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Seeking Guidance!

Seeking Guidance!

Seeking Guidance!

Hi All,

I got my Ph.D. in Structural Engineering about three years ago. Since then, I have been working with a land developer in Toronto, Ontario. I thought this position would provide me with lots of experience as I will be involved in structural, civil, environmental, transportation, geotechnical studies, etc...

Unfortunately, what I found myself doing is creating feasibility studies and coordinating with other consultants to prepare the studies. It's more like a coordinator rather than an engineer.

I feel that I wasted a lot of precious time in my current position. I want to start in a Structural Engineering firm as this is my everyday's dream! I appreciate if you could provide me with your thoughts on how to find a good position as a Structural Engineer and what references/books/software should I focus on while I am applying for a new job.

I'm not sure if this is the right forum to discuss this issue, but I really need support from experienced engineers like you.

Thanks very much.

RE: Seeking Guidance!

I suspect the network of consultants you have been coordinating with might know some in roads. Try asking a few who consult on the type of work you want to do.

Alternatively, get a short list of companies who actually do engineering (a land developer was a pretty bad choice). You should easily be able to get an indication of what sectors they service from their websites. Apply to their graduate programes. I suspect you might have to join at entry / graduate level if you only have 3 years of unrelated experience.

Alternatively, try and spin your experience (within reason) to demonstrate what skills you might have gained in those years and try and negotiate for a small head start.

RE: Seeking Guidance!

I think RandomTaskkk makes a good point to try and leverage your network that you have through the developer you work for. I'm sure you have worked with general contractors or maybe even structural firms directly. The easiest way is to get an introduction trough a contact, that will usually get you an interview at least which is a head start. With that said if you don't have that avenue open to you I would start compiling a list of firms in the area that you would want to work for and are inline with your career goals and start applying if they have openings. If they don't, most engineering firms I have seen have the names and positions of principals and managers on their site sometimes even with emails. You could write up a strong pitch email with your resume and make your case directly to them instead of trying your luck with HR. It might not work in most cases but could also be the ticket to an interview if you make a good case.

If you feel like you are not moving toward your career goals then it is time for a change for sure. You will most likely have to take a pretty entry level job and then work up since you are essentially changing industries even though you have the education for it.

as for references, I have seen many firms in Toronto use Etabs for their analysis. Should also be familiar with the Canadian codes for steel, concrete, etc. as well as the Ontario building code.

Toronto is a pretty good market to be looking in, there is plenty of construction being undertaken and it is where most major and minor structural firms have good sized offices in Ontario.

Good luck!

RE: Seeking Guidance!

Would mainly make sure to set your expectations going in. Consulting is a bit of a different world. Out in the consulting world you're probably looking at worse hours, more stress, and less job security. Also potentially less pay. With the tradeoff that you actually get to do fun stuff occasionally. A lot of people make the opposite move of what you're doing later in their career when they've scratched their consulting itch and want to cash out and focus more on family/personal life.

Would also make sure to temper expectations a bit salary-wise. If I'm looking at your resume, I see someone with zero design experience, basically a fresh grad. While the time spent with the developer may be tangentially useful, it doesn't really count much for me and I'm going to have to train you up just like I would someone straight out of school. So would make sure you've set your expectations accordingly.

RE: Seeking Guidance!

It's counter-intuitive, but engineers fresh out of school tend to be put in project-managing positions . . . better described as administration/coordination work that the senior engineer is finally glad he can put on someone else while he focuses on the real fun: actual engineering.

As ancillary thought, consider what your dissertation for your Ph.D. was. Can these principles be applied to the industry you have now familiarized yourself with? Can you seek out potential employers and articulate how your intimate knowledge with the subject will bring value to their business?

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: Seeking Guidance!

From the experience of someone who's moved between multiple jobs:
...as soon as you realize your current experience is not developing your skills, start looking for another job...

Reach out to your network, research and cold-call companies, start applying for different jobs, understand what you want out of a job (ie. land development does not equal structural design). Is there a structural engineers association in Ontario? Get involved with that. Take some PD courses and talk to people.

RE: Seeking Guidance!

I wish this would get hammered into fresh grads. Your goal should always be to build a toolkit of marketable skills. When I hear someone complaining about getting jammed up, pigeonholed, being unmarketable, or underpaid, more often than not they did it to themselves. Anyone in any industry should have a very good idea of what skills are in demand and be pursuing those skills. Nietzsche talked about those that are ubermensch as being perpetually agitated to needing to improve. That should be anyone's goal.

I have a friend who is a journalist and he complains about newspapers not hiring and only being able to get contract work. When did he know that the newspaper industry was on the downslope? Probably 15 years ago. When should he have started trying leveraging his skills into something else? 15 years ago. Most things don't change overnight. It often is slow and hardly noticeable unless someone is vigilant in keeping their periscope above water.

If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

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