Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-08-2020 10:17 AM
    Hello, All

    My career as a structural engineer has only just begun and I have access to two wonderful job opportunities, each with their own benefits, but I'm not sure which would serve me best.

    Opportunity 1:
    - Work from home (I can structure my day as I wish)
    - Opportunity for consistent travel
    - Wider range of projects (structural design, project management, statistical analysis)

    Opportunity 2:
    - Day job (8:00 am - 4:30 pm)
    - Structured training (Steel design, design using more complex building systems, modern construction techniques systems, etc.)
    - Consistent guidance

    I'm leaning towards Opportunity 1, but I'm not sure how I can grow in "practical" knowledge to design more complex structures.

    I have two questions:

    1. Which option would you choose, given both options?
    2. How would you go about achieving growth in knowledge following Opportunity 1?

    Justin Redman Aff.M.ASCE
    Port of Spain

  • 2.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-09-2020 08:07 AM
    I'd like to know how far your commute would be to Opp 2 and how you feel about the people at each firm, if you know anyone there. I would place a big emphasis on relationships and the people; if you know someone or anyone at either firm. Outside of that, I have always believed that early in someone's career, an office environment with access to in-person conversation and collaboration carries value for a younger engineer. As one gets older and several years into one's career, more WFH becomes viable because a greater acumen has been obtained for self-supervision and structure, and generally less inquisition is necessary. I'd lean toward Opp 2, but again, I don't know what your commute would look like and if you have any existing relationships with current associates at either firm.

    Josh Pruitt EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Dacula GA

  • 3.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-09-2020 08:07 AM

    Hey Justin,

    If I were in your shoes, just starting out with no professional experience, I would choose Option 2. Don't get me wrong, Option 1 is more enjoyable but learning and growth happens faster in the conventional office setting than from the comfort of your home. Here's my advice on moving forward:

    1. Go with Option 2 for now.
    2. Learn everything you can from that company as fast as you can.
    3. Stay a few extra years to gain practice.
    4. As soon as you're solid, venture out on your own so you can work wherever you want, whenever you want.

     I'm coming up on my first year in business (solo practice) and it's been an overwhelmingly positive experience that has shaped me for the better, both professionally and personally. I recommend self-employment to everyone, especially engineers!

    I hope this helps. Good luck!

    Dave Ureña, P.E.

    Principal at Banneker, LLC

    Dave Ureña, P.E.
    Banneker, LLC
    3104 N. Armenia Ave
    Suite 2
    Tampa, FL 33607

  • 4.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-09-2020 08:09 AM
    Hi Justin,

    As a structural myself, I could not imagine myself working from home as a fresh graduate and not having anyone to personally mentor me or ask questions to and check my work. There was so many things on the practical/industry side that I did not know as a new engineer and I only learned because others have taught me. Working from home is great if you're more experienced, and have minimal questions and need little supervision, but as a new engineer, I was always asking questions. For me, I would choose Opportunity 2 because you're new and it gives you the best guidance, mentorship, and growth in an industry you do not know well yet (industry is very different than what you learned in academia). 

    If you choose Option 1 though, I would make sure I have people available I can ask questions to, via phone or teleconference and assurance that someone will check your work. You'll have to do a lot of research online and by reading books, which is good, but can waste a lot time vs just asking someone that knows the industry well. You can spend hours on researching a solution, but then find out that that material is not readily available in that area, or is not common industry practice, or that you're making a very simple problem way too complex.

    Mathew Picardal, PE
    Structural Engineer & Content Creator
    DCI Engineers
    Structural Engineering Life Channel:

  • 5.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-09-2020 10:14 AM
    Hi Justin.

    I am on the other side of my career (retired). In order to develop as an engineer, you need to learn more than just design. It is also important to learn marketing, project management, and business management, most of which is not taught in school. My recommendation is option2.

    Stacey Morris P.E., M.ASCE
    ETI Corporation
    West Memphis AR

  • 6.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-09-2020 10:15 AM
    Hi Justin,

    Great question!

    I work as a traffic engineer, and one of my early positions was at a firm that did not have a traffic department. I worked as part of a public civil team that worked on a lot of transportation design projects, with some traffic studies in the mix.  I was asked to design traffic signals, but there was no one else in the firm with experience in that type of design. Basically, I was thrown in the deep end and had to figure things out on my own. I was able to get some help from some teaming partners along the way, but it was a bit of a challenge to figure things out on my own. 

    After a couple years, I made a switch to a company with a well-established traffic department. Now I have peers with knowledge in a wider variety of traffic related disciplines - including signal timing and signal design. Personally, I find I have done really well with a team of people to bounce ideas off and to explain concepts to me. At the very least, someone can typically point me in the direction of a good resource to help me understand something better. 

    Circling back to your question - I agree with Josh's advice that you should consider the people you would be working with at both jobs. Knowledge is a wonderful resource. Are there people at the first opportunity who will be easy to contact with questions? What kind of support system would that job be able to provide? In my current job, I am remote from the rest of my department, but I make a few trips up for face time during the year, and I am easily able to contact team members over the phone or email or skype.

    I would also consider your personality and work habits. Are you the type that will reach out to others with questions? Are you comfortable with written communication or do you prefer face-to-face interaction? If you are early in your career, face time can be very valuable. Sometimes working remotely can land you in that "out of sight, out of mind" zone. I think that being successful at working remote requires a level of over-communication. And you need to be able to speak up for yourself and make yourself visible. 

    I assume that the travel associated with the first opportunity would give you time out in the field? I would also consider whether the second opportunity will give you time in the field. I heard a cheesy quote once - "If you want to stand out in your field, you have to stand out in the field." Being out in the field, seeing things in person can also give you valuable knowledge. 

    Ultimately, it sounds like you have 2 great opportunities and I'm not sure you could go wrong with either! Best wishes!!

    Kelly Farabee P.E., M.ASCE
    Guyton GA

  • 7.  RE: Working from Home vs. Working under Direct supervision (Early Career Stage)

    Posted 01-28-2020 06:58 AM

    Early in a career, the Opportunity 2 is what I would recommend, for reasons others have identified.

     My first thoughts reading your question related to licensure;  the text of your question "working under direct supervision" seemed quite like working under responsible charge of someone who has a PE license.  I wondered, if at some time in the future on the PE application, either by how you describe your work or by how a supervisor or co-worker does on a recommendation, something stands out suggesting the work done at home is not under responsible charge of a PE, might that cause an issue for qualifying experience?   Work at the "daily job" with "Consistent guidance", Opportunity 1 = traditional work setting, would not have such issues. 

    Again, as noted by other responses, with experience may come opportunity to work from home.  In fact, after working for some time, 2 or 3 years, in the traditional work setting, noting some work from home may be a good way to describe progressively responsible work on the PE application, something that is a positive and in some states a requirement. 

    I have not heard of anyone where this was an issue with PE licensure.  It may be that licensure board rules are not up to speed with this work practice.  I will note that soon after I obtained the PE, I was on-site full time for a construction project, one that the client wanted a "PE onsite", going from daily office interactions with many people certainly supervisor (who was a very experienced PE) to actually seeing and speaking with him in person less than a dozen times at most in the next 8 months. 


    David Devine P.E.,L.S.,M.ASCE
    Fort Wayne IN