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Are you an engineer at all??37

Are you an engineer at all??

(OP)
I’m not sure about you guys, but lately all I’m doing is risk assessments, reports, meetings, presentations, dealing with public bodies and dealing with nonsense. Its been months since I’ve done any actual engineering!

The job has become so over regulated I feel like engineering Itself is now maybe 25-30% of my job! I’d consider myself a good designer, and this level of admin and red tape has me considering jacking it all in and going to do something else..

How are things in your part of the world?

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I’ve been slammed with design work. Project after project comes in. A lot of field work, evaluations, analysis, and repairs. Paperwork is a part of the process but it still pays the same!

I have heard from a lot of colleagues in the industry that the banks are being stingy with money so a lot of projects are being put on hold. We’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t been the case for our firm, but I’ve heard about one of our competitors laying off 70% of their staff! We just hired another engineer and are still looking for more.

Erica
Structural and Geotechnical Engineer (yes I know this isn’t a typical combo)

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

But technical people get less pay. Better stick with the management ladder.

It also has a lot to do with the type of the employers. In consulting practise you will have the chance of being stretched. Contractor work also excellent for skill development.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Easily solved. Go looking for a job as a grunt, no admin, etc. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately in time as you advance you don't do grunt work any more. Mange a company and do only nippiness of what you trained for.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I guess you are in a middle to large engineering company, and were chosen to be groomed for project management career path. If you like the actual engineering work better, you should talk to your immediate supervisor to understand the untold intention behind these assignments/arrangement, and see what is down the road for you. Sometimes it can be just a tryout for finding the future leaders.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote:

all I’m doing is risk assessments, reports, meetings, presentations, dealing with public bodies and dealing with nonsense

I'd say all those things were part of engineering.

But assuming you mean you want more analysis and design work, directly related to an end-product, setting up as a consultant might be worth considering.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I concur with both OG and R13... if you’re not happy with your situation, discuss with with your superiors or start job hunting to find somewhere that will let you do the kind of work YOU want to do.

Erica
Structural and Geotechnical Engineer (yes I know this isn’t a typical combo)

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I am... by choice. I haven't been interested in management, and likely, have suffered for it financially. I've stayed in the trenches for the last 50 years, and am still here. I enjoy it and and comfortable with it. In hindsight, however, I should have gone into medicine... I think I would have had more fun. I can work with a team... but, generally don't... other than starting engineering, for the most part, I work on my own... and like it that way. The stair at the Cornwall Centre in Regina is one of my greatest achievements (to me) and when I asked the partner in charge if he wanted to check it, he said no, that he likely wouldn't understand it... and that was 40 years ago.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

4
I spent 13 years as a designer, but 2 years ago I switched over to be a plan reviewer with the city.

Based on the quality of work we receive I'd say most engineers aren't actually engineers at all. Some of these guys aren't even qualified to be called high school math students.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

my first couple years out of school I did 60-70% "engineering design" work. the other 30-40% was crossing the T's, dotting the I's, correspondance, meetings, reports.

These days I probably do just as much "engineering" work, but in 1/3rd or 1/4 of the time. I havent seen the same gains in efficiency in reports, correspondance, meetings, or field visits - ie. making sure the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I have been an independent engineering consultant for the last 20+ years, before considering this route just be aware your income will be highly volatile. Also you will need to asses your ability / willingness to develop strong personal connections with clients that is the key to maintaining a steady flow of work. That doesn't have to mean wine and dine ; in my case I constantly look to learn new things and solve my clients problems along with being 100% available.

On the flip side I am now in my early 50's and see a disturbing trend where people my age are being laid off or pushed aside for the younger generation. This seems particularly common among more technical folks where it is hard to differentiate their skills from younger (and lower cost) engineers. In my case age and experience improve my deliverables but cost is same as it has always been, maybe even lower as most of my work is T&M.

I you go the technical route just be sure you are the top dog as you get into your 50's. If your doing the same thing as an engineer with 5-10 years experience when the next inevitable downturn comes you will likely end up high on the list of people to layoff.

I hope this isn't overly pessimistic.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (dik)

The stair at the Cornwall Centre in Regina is one of my greatest achievements

Where is it? Do you have a photo, or sketch to share?

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

for me same. I am overqualified with heavy background in top-positions at large geotechnical construction companies in Europe, used to enjoy huge salaries, but all I do now is meet important people on behalf of my company. Engineering is unfortunately a hobby now. I would love working as most of you guyes, like very-day, normal engineers. It's not the money that brings happiness.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

7

Quote (Where is it? Do you have a photo, or sketch to share?)

The floor to floor height is about 18' and the stair is about 9' or 10' wide. I was project engineer on both phases of the Cornwall Centre and was employed by RJC at the time. I don't know about now, but they were one of the foremost concrete engineering firms at the time... about 40 years back. I physically did the design for all the mall, the Sears store, the parkade and the Sask-Housing tower.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Yeah, I wouldn't want to check the design at that time, quite adventurous by then!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Nice one, dik. I did a similar stair for NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) but don't have any photos to show you. Lots of fun calculating the torsion as I recall, but it was a long time ago and my memory is not what it used to be.

BA

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Some wise engineers from Golder once told me to never demonstrate competence at something you don't want to do. You must have inadvertently shown yourself competent at meetings, presentations, etc (many engineers are terrible at these things).

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

That stair and a six storey parkade in a seismic zone are the two most difficult projects I've done... the parkade was difficult because the architect didn't want to see columns exposed on the outside... 15' cantilevers all around...

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I’ve done a couple of those stairs. I hate the things. They’re crying out for a column under the landing.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Half the fun is not putting one in... the contractor didn't want to remove the shoring...

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I admire your sense of adventure! I'm much more of a wimp when it comes to "Look Ma! No Hands" structures.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

(OP)
Very impressive Dik. Are you using the stair slab itself or the perimeter beam system to take the torsion? I’ve never had the opportunity to do one of these! I’d be concerned that if I did, some FE whizkid would show me up on some vibration calc I’ve never even heard of!!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

2
I agree with IDS earlier, engineering includes the "risk assessments, reports, meetings, presentations, dealing with public bodies" and in many ways this is the part of our value that we dont spend enough time one - explaining to others what we do and why. From this will come better reputation / prestige / salaries etc. No one will pay more for something they dont understand.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

(OP)
You’re probably right guys. It is all part of it. I guess I’m just at my most content with a pencil and some graph paper doing the ‘real’ work!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I've been in and out. Currently I'm working on safety justifications; almost all of it is explaining why something is safe, because x. Then writing wordy reports to convince the regulator that it is safe. It absolutely requires an "engineer" to comprehend but is in no way "engineering".

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

2
Don't get engineering confused with number crunching. It isn't the same today as it was back in the day. I say "Fortunately". Any ole computer can size a beam and a column, stick them together and plant them in concrete. That is not a useful skill for humans to have, never mind engineers, but it's great for computers. It is at most useful knowledge to pick up along the way to becoming a "real engineer", but today that is not engineering. Don't spend any more time with that than you need to learn it. Anybody that can't deal with the proposals, zoning permits, safety reviews and navigating through the tons of reglations will not see any of their computer's beautiful drawings come to life anyway. What clients will pay you for quite nicely today is getting your permits approved on the first pass through the regulators' offices. Clients are not interested in looking at X-ray views of architects' drawings showing the underlying beam and column connections no matter how beautiful they may be. Don't wait until you're 50 to find out.

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (Are you using the stair slab itself or the perimeter beam system to take the torsion?)

Perimeter beam only... but I'm pretty sure the slab and stairtreads help, too... greatful for that. Ever have a project where you know it will work... but, have a lingering doubt in the background... sorta Kafkaesque. I was absolutely certain... but... maybe something I overlooked?

I remember the huge number of rebar at the top, going back into the concrete topping... 3" conc on T30V deck... F902 firerated system... only beams had fireproofing... I actually provided 3 or 4 methods of typical framing for the mall floor and sent them out to a contractor for pricing.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

4

Quote (OP)

...and this level of admin and red tape has me considering jacking it all in and going to do something else..

I feel as though we might be cut from the same cloth on this so I'll share what I think I've learned having pondered this for a solid decade now.

1) Task wise, one kinda just likes what they like. Sure, there are folks who like everything and transition seamlessly into management and other higher level responsibilities seamlessly. I'm not one of them though.

2) In the interest of full disclosure, I have a friend that I worked with for a long time at a high end firm (RJC, same as dik) who had finagled a pretty great situation for himself. He toughed it out, climbed to principal, and now basically spends most of his time facilitating the design of project engineers while those guys and gals go to most of the boring meetings. So he's still technical, only hands on for the real interesting problems and, of course, spends some time on big proposals etc. It's a good gig and I'm jealous. Big bucks and fun task composition. Making it happen requires a particular set of circumstance in my opinion though:

a) A high end firm that attracts high end junior staff that are fun and interesting to teach and grow with.

b) A high end firm that lands significant architectural projects, often institutional in nature, that have enough fee in them to be able to support a talented group really exerting themselves intellectually.

c) You gotta be able to convince your superiors, who are mostly business guys, that you're enough of a business guy to promote to principal in the first place. Without this, you'll struggle to exert the power within your organization to be able to create a niche like this for yourself.

I did my management tour of duty at a lesser firm and concluded that wasn't ever going to be fun for me.

3) I've also seriously considered switching careers because of my lack of enthusiasm for the higher level consulting activities. And, frankly, I feel that there's real merit in that given that:

a) Management of most things will tend to be more lucrative than management of consulting engineering.

b) As my accountant brother is fond of saying, "once you're managing anything, does it really matter what your managing as far as you passions go?". Engineering deliverables, investments, widgets...

c) I actually feel that structural engineering work is especially difficult for me to manage precisely because I'm so interested in it. Successful management is mostly about making clients happy, PM'ing to make a profit, and motivating a team. Many of those goals actually run contrary to quality design engineering in my opinion. Were I to manage, I feel that I would be better at managing another kind of product.

4) As a last ditch effort to fight the good fight and make it work doing what I like, I've basically tried to make myself the world's highest paid EIT by starting my own little firm and doing a lot of specialty delegated design work and subcontract for other EOR's who trust me technically. The jury's still out on whether or not it will work but the challenges are many:

a) Income volatility. It only works because I live in Canada and do a lot of USD work.

b) Basically jumping off the traditional career ladder and "not growing" in the eyes of potential, future employers.

c) Wildly variable hours.

d) Now I have to do a a fair bit of my own business administration and manage a couple of employees so it's not like I've shed that 100%.

All that said, doing my own thing is an adventure that I'm glad to be trying my hand at. Life's not super interesting 24/7 and I'm clearly not going to be a famous rock star on an astronaut. Pretty much everybody has the opportunity take a swing at a couple of life's biggest adventures though:

e) Having a family.

f) Entrepreneurship.

So swing for the fences I say. I do acknowledge, of course that it is possible to be an entrepreneur within an existing organization. Once might say that it's actually mandatory to reach the highest echelons.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I have been meaning to start a similar discussion.

I am an EIT (Canada), and have been worknig for about a year now. My job is about 80% report writing, site visit, research and then the occasional , but simple member designs.
I work in a small firm (less than 20 people).

Am I too naive in wanting a design job similar to what I did in school? I've always wanted to design and work on big tall structures doing dynamics, statics ...

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (CivilSigma)

I've always wanted to design and work on big tall structures doing dynamics, statics ...

To make that happen, you'll need to be pretty strategic. If I had it to do over again, I'd move to a growing urban centre and camp outside of a premier firm doing tall work until I tricked them into accepting me. Speaking to only the markets that I know something about, and surely leaving out a lot of players:

1) Move to Vancouver and work for RJC or Glotman Simpson.

2) Move to Toronto and work for RJC or Entuitive.

3) Move to NY and work for DeSimone, WSP, TT, or pretty much any big player.

4) Move to Chicago and work for TT, MKA, SOM.

5) Move to Seattle and work for MKA.

It's a big sacrifice to make that happen if it didn't just kinda happen naturally, especially with a family in tow. That said, it is what it is.

Statics you should be able to employ anywhere of course.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I think that is the plan. I am currently in Ottawa, and there are no major firms or even local firms hiring design engineers.
I would love to work in the USA, but I don't think anyone would sponsor a Canadian in these times.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (I'd move to a growing urban centre and camp outside of a premier firm doing tall work until I tricked them into accepting me.)

I lucked out... the Winnipeg office (since closed) had a new manager... and I met him in a 'strip club' and we somehow started talking engineering... was into masonry at the time and construction of 20 storey (or so) buildings and tall masonry walls... he asked me to come in for an interview... That was the early '70s.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Dik:
Did you know a guy by the name of Bill Hanuschak (from Winnipeg)? I almost went to work with him in the early 70’s. They had an office down here in the Twin Cities, and wanted someone to manage it and work on their projects around here.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Knew him well... he was with Crosier Greenberg when I worked there in 1970ish. Did a lot of work down in Minneapolis with him... an interesting anecdote... I used to be able to run a string of dimensions on a drawing adding feet and inches just by looking at them... I was showing Bill how well I did this... and ended up with a different number than was on the drawings... thought I screwed up and ran them again and ended up with the same number as the first time... an urgent phone call was placed... they were in the process of installing caissons based on the drawing dimensions. I was talking to Bill about 6 months back... he was in the process of winding up his firm.

His brother Ben was my Grade 7 Guidance Teacher... first day of class, I walked in and patted him on the head and called him a cute little teacher... but, that's another story. Last I heard, Ben was in the hospital.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (If I had it to do over again, I'd move to a growing urban centre and camp outside of a premier firm doing tall work until I tricked them into accepting me.)

KootK, can you elaborate on this? I'm also an EIT in Canada working for about a year at a small firm in Niagara, trying to broaden my horizons.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (Parosh)

KootK, can you elaborate on this? I'm also an EIT in Canada working for about a year at a small firm in Niagara, trying to broaden my horizons.

An engineer's career tends to be characterized by a sort of professional inertia. Whatever kind of work you start your career doing, that's often the kind of work that you'll end your career doing. And that's not just a function of one's technical skill set. At the upper levels, the game is very much about reputation and relationships. Ten years in, you'll have a reputation for doing certain kinds of work and relationships with other parties who are also involved in those kinds of work. It's self perpetuating.

The moral of the story is that, if your goal is to be doing a certain kind of work, it would be to your advantage to start doing it fairly early on in your career. The most likely way to accomplish that is to get a job with a firm that will themselves be doing that kind of work in the near future. And who are those firms?

A) Firm's that already have a reputation for doing that kind of work in the past and;

B) Firm's who operate in markets where that kind of work is likely to be taking place in the near future.

If you want a particular thing to happen in your career, or your life for that matter, you'll probably have to take proactive steps to align yourself with those goals. If your thing is skyscrapers, you'll want to move to a big city and work for a firm that does skyscrapers.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I do it....although on my own now. Interestingly enough though (now that you mention it), one of the things that drove me away from the larger firms is the fact I was doing a lot of people's job for them. I.e. designers who couldn't design, estimators who couldn't estimate, schedulers who couldn't schedule, and so on.

At least now I know it's going to be all on me.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

(OP)
I agree Koot. That said, the grass is always greener... Guys I know in small firms want to design the big stuff... Guys designing the same big building 6 years later would kill for a chance to design some small bespoke stuff!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

In large firms, you tend to be trained as a specialist on something, project management included, with good guidance and plenty of resources. Mobility is there, but the move is slow, as competition is high. In small firms, you tend to carry everything start out from the beginning, with minimal guidance and limited resources, and the move from technical only towards doing everything can be rapid, as you are probably the only person who can handle the heat/load. The above said are not always true, but are something to think about when you planning your career path, and determine which role you want to be. I think the correct mix that fitting your interests and personality is the key to success.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (Kootk)

If I had it to do over again, I'd move to a growing urban centre and camp outside of a premier firm doing tall work until I tricked them into accepting me. Speaking to only the markets that I know something about, and surely leaving out a lot of players:

Are you saying I through my current job and move to Vancouver hehehe.

I usually use Indeed, Glassdoor jobs to search for open positions. Do you guys recommend something else?

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (CivilSigma)

I usually use Indeed, Glassdoor jobs to search for open positions. Do you guys recommend something else?

All that stuff is too passive if you really mean to steer your career with intention. Figure out who you want to work for and get yourself and interview whether they have an advertised posting or not.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (Kootk)

All that stuff is too passive if you really mean to steer your career with intention. Figure out who you want to work for and get yourself and interview whether they have an advertised posting or not.

Pardon my lack of experience. But how do you go about doing that?
I've thought of sending letters before. Do I contact recruiters on LinkedIn for example?

I really don't know how to go forward. I thought getting an M.Eng would help, but so far it hasn't.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

6

Quote (CivilSigma)

Pardon my lack of experience. But how do you go about doing that?

1) Identify a company that you'd like to work for.

2) Call their office and ask to speak with the human resources department.

3) As for an informational interview.

4) If they won't interview you, indicate that you'd like to send a letter over expressing your interest in any current or future openings.

5) Ask who the letter in #4 ought to be addressed to.

6) Send the letter -- a paper letter -- on some high quality paper and with zero spelling or grammatical errors as verified by your mentor/teacher/colleagues/mom.

7) Rinse and repeat annually until you get a job or the firm in question gets a restraining order.

8) Accept that, while you're able to will many things into existence, your powers are limited and sometimes you'll not get what you want.

9) Move on to the next desirable employer.

Showing some moxie, a proactive mindset, and a little perseverance can go a long ways with a potential employer. Certainly, it can help to differentiate you from the zillion other, MSc endowed candidates out there hoping to land their dream jobs via email/IM. It's a courtship dance; let potential employers see your enthusiasm and how you go about getting things done when you mean to make something happen.

Some employers will be intensely annoyed by this approach; others will be intensely flattered and highly impressed. Embrace the latter and say to hell with the former as they weren't ever going to be of any help to you anyhow.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I have always thought about proposing that you would agree to work for free for a probationary period in order to prove oneself.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (I have always thought about proposing that you would agree to work for free for a probationary period in order to prove oneself.)

I'd be really suspicious of any company that would welcome that... best to look elsewhere.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

2
Working for free, even for probation? Man that's worse than what they used to call scab labor". Making the rich man more rich? No thanks. Not even a fair labor or fair market practice. I would suggest that someone considering that should first take a self respect class. It would be obvious to me that they didn't even respect themselves or their own work that they put into obtaining their education? Why would that be? Was it too easy, they cheated, or they partied all the time while daddy paid the bill while others did their work for them. They'd definitely be the low bidder and we all know to what that refers. Their working for free would also disrespect the hard work of all of us and all the other engineers around them. It just brings us all down. Why would you do that. Never think about that again. EVER. As I always say, No thanks! I prefer to go broke drinking beer at home. You couldn't even eat doing it. It's what they call a "NO BRAINER". BTW, Rich Man also understands very, very well that he GETS what he pays for, even if it was as little as possible.

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I get what XR250 is saying. When I graduated, there was no job market in my area for structural engineers with no experience. Not even an internship. No design/consulting firms were hiring. I wasn't quite as proactive as what KootK suggested, but I did cold call most of the firms and sent unsolicited resumes. I got a lot of "thanks for asking" if anything at all. I was fortunate enough to find a building products manufacturer who needed an in house designer and, so, I got the coveted "Structural Engineer" on my resume and caught the attention of one of the smaller firms the next time around.

Believe me, though - I contemplated volunteering just to get exposure and a little bit of experience. I knew that my production value was going to be next to nothing for the first few months at least while I learned my way around, so I wasn't opposed to getting "paid" in experience while giving them very little in the way of profitable work.

Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't do that for many of the reasons ax1e and dik stated - but I'm also now a structural engineer with a license and a solid career. Had I not "made it," would I be regretted not offering to volunteer myself? Probably.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Don't regret it. It wouldn't have worked out anyway. It's a recipe for bad feelings that would eventually come from realizing that you had been taken advantage of when you were most vulnurable. Employers that would do that are guilty of the same thing as sex trafficers, crack pushers, etc. Taking advantage of their power over others. You would eventually learn that, resent it and leave as soon as you could. Been there, done that. I was in a similar situation one time after the oil price crash in '87. I returned from a foreign assignment and thought I needed a job immediately, so I took the first one. Not for free exactly, but for cheap, and it was a crap company that had been in bankruptcy proceedings for the previous 11 years out of the 15 of its existance. It was TransTexas Gas. The locals called it Transylvania Natural Gas. Why? Because they sucked the blood out of everyone that went near them. They fired people for things like allegedly "leaving a bag of cement out on the lease site" and yes, "steeling toilet paper", but we deduced that it was someting more like the guy was going to become vested in their "retirement scheme" within a few weeks or so, etc. etc. The drilling and pipeline crew foremen were talkng "job security" money from their crews. What a mess. We said that they paid us every two weeks, because if they paid us once a month, we would have gotten enough money together at one time to buy a full tank of gas (it was a rather remote place) and get the hell out of there. It came to me quickly that it was going to be a short term, bad gig at best. ... with little hitting the table except my head. I got out ASAP, but times were so bad back then it took a couple of years to get back to Houston, where I still was paying for my long vacant house, unmarketable due to the 80% vacancy rate prevailing in the burbs at the time. The only good thing about it all was the experience I got working there. I was the only engineer for the entire gas gathering and transmission system that was producing more natural gas than Exxon was at the time! I single handedly ran everything but the drilling ops. Bought used equipment, compressors, meter stations, dehydrators, seperators, pipe, from all over to hook up locally and even moved a compressor station from Kingsville to Laredo and got it working again. Worked my A off and never fotgot anything I learned. I thank them for that, but nothing else. I can't imagine what doing that for free would have been like. Be happy that you didn't go there.

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (ax1e)

Working for free, even for probation? Man that's worse than what they used to call scab labor". Making the rich man more rich? No thanks. Not even a fair labor or fair market practice. I would suggest that someone considering that should first take a self respect class. It would be obvious to me that they didn't even respect themselves or their own work that they put into obtaining their education? Why would that be? Was it too easy, they cheated, or they partied all the time while daddy paid the bill while others did their work for them. They'd definitely be the low bidder and we all know to what that refers. Their working for free would also disrespect the hard work of all of us and all the other engineers around them. It just brings us all down. Why would you do that. Never think about that again. EVER. As I always say, No thanks! I prefer to go broke drinking beer at home. You couldn't even eat doing it. It's what they call a "NO BRAINER". BTW, Rich Man also understands very, very well that he GETS what he pays for, even if it was as little as possible.

I don't want to make this political, but there was a recent president who loosely suggested the work for free as an intern approach to getting a job.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

So, this is a good example of an analysis of alternatives (AoA) exercise. I see at least 5 possible alternatives:
1> work for free, or low salary, but directly in the field of interest
2> work in nominally related field, e.g., in the trades
4> work at home on a "project"
5> work in an unrelated field

Then, the question is which of these alternatives will give you the best shot at a job in the field you desire. I've rank-ordered them the way I see them as panning out, but others might have a different opinion on that.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Just be sure you know it will be short term one way or another.

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

ax1e - thanks for sharing your experience. It's certainly a good example of the potential pitfalls of taking this approach and anyone reading this exchange would be a fool to ignore it. I don't think anyone is suggesting that it be done for along period of time, though. Unless daddy's an investment banker with a soft spot for an engineer who can't hack it, you're going to have to prove your worth quickly and fight for your due pay.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Welcome. Yeah, maybe a bit of a rant, but "forewarned is forearmed".

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Every job is a learning experience; a former company had an internal joke, "XXX University, where you learn what not to do."

The trade-off is do you want to work in your field, at a low pay and crappy working conditions, and hopefully learn useful engineering, or work at a similarly low pay in a random store or restaurant and let your engineering skills lie fallow?

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

1) I view the phenomenon of unpaid work as nothing more than a natural condition of supply and demand, just like high paid work and low paid work.

2) I suspect that the supply of structural engineers who want to work on mega-building mass tuned dampers all day every day far exceeds demand.

3) I have it on good authority that many, if not most, of the premier skyscraper firms are actually quite sweatshop-ish at the junior and intermediate levels. You work like a dog and can't make any real money until you make partner, usually with an $80K buy in. This makes sense given #2. 4) Suppose that WSP New York called me up and said "Hey KootK, we'd like you to come to NY for a year and spend all of your time doing performance based design of mega-structure outrigger systems. You in? The only problem is that we've got some other guys willing to do it for free". I would, in all seriousness, offer to pay WSP$50K of my own money and get my ass out there. I understand the supply and demand value problem because I'm part of it.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Meanwhile, many of us can make a comfortable living scraping the proverbial engineering gum off of society's shoes. It's not glamorous, but I get to have dinner with my wife and kids every night!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

This is to drift even further into the philosophical but I've come to the personal conclusion that enjoying your work will, for most, come down to learning to enjoy your clients and enjoy helping them with their problems. Certainly, that is the key to business success. That, combined with with being excellent at whatever it is that you wind up spending your time on. This has been a perennial struggle for me as I'm one who has always wanted far more from the profession than I've been able to extract from it in a technical sense.

The book below was a great help to me in shifting my perspective to something more practical and sustainable. The title is unfortunate as it's not actually about getting what you want. Rather it's about learning to want what you've got by getting awesome at it, just like Sheryl Crow recommended way back in the 90's: Link. It's all just a repackaging of classic stoic principles.

Still, with the benefit of career hindsight, I can clearly see that it is possible to get more of what one wants out of a career by thinking strategically at the outset and never, ever being passive about what you ask from life, work, or anything else. I'd do it a little differently if I had it to do over again which is why I recommend the strategies that I do to our younger colleagues. At the same time, I'd never counsel anyone to let their own happiness, or the happiness of their family, be frustrated, delayed, or otherwise contingent upon relatively trivial career BS. I would move to NY and my wife would be cool with it because she knows who she married. But then, after my selfish tour of duty was up, I'd find a way to reassemble the clan and keep pumping real money into the retirement and education accounts.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Well Said KootK and PhamENG.

I feel like chasing that glamorous design job will cost me financially (moving to a new city, etc.) and be taxing emotionally and psychology. I still live at home, and it will also hinder my family's well being.

But at the same time the thought of it so damn exciting. I feel like my destruction will by my own doing lol.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

3
It will cost you, but it may also reward you. Remember, there's no chance of success without the risk of failure. By living at home I'm guessing you mean with your parents. In that case, you're probably young enough to take this chance and, if it doesn't work out, you'll be none the worse for wear. If you can survive a year or two with one of the mega-firms and learn a thing or two, you'll have a pretty nice resume to take back to a provincial firm. Or maybe you'll rise to the top of the heap and make a name for yourself as one of the great structural engineers of the age.

Whatever you choose, good luck to you.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (Every job is a learning experience; a former company had an internal joke, "XXX University, where you learn what not to do.")

I'm glad I come from a different time period... when universities were respected and businesses provided the training... Universities, it seems, have become large 'technical schools' for turning out technicians.

Dik

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

"XXX University, where you learn what not to do."

That had nothing to do with engineering; e.g., we had 9 general managers for our division in 5 years, and the company lost about a billion dollars a year for 7 years running, among other things

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

As someone who has moved abroad for better design work I can definitely recommend it. Working on more exciting projects whilst picking up new skills and better ways of doing things were all worth it. You do have to risk some social and financial aspects so it really depends on what you're willing to give up.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

40mm: that's certainly a 9gagger?

As for the topic starter: I worked some years for a government company. I did not walk but ran away, starting my own business. To be honest, there's still quite some administration going on now (certainly when you grow and have personnel), but at least I don't have to wait for 5 signatures to buy new xerox paper or coffee...

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

No. I'm a glorified paper pusher.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Quote (KootK)

Successful management is mostly about making clients happy, PM'ing to make a profit, and motivating a team. Many of those goals actually run contrary to quality design engineering in my opinion. Were I to manage, I feel that I would be better at managing another kind of product.
what a damn good insight. i agree fully here and consider this valid in general for all fields.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Success itself is making people happy. Management incorporates effective conflict and problem resolution to that end.

“What I told you was true ... from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Return of the Jedi"

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

@CivilSigma: as luck would have it, I know of a small, boutique firm in NY that is aggressively seeking someone to come out there for a 12 month contract position doing full time field review on a significant concrete highrise building in Manhattan. Right here is your chance to:

1) Get your butt to the US and get some meaningful US experience.

2) Get your butt to a market where tall buildings get built and familiarize yourself with their design and construction.

3) Learn from a mentor adept at the design of super tall buildings (former DeSimone engineer).

4) Make some useful contacts in a tall building market and possibly parlay that into a full time position spring boarding you into tall building structural engineering for life.

5) Have a fun NYC/Skyscraper adventure that will require you to risk little and, possibly, gain a great deal.

Like phamENG intimated, fortune favors the bold. And statistically, it really does. It's a bit like the Brett Favre school of big play making. The twenty, regular season interceptions are dwarfed in spades by that successful Hail Mary pass at the right time in the right playoff game. But, then, if you never take the chances, it's a certainty that nothing will happen.

If this is something that would interest you, let me know and I'll connect the dots. Go forth and let us live vicariously through your successes Fazlur Civil Sigma!!

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

@KootK Thank you so much, that would actually be amazing, and I would love the opportunity! You are really kind, thank you for sharing this.

Although I bet the logistics will be hard due to COVID, I am willing to pursue the opportunity.

Is there a private message option here? Please let me know what I can do to get the ball rolling.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

Go to my profile page and see if you can decipher my burner email from there. It's been done successfully a number of times in the past.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

I think I figured it out. I sent you an email.

RE: Are you an engineer at all??

2
Yup, all good. And you're most welcome of course. Survival as a structural engineer is a goddamn team sport if ever there was one.

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