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Starting Up A Design Office

Starting Up A Design Office

Starting Up A Design Office

My Kind Greetings,
On graduation, I was opportuned to work with the Federal Ministry of Works On Road Projects; here the main thrust of my job was project surpervision and administration. I also paticipated on quality control and inspection works.

Thereafter, I joined a Civil Engineering Company handling a Road project as Asst. Q/Surveyor; later as Draft Engineer and now as a Site Civil Engineer. The experiences has been on CAD/drafting,Physical Measurement, Quantities, Costing, Cost-Control, Budgeting, Planning& Scheduling and physical construction of main civilworks.

Prior to this, I have worked on building projects and delivered a 2-story building contract documents including both the structural designs and BOQ as the  client demands. These work experiences has helped and sharpen my engineering jugdement and design abilities/skills.

However, I also attended engineering training courses on AVEVA PDMS on Oil & Gas Plants/Marine designs; AUTOCAD (Civilworks); CIVILCAD; Bentley Workstation etc. These are my main skills in CAD engineerig.

Still working for the Company as Civil engr; I'm thinking of starting up a DESIGN STUDIO; where I can still make some bucks outside my salary; while still running a desk with the company.

I dont know the implications of this plan and how is going to affect my job. I need your kind assistant/advice...
Meanwhile, I'm not a registered engr but knows how to get seal and stamp from qualified engineers.

Please, advice !


nurhforward, Gitto International.

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

You have a quite broad skill set.  I bet that you do not use all of your skills in your current job.  In order to do what you are planning on, you need to make sure that you are not in direct competition with your employer.

If you are not competing with them and you are completing this work on your own time, company should not have a problem.  If your boss is of understanding type, you can make him aware of this.

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

In many places if you offer engineering services you need to be licensed (not just have someone to review your work), so there may be some legal questions to answer.

Aside from that you should search for threads on moonlighting. This issue has been discussed many times and generates some strong opinions.

It can be done, but I think full disclosure to your employer is a neccessity. Others feel differently.

There may be some non-compete clause or limitation on moonlighting in your contract or employee handbook.


RE: Starting Up A Design Office

I think you are not in the US - but here in the states - some boards REQUIRE that you inform your employer of any "outside" endeavors.

Also - you generally need to be licensed to provide any type of engineeering services.

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

I don't get the ethical debate about moonlighting. You ask your boss and he says "ok" or he says "no deal." If he says ok, there's not ethical question. If he says no, and you do anyway, then there is a problem.

The issue is black and white. Your employer can set limits on consulting after hours. Talk to them to find out, and if they agree, there's no problem.

The people who like to harp on it (in my opinion) are people that don't like more competition. Since it sounds like the OP is in a different country, no one here should be too worried about more competition.

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

It is more a liability question.  My E&O insurer recommends not allowing employee to moonlight to avoid being named in a lawsuit.

Don Phillips

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

But again - you as the employer say yes or you say no and it's the end of the debate as far as the employee goes.

Personally, I believe what I do on my own time should not concern my company as long as I don't use company resources, compete with my employer, or let it affect my performance.

But companies do have policies against moonlighting and it seems to me that either your company says yes or no and that's the end of it.

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

I have a friend who's firm says no but he does a little on the side.  I am sure he knows he is subject to dismissal if his supervisor finds out.  Hence the ethical question.  If you do something against company policy, on your own time, not using company resources, nor competing with the employer, is this still wrong? Does it make it more wrong if you sign a statement saying you won't do it? And are you in breach of an employment contract that specifically says no and you still do a little? How much much is too much? If you do an addition for your neighbor, is that too much?

I cedarbluffranch is right - if thee firm says yes, then it is okay.  But if the firm says no, then is it a slippery slope just doing something once in a while?

Don Phillips

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

Unless there is a law in your area, the company has no say so in what you do in your after hours, as long as you do not use company materials.  With that in mind, your company also doesn't have to continue to employ you if you live in an at-will location.  Slippery slope, indeed!

Dan - Owner

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

Looking back, my lack of CAD skills was the biggest weakness that I didnt recognize soon enough. Even worse, I wasted time and money on people who claimed to know CAD but didnt.

If I could do it over, my startup would include intensive personal investment in CAD drawing, management, and production.  

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

I would agree, manofstl.  I was lucky to pick up some CAD with a former employer and still use that skill from time to time.  I think kids that use software saw they are proficient.


Don Phillips

RE: Starting Up A Design Office

As an employer, I do not allow any employee to moonlight while working for my company and have them sign an agreement to that effect at the start of employment.  This is unfortunately the direct result of the litigous atmosphere of the US engineering market.  

My insurance company requires that we have such a signed agreement with employees as a condition of full coverage, since so many employees will moonlight regardless of what they tell the employer.  If the employee gets into trouble, they are usually not covered by insurance and the defacto deep pocket becomes the engineering firm.

Keep in mind that if an employee chooses to moonlight even after agreeing not to with their employer, they also risk their license from breaching ethical behavior guidelines or if not yet licensed, may find it difficult to get needed recommendations when the time comes up to seek licensing.  In any case, I'd let someone go if they lied about moonlighting, since it would be too much of a risk to trust them again.


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