Structural Startup/Personal History - Advice?
Structural Startup/Personal History - Advice?
I recently just passed my PE in NYS and have been working for some large national structural consulting firms(total experience is 4 years). I was excited to receive my PE in NYS, proud moment in my family to be the first engineer. I was able to work on some iconic building and studies throughout my career, this was my dream while I was in college... lets just say I had the old corny mentality "I want to look at a major building and say I contributed to that!". During college I got my first "taste" of structural engineering at a small NYC firm as an intern. There I learned the basics to drafting and how drawings even look in professionally. My first full time position(~1 year of experience) was at a small time firm where i did minor structural work, structural inspections and the "once in a blue moon" ~6 story new construction projects. There I was creating structural analysis models as well as drafting(SOE/DM/FO/S) drawings and coordinating with architects. During my time there I was studying to obtain my Masters degree at the same time. I later went to a larger company with larger scale projects in order to pursue my dream projects. I created and analyzed complicated existing structures as well as various healthcare facility designs. At this job was where my morale started to get completely crushed and my passion/motivation for my field was beginning to go away. I was happy to be able to design these complicated projects, however, the company had a very old school mentality. Engineers were not allowed to draft and had to perform mandatory concrete special inspections at weird times of days including holidays. Long hours were enforced (90 Minimum per pay period regardless of workload) and must wear ties otherwise you would get a lecture and bonus deductions. Needless to say, I did not see myself working their long term based on the environment and left to my next job with similar pay but more work-life balance. I was interested in my current company due to their capabilities in concrete design and the chance to gain some more responsibility/ownership over projects. This was something I was lacking in my engineering repertoire. An issue I am currently having with my current company as I did with my last one is mentorship. My supervisors are either extremely young (<2 years experience difference) or never managed/delegated work to anyone. Currently my manager is using me mostly as his personal BIM Coordinator rather than engineer... Anytime I ask for clarification of some task or directions usually the PM will give up and just say they will take care of it and not to worry about it. The PM likes to micromanage almost everything I do and wants to rush everything despite me telling him I do not have much experience with these types of designs/drafting. After enduring his comments for about 6 months now, I feel like jumping ship at this point, I feel nothing for the PM's projects and no longer worry about deadlines anymore and just wait out the clock to leave for the day. I considered talking to the partners about this, however, there seems to be clear favoritism for my PM since he works all day/night and does everything extremely quickly. To note this PM has never managed anyone before and is one of the worst mentors I ever had. Its either his way or the highway, I just do what I am told at this point...
Despite all my achievements and project experience, I look back on my experience in the last 4 years and become disappointed. This realization happened a few months ago when I was approached by a family member and was asked to create DM/SOE drawings for a small-scale project. I looked over the project description/scope of services and realized that I actually have no idea how to even begin a project such a project. It felt completely embarrassing to not be able to do this type of project. In addition to that I also realized that I never dealt with the business side of the professions yet. I haven’t seen even what a job proposal even looks like until my current job since they actually have that information available for all employees.
After my realization of my work being extremely specialized in the field of major building designs only, I did a few free consultations for my friends and families when they asked to gain some experience. They were buying property and wanted my opinion what changes will be needed to be done for the repair. I went the site and investigated and tried to find potential problem areas and gave them potential options on how to implement what they wanted. I started doing more research into older homes and wood construction in general. I have not done a wood project since my first job at that particular time. Ironically at my current job a big wood project has been given to my team recently. I was actually excited to learn how to do this and my motivation and passion has been coming back. I have been trying to push back the insane schedule my PM is pushing especially since our team does not have much experience in wood and I would like for it to be done right. These last 2 years did not feel like I was an engineer, I felt like I was just getting pigeonholed into doing menial tasks for my supervisors that they wouldn’t/couldn’t do. While I am searching for another company to join, In the meantime id figure id open a formal entity and do some freelance work since my current company allows this under contract.
I started reading codes and textbooks related to DM/SOE, wood construction and masonry. I became interested in the business side of things too and began analyzing any proposals I could get my hands on at the time. I started to see if I could be of use to local architects, contractors, developers, etc…mainly just by calling/emailing everyone I saw in the local area. I did decide to get insurance as well just to be prepared for the work in case it comes sooner rather than later. Coming from a design team that created and coordinated drawings/BIM models for high profile projects (40 story high rise and healthcare), finding jobs/clients has proven difficult due to the nature of work they are looking for. Most of the clients are asking to create SOE/Demolition drawings. I have made these types of drawings in the first year of my experience at a small-time firm but I need to find more samples since the codes definitely may have changed.
I am also nervous about doing some projects since I am a “young” engineer and do not know many people who are able to go solo at my experience level. I do firmly believe in networking and do have professionals I can speak to but most either just do not deal with these small scale projects or do not wish to share information with me. I have seen some low-quality drawings made by engineers in my neighborhood. I believe I can learn how to do demolition and SOE drawings better than most since I am actually willing to learn and improve, not just copy and paste details(common theme for small projects).
I firmly believe in my technical skills, however, I still question whether I am being too ambitious at my level. I want to prove that I can be a good engineer and can provide economical solutions to my future clients. I worked extremely hard in college and want to be recognized at some point in my career.
My startup questions:
1.When did you start your firm experience wise and why did you open it?
2.What type of work did you start with and how did you tackle work that you did not have experience with?
3.Does anyone have any good references for SOE/DM plans/details for NYC. My current plan is to find buildings in the local area that have some type of demolition/SOE work and hire an expeditor to obtain the drawings from DOB for me. Is there another way that I may not be aware of to obtain drawing samples?