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Your work experience as a Junior
3

Your work experience as a Junior

Your work experience as a Junior

(OP)
I'm a recent civil engineering graduate. I was hired at a small structural firm that does small projects with a quick turn around (generlly 2 weeks - can be larger for larger projects). Despite some bad days, I do like the job - But I'm wondering if I'm getting good structural engineering experience.

I get to handle some clients myself - for example calls will be transferred to me and I get to speak with the client, confirm a scope of work and submit a quote. If we receieve a PO then the job would be mine. Sometimes I get to meet the client myself - for example one job I met the client, got back to the office prepped a proposal and got the job a week after. That job was for various steel supports for machinery - which in total I quoted at $18,000 - That covers 36% of my salary - and thats something I could complete in 2 weeks (realisticaly a month and a half since I am busy with other jobs). Anyways I get do engineering for various types of jobs - desigining concrete foundations and slabs on grade, steel supports, sizing beams. I also do a lot of structural analysis for drawings produced by clients, for example aluminum racking, steel racks (storage), reinforcing OWSJ. Then there are other types for example going to site to inspect a wall to determine if its load bearing or not, or if a floor is structurally adequate (measuring joist sizes, spans, determining and analyzing an exisitng structural system).

I think the experience is giving me a lot of experience with the smaller jobs, however I do not plan on staying where I am forever (do not want to live in the location) and I am worried that my experience will not have an 'edge' that makes me qualified for higher positions. For example, working in a small firm I have to do the majority of my own drafting - sometimes if its slow I can delegate the drafting but thats generally not the case. What I find is that for 2 hours of engineering theres about 6 hours of drafting, so I spend a lot of time drafting - not exactly something I want to have as a large part of my experience as an EIT.

Anyways just wondering what others did as junior engineers (structural or not) so I can get a better idea if the experience I'm getting is 'good'.

Cheers

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

Surveying, drafting, inspections, report writing, minor design work for miscellaneous Structural and Hydraulic projects.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

I'd say that you are right where you ought to be, and better than most. The 3:1 drafting to engineering ratio is absolutely typical of civil / structural / mechanical disciplines; with good, experienced designers you can get to 2:1 but from the sounds of things your drafting skills are probably pretty good, too.

There is no need for me to offer a comparison. I think the experience you are getting is very good indeed. Soak it up, absorb it. You sound like a very good engineer already, better than most at your level, based on the things you are doing.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

PTD12: you're lucky, but lack the perspective to know it. You're getting very good experience- better than most I'd wager. Count your blessings!

If you're doing the work fixed price, it sounds like your firm could make more money if they hired a few drafters and had you spend more of your hopefully more expensive time doing engineering. If you're selling reimbursable hours, and your clients are paying an engineer's rate for you to prepare drawings, you're actually likely making your firm MORE money this way. Either way, chances are, you're learning more- and doing a better job for your clients- by generating your own drawings.

My early career give me excellent experience working with and learning from a great technical team. It came at a high personal cost- poor compensation with no chance that my work would ever pay off for me personally. I learned from that too. I stuck with it for two years and a bit- but that experience and what I'd learned from it got me my next job. The job after that was a result of connections from the 1st job, things I'd learned at the 1st job and developed further at the 2nd job, and things I'd learned doing my Master's experimentation. I'm still there.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

you are a new graduate and they are letting you prepare offers by yourself? do you verify them after the project with actual costs or get a second opinion while making the proposal?
i know for myself that i'm not yet capable of making an entire proposal (risk-free that it's not below the actual costs or too far above), that's the job of senior people here (at least estimating the work involved, material is different). type of work: general purpose small to medium size factory equipment (welding, some machining, etc)

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

loki brings up a good point ... did your $18,000 estimate realise into a $27,000 job cost (ie your company lost on it) ?

did your bosses expect your to bid higher (so your low estimate cost the company profit) ?

it sounds to me like you're getting very good experience. maybe you want more analysis time ??

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

2
My first day on the job - back in the Carter days - I was given a big box of photos and negatives and told to find the negatives for the photos. I finished a few days late and was given another box of photos and negatives; finished that and was given another box of photos and negatives. Then I did some drafting; lettering in ink with a Leroy. Then I was given a bridge rehab project. My squad leader gave me a set of plans and told me to use it as a guide. I designed the profile, the deck, steel repairs, MPT, quantities, tracings; the whole nine yards.

The first couple of years was like what Mike said, inspection, drafting, design quantities, all the bottom of the food chain work that a junior engineer was supposed to do. Back then, engineer was what you called yourself to impress girls; in the office you were a "designer". Within five years I was running several bridge rehab projects.

Learn as much as you can; try to figure things out, ask a lot of questions, mainly of senior engineers to see if you have an understanding of things; do what's asked of you - remember junior engineers are supposed to do the $#!+ work (in my day that's how the chief engineer decided who was worth it); maybe some old times will take you under his wing. I've managed a lot of transportation infrastructure projects on the design and construction side (largest one was an $850 M tunnel. I can usually tell if a junior engineer is going to amount to something or end up a loser. The reason I bring this up: I just finished a $200 M bridge rehab as lead structural engineer. Along with everything else I did the deck rebar layout, the bar lists, (60 sheets between the two), and the quantities, because none of the junior engineers, who should have been assigned the work, were capable; rather, they had no interest in learning how to do it. To me, they're a bunch of losers who'll never amount to much.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

One other task I was given was to go through all the old drawing files for the three existing, the one abandoned, and the two proposed dams on the Skagit River and save what was relevant, and toss what was not. Had to relate everything I looked at with a computer generated list - took me a long time and was a lot of tedious work, but by the time I was done, all the other engineers were coming to me to find out the location of the information they needed. Taught me a lot about the engineering of the times and past and a lot of history... Helped me write reports for the relicensing of the project with FERC in later years.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

(OP)
Thanks for the responses - I really enjoy hearing how others started their careers. Moltenmetal you're spot on that I lack the perspective - hence my post.

Loki/rb - I work in a consulting firm. Essentially there is fixed prices for the deliverables (structural drawings usually). A lot of cost comes from drafting and the time for drafting is generally predicatable. Engineering is also fairly predictable in the case of simple jobs like machine supports - in cases where the engineering is unfamiliar it can be estimated (conservatively). But yes I will verify them with the higher up before I send - usually just a spreadsheet to justify the hours and cost/hour and its good. I'm learning more the importance of pricing based on the value of the service however, not the time spent - sometimes that can result in only breaking even or could be extremely profitable for niche work.

My real question is will this type of experience be valued by future employers - I do not plan on spending much longer where I am due to the location (too many ties in another city - personal life >> career). I do not know an appropriate timeline for quitting a job (1 year, 2 years, etc..), but I feel like I won't have something flashy to put on a resume like "Managed 5 million dollar project".

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

Perhaps I picked different conclusions from this thread, I think you were being told it was an above average sounding job for a junior engieneer, and no, it won't reflect badly on you at all. I see no particular reason to change jobs before you've done 3 years, admittedly at that point you will probably find that you'll have to change companies to get a decent raise. When I started it was not unusual for an engineers pay to double in the 4 years after graduation even in the same company (mine did, I worked for a large company and my rate of promotion was fast but not unusually so), those days are long gone.

In my first 2 years I designed a system and drew it on a drawing board, ran production machinery, worked on the assembly line, worked in various labs, wrote some programs, learned FEA, manned the pay office, counted trucks, wrote absentee reports for payroll, drank gallons of beer, drove some neato prototypes, and basically just learned how a big company works.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

I must agree with a lot of what the others have written - good experience and all that. But it's worth adding that you are lucky to have so much control over your projects, and so soon out of school. That sense of self-determination is worth every dollar that you aren't being paid for not working for a bigger corporation. I had a similar experience to yours; only a year into the working world I was doing everything from hanging equipment in client's helicopters to selecting just the right rivet for sheet-metal joint to negotiating with government bureaucrats. Soup to nuts.

It's hard to get that kind of exposure in a bigger corporation, where there's a different person doing each piece of the job that you can take care of yourself. Someone in the corporate environment may be a good engineer, but never close the sale or see the check come in. The value of that, the job-well-done and how-to-do-it-better from the clients, cannot be underestimated. It is worth much much more than the performance review form a corporate manager could give you. You'll grow 10x faster than many of the peers of your graduating class!

STF

RE: Your work experience as a Junior



In my first 2 years I designed a system and drew it on a drawing board, ran production machinery, worked on the assembly line, worked in various labs, wrote some programs, learned FEA, manned the pay office, counted trucks, wrote absentee reports for payroll, drank gallons of beer, drove some neato prototypes, and basically just learned how a big company works.

nice
esp. in a big company, where everything takes time

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

If I was still hiring, you would be a candidate that I would very seriously consider. First off, you can draw! Which means that you know what the structure really looks like - you are intimate with it. Old time draftsmen were very good at this - but today's computer aided drafters, in the most part are awful. I really hate to have to bring up their drawings to make LOT'S of corrections.

The fact that you getting a variety of projects is good - even if it is on a small scale. Client contact and being nice to clients is a plus. I don't do very well anymore and have been known to fire clients or to "pass" on projects. The other engineers in the previous posts are giving you good advice and I'll bet there are some young engineers in big companies who are envying you right now.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

You're getting an excellent start on your career - part drafting, part engineering, part client management. It'll make you a well rounded and employable engineer. I'd put your resume toward the top of the pile.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

I would also say that you being able to draft your own designs is a positive and not a negative. You have to start out somewhere, and starting out with what you are doing sounds really useful for the future. A few years of doing that will make you an easy hire for your next job. My first job switch had a pretty huge raise and the kind of work I wanted all in one. You sound headed in the right direction.

Don't get too caught up in what you are charging compared to what you are making. Unless you are continually making $18,000 for 2 weeks of work for years in a row, that's probably not sustainable, and not a guide to go by. I can tell you for a job we can bid $10k, and I can turn it around myself in 2 days. But we only get those so many times a year. What's more normal is a $2-3k job that gets the same turn around time and averages the bigger money ones out.

I started out drawing Tract and Parcel Maps and doing research at the Public Works to finish the maps along with getting them approved and recorded over the counter. Turns out I can read a survey better than most because I have that past experience of research and drawing and talking to others in the similar field. This played a big part in my understanding of grading plans and real life building. I also don't need a drafter because I drew stuff myself. I have also seen some crazy stuff when a hand drawn grading plan goes to a drafter for final plans. When you switch jobs you keep picking up new things and add to your resume. And eventually you will wake up and feel like those older engineers that actually knew what they were doing. I am not at that point yet, but that's my goal.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer
http://bwengr.com | http://bwstructuralengineer.com | http://bwcivilengineer.com

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

here in europe everyone drafts for himself, at least in my country. (i have heard different of Hella though)
how do you communicate relevant design info that's not on the model to the drafter? (fits, surface roughness etc)?

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

Lots of great info here already. You are in a great position and doing good things.

Let me add two additional thoughts...

1) As a civil, especially structural, you are next to useless until you get your PE. You are lucky to be getting the experience you have without it. But your goal for the next 4-5 years is to secure your PE and, if you feel ambitious, your SE. Achieving that will do more for your "edge" than any projects or assignments between now and then.

2) Your "edge" is going to come as a result of a lot of intangibles such as personality or your ability to network. For instance, can your boss put you in front of a room of potential clients with the confidence you will sell the company well? Does your reputation speak well for the company in the engineering community? Look at it this way...most structural engineers can design a beam but it takes an exceptional one to make the client believe that he needs one.

Keep at it. Get your PE and get active in the engineering community you work in. In 5-10 years, you will be able to move into any mid-level job you want.

PE, SE
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: Your work experience as a Junior

Being able to draft is a positive, not a negative. Sounds like you're getting good experience with different types of calculations. Many people would just get to do one thing, get really good at that, and that's what they do forever. Getting ready to take the SE and my main goals have been to get a broad base to help me on the exam (have been somewhat successful, still lacking in timber, light gauge and then bridges) and then as soon as I can stop being a drain on the firm, not necessarily start bringing in work but doing things quickly, under the time we had estimated it would take to do it. Sounds like you'd meet both of my criteria.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

(OP)
Again thanks for the repsonses guys!

loki3000 - I find that generally it would be my job to size the members for strength/deflection. It's generally the drafters job to make it work with the other appropriately sized members, bolts, welds, etc...Note I use generally, because it should be everyone's job to make something work. As I gain more experience I give less headeaches to the drafters because I can see the designs better without scaled drawings/models. I find design info. unique to the job has to be explained to the drafter, or added yourself after if its easier that way too. I would review the drawings before a final review to be sealed.

Another question I have is regarding dealing with clients. I am still very inexperienced and I find it very stressful when clients send emails or call to get information for a project since I am not allowed to provide an answer myself. I always have to say something along the lines of "I'll bring this to my boss and get back to you". When I have a list of 10-12 projects and I get emails/phone calls like "Can we use 5/8" bolts instead of 3/4" "Can you approve this concrete mix", "Can you sign off on this rebar before we pour concrete", "Can you get me a price for this job?", "Do we need to anchor this structure or can it just sit there". I can do all of this stuff, however first I have to research / do the work to come up with an answer myself. Then I need to propose that answer to my boss who will get back to me with his approval or tell me its wrong and generally that is followed by some hard words. This takes a lot of time and really stresses me out because I find reading something often results in an interpretation - does this design guide apply to this project? And if so, are these numbers even reasonable? I dont have a pool of experience to draw on. I can put my ego aside and tell the client that I am a junior and I don't know (but will find out) - but afer a while I feel like I'm doing work I'm just not trained to do.

Sometimes I will mis-interperet a question, for example a client asked if he could notch some floor joists so they would fit the barn roof. I said I'd get back to him - I understood it to be notching the bottom of the joist because thats the only way I've seen floor joists notched - turns out he wanted to notch the top - didn't make much of a difference structurally speaking but when my boss found out I misunderstood that I was spoken to quite frankly. In hindsight I can see how I really should have clarified before assuming the bottom, but at that moment I didn't have the mindset to question anything because I didn't even realize I assumed something.

Anyways, is this something other juniors have gotten stressed out in consulting firms? I'm always interested in getting different perspectives from others.

RE: Your work experience as a Junior

When you stop getting nervous about the answers you are giving or the designs you are doing, you probably need to start thinking about doing something else. I think you will find that most "experienced" engineers still get that twinge that makes them rethink something before putting it out. In time, you will develop your engineer's judgement and that will go far in giving you confidence. It will also help you to know what questions to ask and what information is needed to make informed decisions. But again, this comes with time.

Don't worry about getting spoken to or corrected. That's part of growing and those of us who have experienced that at some point are probably better off because of it.

Something to keep in mind though, those contractors really shouldn't be contacting you. They should be talking to the PE on the project. It's my gut feeling that they are calling you precisely because they know you are inexperienced and hoping they could get a quick answer from you. So they probably are expecting to hear that anyway.

If I was your boss, I would be encouraging you to bring everything to me. No way I would want a junior level engineer making modifications to my design. Second, there is a reason we as a profession require RFI's and other formal ways of asking questions. This helps keep things organized and allows us time to process the questions appropriately. I would encourage you that if it does become your responsibility to answer these questions from the field, that you insist the contractor submits a formal RFI. This is for your protection and his. Again, I think they are circumventing this because they know you are inexperienced and hoping to avoid the hassle.

Inexperience is the first step towards experience.

PE, SE
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: Your work experience as a Junior

That's a good answer. So for the OP, perhaps he could politely question the contractor when he phones up, and write down an accurate summary of the question, and his proposed solution, and give that to the PE?

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

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