridge engineer ready to share the wisdom learned on his engineering journey with others.

    Luis will be taking questions about gaining leadership experience early in your career. Please post your questions here for Luis to answer. You can submit questions, April 11-18; then Luis will be answering your questions in a video during the last week of April. Please take advantage of this awesome opportunity!

    All questions must comply with the ASCE Collaborate Code of Conduct.

    You can find out more about the series and Luis here



    ------------------------------
    Tirza Austin
    Senior Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-11-2022 01:48 PM
    I have some questions !
    1. When you are required to do changes on a project what could be the best way to make them ?
    2. Is it important to record the changes that you have made in the project ?

    ------------------------------
    Fritz Rosell Aff.M.ASCE
    Huancayo
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-12-2022 10:10 AM
    A couple questions:
    1) Do you have any advice on finding a mentor or mentors to help gain professional and leadership experience early in one's career?
    2) Can you recommend specific volunteer or professional development activities to help develop leadership skills?

    Thank you,
    Jen Hofmann

    ------------------------------
    Jennifer Hofmann Aff.M.ASCE
    Manager, Professional Advancement
    ASCE
    Reston VA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-12-2022 12:53 PM
    I will ask too.
    1.) How do engineers recover from mistakes and what are the best ways to use constructive criticism?

    I'm not interested in being a leader but I've heard that compassionate leaders get more work and better performance from their teams and my second question is:
    2.) Are there compassionate leaders in engineering and how do compassionate leaders reprimand a teammate if they are not performing well?

    Thank you!
    Oanh "Wahn"
    (Like in Moana)

    ------------------------------
    Oanh "Wan" Le, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-14-2022 10:07 AM
    I have a question:
    I am a New Bridge Engineer, I have been working for around 3 months.

    My Question is:
    1) I have been lately inundated with CAD work, Specifically Microstation as that is what Txdot requires for Bridge Plans. My experience has been that entry level Structural Engineers at my firm are CAD technicians along with some design work and usage of Bridge Design Software. Is this the Norm in the field, or is this just my Firm?

    2) It seems to me that most of Bridge design revolves around creating plan sets that meet agency specifics on detailing and small things like fonts and display of the views; and very little of it actually involves designing and structural analysis. It's a very Demotivating outlook for the field, is this really the case, or is it just my very short exposure in the field?

    ------------------------------
    Muhammad Jamal S.M.ASCE
    Pflugerville TX
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-14-2022 10:28 AM
    Hi Muhammad Jamal!

    1. Yes! I can tell you that I have worked technician positions as internships too while I was in college. You may get different responses from other engineers who are experienced in the field, but I have worked in Environmental and Transportation engineering as "CAD Technicians" when I was initially exposed to the sectors. I would gain the skills that you need for which that opportunity allows you. It is important to know the basics and build from there.

    2. I have been in your position too. It's normal to experience that. What you should focus on are the tasks that they have you working on and see where your knowledge applies. The senior engineers/leaders are the ones that make the ultimate decisions because they have more experience and knowledge. It can be demotivating especially if you don't know much about how the industries operate and can border along insulting but it's not because of that. It is because our job requires a high aptitude for precision and safety. Just because you're working on small parts here and there, it doesn't mean you should be slack about what you are doing.

    Details Matter!

    Great questions!

    ------------------------------
    Oanh "Wan" Le, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-15-2022 10:07 AM
    Muhammad,

    I had the same experience (over 30 years ago!) and I can assure it does not last forever.  I am a structural engineer, but on the buildings - not bridges - side of the structural field.

    On my first day on the job they put me 'on the boards' (drafting on mylar - CAD was not widespread in those days) and had me practice my lettering.  I had much the same reaction as you ie. why did I go to school 4 years to practice my lettering?  Over the first two years I gradually did more engineering, but also spent a lot of time (the majority, the first year) just making drawings and learning under experienced engineers, designers, and draftsmen.  After three years I looked back and thought about how I had to get dragged kicking and screaming through the experience, but it was great experience that I really needed.

    One of the most important things in our field is being able to present the information for our designs to owners, city plan reviewers, and the contractors who will actually build it.  In structural engineering, you also need to be able to convey your design intent clearly to steel detailers and concrete rebar detailers.  The people I worked under taught me the importance of defining and showing work points and overall dimensioning of the geometry, showing welds clearly and accurately, cutting sections and details where needed to show complex areas of the design, and other finer points of drafting and presentation.

    Along the way, you'll also pick up a better feel for 'typical' or similar designs which will help inform your first actual designs you do on your own.  Performing drafting and basic design work under an experienced engineer or designer is also a form of mentoring where you can naturally develop a rapport and be given pointers about all the things you don't learn in school (and there's a LOT of that).  Many of the lessons I learned in my early years come back to me to this day....and I remember the people who taught me those lessons.

    To your second point, when you graduate you can have the impression that engineering is all about software and crunching numbers.  The reality is far different (not necessarily in a bad way).  I'll admit, the mundane points of fonts and drafting standards aren't a topic that excites me.  But much more of creating a good and constructible design goes beyond pure structural analysis.  There's many ways to create a structure - whether it's a bridge that crosses from point A to point B or a building that is 3 stories with a certain amount of square footage.  The key is understanding that there are designs that are difficult to construct and designs that make it easier to construct.  There are details that are very expensive to fabricate or erect, and ones that are more 'standard' and less costly.  Your first few years are all about learning those, and your learning will not be done after that point - it's lifelong.  I've found that many, if not most, problems when a job goes to construction are not usually with the engineering of the project (member sizes and strength), but with the drawings - details that are impossible to construct, details that were not shown or figured out, welds or connections that are difficult to make, or structural members that are to big or too long to ship as a single piece or assembly.

    At some point you will be the person explaining to draftsmen, designers, and younger engineers how you want them to execute and show your designs.  But you have to learn how to do their job first in order to be effective at teaching them and correcting things that need to be corrected.

    This may seem frustrating to you at first, but view it as a great learning experience.  There is one caveat: some firms will start engineers in roles like this and keep them in it as long as they will stick around.  If you feel after a few years that you're not increasing your responsibility or gaining new experience, don't hesitate to ask for bigger challenges or to look elsewhere if that's the only recourse.

    ------------------------------
    Greg Thein, PE
    Cleveland, OH
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 04-16-2022 10:35 AM
    I love this initiative! Luis - how has your involvement in ASCE leadership opportunities translated to helping you be better at your job as a civil engineer?

    ------------------------------
    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/her)
    Transportation Designer
    Jenkintown PA
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Gaining leadership experience early on in your career

    Posted 20 days ago
    Thank you all so much for your great questions! @Luis Duque has answered a few of them in the new ASCE series Bridging Career and Life.

    Check out the video here!

    The May topic will be preparing for your first full-time job. You can register to receive notifications when it opens here.

    I look forward to reading more of your questions in the future!

    ------------------------------
    Tirza Austin
    Senior Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191
    ------------------------------