Discussion Thread

What were you before you became an engineer?

  • 1.  What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 06-11-2021 09:58 AM
    What were you before you became an engineer?

    What was your first job and how did it help you on your career path?

    As a teen, I worked as a parking lot attendant at the beach.  My duties included flagging in cars, directing them where to park, collecting money, and cleaning up.  It helped instill me with a good work ethic.  It taught me to care for the environment and how to deal with the public. In regard to engineering - there is no such thing as free parking - and a lot is infrastructure!  We also had to be mindful of accessibility for emergency vehicles.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 2.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 06-14-2021 11:19 AM
      |   view attached
    Cool! I can definitely chime in here. 

    My first job was as a tournament-style paintball referee. I would get to the paintball field an hour or so before it opened, and drag out, stake down, and use a leafblower (man those things were loud) to inflate all of the air bunkers that were used on the paintball fields. We would raise the large nets that ringed the field and tie them off (I remember there were always friendly debates about which knot was best). Then we would start letting people onto the field for the first game of the day. Often I had to select the players for each team from those assembled. I always thought that it took some finesse to do it properly. It helped to know a lot of the returning players every week and understand their skill levels to try and keep things balanced and fun for as many people as possible. Once a paintball match started, field safety was a huge focus, as you might be surprised how many people instinctively decide to take off their mask during a game after getting shot with a paintball and eliminated from the match. We also tried to help with minor repairs to players paintball guns, and tried to be cognizant of the velocity that the guns were set at.  On busy days, there might be as many as 4 other referees with me, and some days I was by myself. We would open in the heat, and in the cold, and even under light rain and moderate snow. At the end of each day, we had to wash the paint off of the bunkers, deflate and remove them from the field, and clean up the common area that people used. 
    The job was extremely tiring and a lot of fun most of the time. It must have been when I look back at how low the pay was! 

    The things it taught me were grit and hard work, the ability to be uncomfortable in terms of weather (and the importance of proper clothing!), to communicate with others clearly, the value of good relationships with your coworkers and clients, the importance of job safety (minor accidents and injuries did happen from time to time), and to try to find a job that had meaning to me. It also got me interested in understanding how things worked, as paintball guns can range from simple to very complex machines!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 3.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 07-14-2021 12:01 PM
    In high school and early college I taught private swim lessons to kids ranging in age from 2 to around 12. Some kids were super confident, and others required a lot of encouragement. Some liked explanations using shapes like "move your arms in a circle," and some preferred descriptions like "windmill arms." Some were content to just see how long they could hold their breath under the water, and some needed it to be some kind of game. Communicating and demonstrating things in completely different ways depending on the student(s) in each session really helped me develop my ability to present information tailored to my audience. 

    I think this comes in handy as a civil engineer when the way that you explain something to another engineer, an architect, a contractor, and a developer or other non-technical stakeholder will all need to be different to ensure understanding.

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 4.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 12-31-2021 10:49 AM
    Thank you Heidi for sharing your experiences! It's nice to see how another engineer was able to learn valuable lessons from the good and the bad experiences that come along with instructing children since I myself am currently a soccer instructor for younger kids as well! I teach classes with kids of all ages but my youngest ones are 3-4 so I know exactly what you're saying when some kids listen to different methods of teaching. I have this one kid who is obsessed with sonic the hedgehog and whenever I try to play a fun game, like sharks and minnows, he will always correct me saying he wants to be sonic. They're a lot at times but overall I'm enjoying my experience.

    Prior to myself applying to be an instructor I was aware that it was not related to Civil Engineering at all, but like you mentioned I also realized how it has allowed me to practice explaining complicated games into the simplest of terms that way it's easy enough for the children to understand and follow along. 

    Again thank you,
    Joell Macias 
    Santa Clara University '24

    Joell Macias S.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineering
    San Jose CA

  • 5.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 07-17-2021 09:37 PM
    First job: Cold Stone Creamery Associate
    Next job: VFX artist 
    Other jobs: Event Security for celebrities, board game tester, football analyst, etc.

    I learned to be flexible and adapt quickly to whatever is thrown my way.

    Maxx Taga EIT
    Glendale CA

  • 6.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 07-18-2021 11:31 PM
    I really enjoy your discussions. 

    My first job was out of High School for the summer and I worked in the bank as a cheque filer. It was monotonous  and very instructive in my saying that such was not for me! :)

    My first Engineering internship was after my first year in Engineering School.. and it was delightful! My main supervisor later became my mentor and friend, Engineer Peter Morais. He and I shared projects, meals, and birthday parties over the years. He too was an artist, and we participated in art exhibitions together as well. I learned much from him in how to deal with people, in what in life is important, and in vigorous studying for my Chartership exam, we discussed many types of engineering issues and the myriad ways to solve them. 

    I learned that engineering is "relationship" first. It is science at the core, and art in manifestation.

    None of these things is taught in school/ university. And I make it my duty to share however I can with my team, as much of what Engineer Peter Morais taught me - those many, many years ago. 

    Thank you.

    Kamille Jackson CEng P.E.

  • 7.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 07-19-2021 10:52 AM
    Thanks for sharing as well Kamille! I love your quote "I learned that engineering is "relationship" first. It is science at the core, and art in manifestation."
    Based on all of the links on your account too, it looks like you've managed to be many things other than an engineer in your life as well. Thats wonderful!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 8.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 10-31-2021 01:29 PM
    Back in high school, my first internship was unpaid work as a tutor.

    There were a lot of students on the middle school side who needed help with their Geometry, Algebra and Trigonometry class content. Over the years, I fulfilled 100 service hours taking time out of my studies to help the students figure how to understand the problems and figure out the content themselves.

    Having skipped a math grade back in 3rd grade, I could handle remembering all of the math content myself; this work was so I could develop teaching skills with younger students. And although my other work since was far more dedicated to engineering and computer work, I am sure later work will involve more ways of working with people from other fields and specialties. Tutoring in high school will have been a start for explaining more of my work.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH

  • 9.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 12-29-2021 11:16 AM
    My very first job was working for my father, who is now a retired orthodontist, casting plaster of Paris models of teeth. I had fun with all of it.  Of course, my favorite part was going to the sandwich shop next door and getting a roast beef with extra hots, but I loved the casting and the trimming parts.  Mixing the plaster, casting the teeth into the base, and trimming the base to an exact shape using a protractor and connecting points from bisecting angles.  Now that everything is digital, it is likely a lost art. Also, I got a good understanding of the similarities between orthodontics and structural engineering -- the forces in the wires needed to make the correct movements of teeth, the reactions of gums to active pressure, it all ties in. 

    My next job was as an overnight summer camp counselor to the youngest group, 7-9.  I cannot begin to say how much that has influenced me!  I still stay deeply involved with K-12 STEM Outreach to this day.

    Reed Brockman P.E., M.ASCE
    Chair, Public Awareness & Outreach Committee, BSCES/ASCE
    Associate Vice President, AECOM
    Boston MA

  • 10.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 12-29-2021 01:03 PM

    What was your first job and how did it help you on your career path?

    My first job was that of a clerk at the local hardware store near the edge of a major University, during my High School years and as a Freshman in Engineering. As a clerk I learned a strong work ethic, every customer was "right" - yet they had to be guided to comply with various electrical, plumbing codes and modern technological changes. Many of these customers were scientists, professors and do-it-your-selfers. It took a lot of
    convincing, especially from a pimple faced kid. It was a wonderful experience, brought me out of my "shell" and gave me confidence to go forward (especially at $0.90/hour) into other endeavors.

    Glenn Ford PE ret, M.ASCE Albuquerque, NM

    Glenn Ford P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engr
    G-M Ford & Associates
    Albuquerque NM

  • 11.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 12-31-2021 11:02 AM
    $0.90/hr. Oh, my.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 12.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 01-28-2022 11:37 AM
    Steve Broyles, PE, LS  My first job when I was 16 was a rod man on a survey crew for Harvey Silberman & Associates in Towson, MD.  I loved the work and it set me on my path to excel in math and science in high school and to become a Civil Engineer,

    Steven Broyles P.E., P.L.S, M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor
    Steven K Broyles & Associates
    Finksburg MD

  • 13.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 01-29-2022 10:27 AM
    I remember looking for a summer job in Civil Engineering and by phone the employer asked me if I knew how to run a transit.  I said no, but wanted to say "What's a transit?". I got a summer job with Barnes and Jarnis (acquired bt Pennonni ling ago), loved it and have been happy since.

    Reed Brockman P.E., M.ASCE
    ASCE Pre-College Outreach Committee Member
    Chair, Public Awareness & Outreach Committee, Boston Society of Civil Engineers (BSCES/ASCE)
    Associate Vice President, AECOM
    Boston MA

  • 14.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 01-28-2022 11:38 AM
    My first paying job was working on my grandparent's farm when I was 9-15.  I made $50 and all the fresh produce I wanted to eat from the garden for a month in the summer.  Hoe'd beans, planted, picked, moved irrigation pipes, fed and milked cows, butchered chickens, canned pretty much everything we grew, helped maintain equipment, etc. basically everything that needed done from dawn to dusk 6 days a week.  Sunday was only milking and feeding and church. Sunday afternoons were for fishing, cliff climbing, and exploring.

    My first "real" job was as a stone mason's helper when I was 16-18.  I dug a lot of foundations, mixed a lot of mortar, learned how to cut and split stone, lay block and brick, use a construction level, erect scaffold safely, run equipment, etc.  Most fun part were the demo jobs.

    In my 20's I paid may way through college working as a handyman/carpenter/ironworker/mason/drafter/survey crew grunt/inspector/commercial construction project engineer/marina deck hand/materials engineer/lab manager/restoration engineer, and now a CP consultant.

    Matthew Miltenberger P.E., M.ASCE
    Vice President
    Vector Corrosion Services
    Kalamazoo MI

  • 15.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 01-28-2022 02:57 PM
    I was lucky in that my first job related closely to my engineering education.  The first weekday after HS graduation  I started work on an Oregon Highway Dept. survey crew working on the rebuilding or replacing of old US-99 with I-5.  I started the summer as the guy hauling the stake bag for the head chainman, learned to wing a sledgehammer driving grade stakes, eventually learned to use the self-leveling level and optical transit (useful knowledge for sophomore surveying class).  Spent several weeks weighing rock trucks and later summers taking rock samples and performing gradation tests.  One summer was spent running around Portland collecting samples to be sent to the lab in Salem, which introduced me to ASTM specs for materials and testing (a good prep for junior level Nature and Behavior of Materials class).  A summer as a millwright helper in a paper mill taught me that I didn't want to be a mechanical engineer, although the experience aided me in being my wife's handyman in later years.  Back with OSHD one last summer, I learned to do compaction testing on subgrade soils, which tied in with senior level soil mechanics class and my eventual Masters degree minor field.

    Richard Horning P.E., M.ASCE
    Bandon OR

  • 16.  RE: What were you before you became an engineer?

    Posted 01-29-2022 09:46 AM
    My parents said that I was an engineer in diapers. My mom did not want us to work while we were in high school. She wanted us to enjoy our youth and something about having to work for the rest of our lives once we left college. (Looking back, I should have played more.)

    Technically, the first jobs I had were those assigned by my father. I learned landscaping (mowing), woodworking, house painting, how to hang drywall (or at least hold it up), roofing, plumbing, auto maintenance, and some electrical work for which room and board was my salary. 

    Those jobs often left one exposed to the elements. Roofing during the heat of the summer. Carrying those roof shingles on one shoulder up a ladder and tacking them down in 90+ degree weather.  Trying to solder copper pipe during the winter cold. The pipe is cold. Holding it between your knees and sanding that edge with a little light and looking forward to the heat used for soldering. Holding that drywall up over my head while my dad missed nails. Those experiences made me think that lifting a pencil, punching a calculator, and sitting at a desk in a controlled environment might not be too bad of an idea career wish. Heck on the back, but easy on the extremities. 

    Prior to my co-operative education experiences, I did drive an ice cream truck for a brief period one summer. You learn quickly that the veterans have the best routes. My mom made me quit stating that it cost her more to drive me to work than I was making.

    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA