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How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

I'll try to keep this short. I've been at my current company a little bit over a year. Just to give a quick idea, I do structural steel design for conveyors,towers, hoppers etc.. for cement, coal, grain plants.

My question is this: How soon is too soon for me to start designing large steel structures with little to no supervision? How does your company handle entry level engineers?

This was an entry level position for me. I have passed my the FE but like most new engineers I've talked to, I lack confidence in my engineering capabilities mainly because lack of experience.

One of the older engineers walked me through my first few conveyor truss designs and I feel confident with that. However, the very next project, I had a new Project engineer and he had me design things I felt were out of my scope.(Large,complex towers and Large hoppers) I know the work wasn't checked properly and that's what makes me nervous to the point I lose sleep.

I have an upcoming opportunity to voice these concerns with some of the management and senior engineers. Before I bring this up I would like some constructive criticism/advice from the older guys and hopefully some sympathy from the new guys.

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Perhaps you are more proficient than you realize, but the new manager does. And perhaps the former manager was a good teacher and you were a good student.

Have you had any kind of a written or oral employee review yet to get a gage on how they feel on your level of proficiency?

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Let's give your new Project Engineer the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows what he is doing. If that's that case, and especially if he has been doing this a while, he may already have a pretty good idea of where the design is going to be before you have even crunched the numbers. You will find that more seasoned engineers, especially those who have become masters of a certain field, already have a pretty good estimate of where different designs will end up and what the final product will be sized to.

Still a valid concern but you may just not be seeing everything that goes on behind/above you. And like Mike said, maybe you are better than you realize!

Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Joke : Let not juge you by your avatar name "This Wont Fall".. that is in the same range as "It's Strong Enough"

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

We have had no reviews yet. I've tried to get feed back from some of my superiors and they make it seem like "no news, is good news" type of thing and they say they're happy with my work. My biggest concern is my work going out unchecked by anyone and the fact that I've found what I consider major mistakes on designs the company had assigned to interns.

I think the company is just poor at on-boarding new engineers and that's why I wanted to see how other companies handled their new guys.

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Pico-the name is to come off in a famous last words type of thing, it's not a promise

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Not an older guy, but here and elsewhere that I've worked the older guys all get a fairly good idea of your capabilities (or lack thereof) pretty quickly. If they're not backchecking the calc (or just doing a separate one themselves), they'll at least sit you down and have you briefly explain what you did, what the concerns are, where the critical points are. If your explanation checks out and makes sense, then great. If not, not so great.

As far as how soon is too soon, really depends on the engineer. I had some internship experience and tend to pick things up quickly so got thrown into the fire pretty quick. Things were spot-checked and back-checked to make sure they made sense, but nobody was constantly looking over my shoulder. Other engineers may need more hand-holding or guidance and there's nothing wrong with that. Everyone's different.

And agree with kyle. Your supervisor probably had a good idea of what the design would be before he passed it off to you.

Just make sure you backcheck your own calcs, look at previous calcs to get an idea of how to do things. Make sure you understand all the principles involved. And if you don't, ASK SOMEONE.

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

To present the other side, we used to have lots of interns. Many of them got thrown in the deep end & swam OK, more trod water and a few, well the less said about them the better. Anyway, even some that appeared more or less competent left quite a mess after they were no longer around. This despite having had some nominal supervisor etc.

Plus there's been times I've felt like that, to this day when I get something a ways out of my comfort zone I can fell the same - at least for a while.

Assuming you have a decent relationship with your manager, and that they're decent enough folk (potentially 2 big assumptions) then mentioning to them that you have some concerns may not be a terrible idea. It may not get you fast tracked onto the management route but hopefully any decent engineer would respect your caution.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Actually, to add to Kenat's response, I would look more favorably on an intern who did approach me with some concerns like this. It would demonatrate to me that they are there for more than a paycheck and are passionate enough about what they are doing to ask questions and share concerns. It would be a valid comment to make to him and I think he would respect your dedication.

Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

I agree with Mike and a few others....you might be better at this stuff than you think and your supervisors already recognize that. I've mentored numerous young engineers over the years and those of us with a bit of gray hair can usually spot the good ones pretty early on. We often give them more responsibility and less direct "hand-holding" supervision, to see how well they respond.....and yes, we often know where the answer will fall within reason before you get done with it.

My suggestion is stay the course...take what is given, do your best and keep doing it. You'll develop more confidence in your ability as you get a few more projects behind you. We've all been there. You'll likely treat one of your proteges the same in the future!

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

I’m not structural, but I can relate. I’m sure, as you are still green, that somebody will cross check your work in some form or fashion to make sure the company name does not get a black eye. However, that feeling of concern is normal at any experience level. As soon you lose that “what if” feeling, you may become sloppy at your work and your skill set may diminish. 15 years in this business and I still get the jitters at pre qualification of a product that I had major input.

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”
"People get promoted when they provide value and when they build great relationships"

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

I usually let my EIT's progressively design projects until something falls down and then I know where there talent-limits are!

(just kidding)

Speak to you supervisors about concerns.
Sometimes you do know more than you think you do.

It's the stuff that you don't know that you know is a concern.

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)

Well there's a couple of issues here. First, I know of a situation where the engineer/owner didn't check the work of one of his employees. He ended up in front of a board with the state and had to pay some money and take some courses.

I know of at least three big company's who didn't check the work of their employees and ended up either in litigation or a confidential settlement. (One a million dollars). In two cases, the structures where demolished, one rebuilt and one maybe someday will be rebuilt.

Another case I was involved in was a foundation design. On page 344(?), we found that the sand was glued to the bottom of the footing and provided the necessary stability to keep the structure stable. (What wondrous things we can do with finite element computer programs.)

On another 56 page calculation set with all calculations carried out to the third decimal (for wind calcs on a wood structure), we found a full 6" mistake on the next to last page. This mistake indicated that a shearwall length was adequate for it's lateral load. Of course, field measurements found the wall to be 36" long rather than 42" besides being already broke.

In all of these cases, no one checked the work. On the building torn down, there was no plan check by the local jurisdiction because it was a treatment plant, the engineer of record wasn't allowed to visit the site, the calculations weren't finished, the drawings weren't finished and missing connection details and the inspector was awful and the contractor was taking advantage of all of the above as well as sort of shorting things here and there.

Here's a young engineer who's is correctly nervous about his work. I once provided calcs to a company I worked for early in my career, about a stiff leg derrick that was being repaired. The calcs indicated that the derrick would fail. These calcs were ignored and the derrick did fail and the operator was injured. After complaining about the situation, I was told that they would look at my calcs next time. I decided not to stay around for a next time and seeked employment somewhere else. The company no longer exists.

I'm not saying quit your job - but maybe keeping a diary and putting some of your questions in writing. Basically CYA.

RE: How soon is too soon to start engineering? (EIT)


Quite frankly, compared to others I have had to work "with", your attitude is very refreshing. You will do well. Cheers.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

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