×
INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!
  • Students Click Here

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer
10

Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

(OP)
So, I have a new job I'm starting this week and I am going to be the only structural engineer. I am worried about this because i have two summers of internship experience working as a civil/structural engineer for a firm that catered to architects. This position is for an office that does industrial work like bulk materials, plants, machines, conveyors and anything else they can get there hands on. So, I guess any advice that you could give me would be great. I what to know what to expect and what things are common must knows for this type of work.

Thank you.

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

2
What could possibly go wrong? Presently, no disrespect intended, but this is a very dangerous situation without an experienced mentor.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

While this could be a disaster, they must of had someone doing structural engineering for them in the past. Study what they did and try to extrapolate the work.
Of course extrapolation is not always acceptable.

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

That is assuming what they did was correct.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

Hi Chad

How did you get this job offer?
Did you know you were to be the only Structural engineer while at the interview?

Surely the hiring Company know how much experience you have, don't they?

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

Being thrown in at the deep end is always fun. Make sure you know how to draw a free body diagram. If there is any possibility of a human being getting between a load and the ground use a minimum factor of safety of 4, or preferably 8. If you don't understand a particular issue ask, and if necessary insist on an outside review. Make sure you understand the external engineer's analysis, you have paid for it.

If you are designing for a factory environment bear in mind that just because the load case is 100 kg on the hook, you can't use that to size members as somebody will drive a forklift into it, so don't use anything less than 4 or 6 inch tube if it is within 10 ft of the ground. Steel is cheap, all that extra capacity you design in will be used one day.

Keep a notebook. Use it.

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: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

3
You're so green, not only is there a lot that you don't know, there is a lot that you don't even know you don't know. That is a very dangerous situation. Even the best universities and internships cannot adequately prepare you to be a practicing engineer with final responsibility for a design. It took me 3-4 years before I really started to feel confident in my designs with minimal oversight. It's no coincidence that they require 4 years of experience before you can take the P.E. exam.

I've never really worked in an industrial setting, but my understanding is that they are usually considered "exempt" from requirements of needing a P.E. stamp on designs (still crazy to me, but that's a different topic for a different time). Therefore, they may take you design and go build it without a P.E. ever signing off on it. Again, this is not a situation that you want to be in. You should tell your hiring manager that you do not have the requisite experience to be in responsible charge of a design and either insist on them hiring another engineer with more experience that can mentor you, or refuse the job. In my opinion, you cannot ethically accept this position. The first rule of engineering ethics is to hold public safety paramount above all else. Designing real-world structures that people will use without the experience to do so is not a safe situation.

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

I was once in a similar position, granted I am a process guy, not a structural guy. Technically I was the only engineer, but there was a very senior operating engineer who would come into the plant for a day or two every couple weeks. It actually turned out to be a good experience. I learned a lot from him and the experience.

Any chance you will have similar assistance? If not, could they arrange for that? Maybe whoever you are taking over for still has a good working relationship with the firm?

Good luck

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

I've heard of lots of shady places like this. I definitely think this is not a safe position for the company to take.

But another thought I have around these situations is that you can't learn good engineering in a timely manner by only learning from your own mistakes (waiting for them to come to the surface in the construction/operational phase). A good mentor will let you make the mistake so that you learn from it, but will provide the feedback before it goes into the field and costs the company money and time.

"You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself."
- Sam Levenson

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

When I started at the company I was at I was working under two very experienced structural engineers, we do a lot of industrial consulting. Looking back if I had tried to fill their shoes without their guidance I would have at best caused huge liability issues for our company, and at worst would have seriously messed up some structural designs that would have the potential to hurt someone. I've also had the "pleasure" of working with companies who had a "structural" engineer on their staff who was clearly someone who did very little structural work or had so many gaps in their knowledge as to be dangerous. It won't work because you'll have a hard time learning what you don't know you need to learn.

Since you just started the job it's probably too late to back out now. Seriously consider abandoning ship as soon as practical. Plan on spending a lot of your own time self-studying with textbooks, technical papers, or relevant articles as you can. I would honestly grab some books geared toward the 16-hour SE exam, preparing for that really helped fill in any final gaps I had in my knowledge once I became a licensed engineer. Leave some conservative fat in your design (never bad for industrial design) and work hard to understand your limitations. Above all, don't be afraid to tell your boss "I don't know", but perhaps phrase it "I don't know, yet. But I'll try to find out."

I suspect you'll use a lot of black-box software. This will be your biggest asset and biggest curse. Buckling, connections, details, etc. will likely not be checked by these. Run hand calculations to check for almost everything you can. This will catch a lot of and errors and help you understand the material better.

If you are working on a design where the P.E. in your office is stamping structural designs/drawings and he is not a competent structural engineer then be VERY careful. One could argue that ethically you should notify your states PE board if that occurs.

Don't be afraid to tell your boss that you can't do something if it's clearly way beyond your skill. You could likely arrange to consult with an experienced structural engineer outside your company to do some of the heavy lifting.

Maine Professional and Structural Engineer.
(Just passed the 16-hour SE exam, woohoo!)

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

P.S. I'm literally working on a project that we got because a conveyor company didn't understand structural design well enough and had huge vibration issues on the previous conveyor. These guys are great at conveyors and have tons of experience but just didn't know that they didn't know enough about structural design. Obviously this isn't going to hurt anyone but it has the potential to have big price tags if something doesn't work right in industrial engineering.

Maine Professional and Structural Engineer.
(Just passed the 16-hour SE exam, woohoo!)

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

4
I agree with what everyone else has touched upon here. However, a couple of things come to mind. One, you're going to be their structural engineer but it doesn't sound like you actually have your PE. If this is the case, do they use an outside person to sign off on their designs? Two, given how nervous you are, why did you take the position? While some nervousness is to be expected when a person is going into a new role, yours seems to be quite high as evidenced by your post. Perhaps you should rethink, especially if there isn't going to be someone to double check your work.

Jeff Mirisola, CSWE
My Blog

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

Some good stuff already said, Keep a note book, PE study books...

This is how my career started.

My first job, I started out doing structural engineering for cranes (which was highly Code driven). There was a PE in the company but he was a couple states away, but he was a phone call away. I had to work hard and learn a lot quickly and I don’t regret it. There are a lot of books and information available, that can help you do things right. This was during the massive layoffs in 2008, removeing "redundancy" and overworking people is not good when safety is a factor. I quit this job on the advice of the company PE because I was definitely in over my head, phone calls and emails can only go so far.

My next job after that was doing structural engineering for an exempt field, for industrial facilities (machine, conveyor, vibrating equipment supports). My boss was the original designer of everything but he did not have an engineering degree. Nothing was "to Code" because the Code is a minimum set of requirements. The company had hired me to take their designs to the next level. There historic method was to look at other people’s structures, copy them, and make them "look good". When it was up in the field they typically worked just fine, and if there was any doubt, they "throw more steel at it". I did analysis’s of everything I worked on and found some structures had safety factors of >20. Their main problem was vibration control, so everything was way over built. In this particular field, failure was almost unavoidable (there was 40 USTon of consumable parts). They had plenty of structural failures and had learned from them, typically fatigue or wear related, which is massively complex, and was a fantastic experience for me. Because of this the sites were NOT accessible during operation so personal injury was not the concern of a failure. They were mostly concerned with down time and repairs. For maintenance LOTO to get in the plant took over an hour… This was great experience.

All this summed up in a nut shell. Can you design something that can get in the field and cause personal injury? My first job, something could have gotten out the door with a serious error.
My second job, I had a very experience boss, and there were a lot of checks, and workflow that made failure manageable. They never had personal injury because of a design flaw or failure. This experience really propelled my career, because I got to see lots of complex failures and problems.

Hope this helps
Good luck.

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

I second, third, and fourth everyone's comments about needing a PE to review the work, regardless of whether it's an exempt industry or not.

Another thing to consider is this - If at some point in the future, you decide to get back into the area in which you interned (i.e. working with architects on structures that require a PE), then all of the 'experience' you get in this role will not count because it's not under the supervision of a PE.

RE: Newer engineer starting at a company and i'm going to be there only Structural Engineer

They are going to take advantage of your incompetence.

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Resources

White Paper - Reliability Verification for AI and ML Processors
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are seeing growing adoption in a wide range of applications. ICs used for AI/ML applications are characterized by large parallel processing computation units, high power dissipation, and complex circuitry that can deliver maximum performance within a strict power budget. Download Now

Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close