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Early stage of career
3

Early stage of career

Early stage of career

(OP)
I got out of college last year and I have been working in a structural firm for a couple months. We mainly do industrial designs and it's a little overwhelming and intense considering what is involved in designing industrial structures. I have been reading extensively on books for industrial facilities such as the ASCE books for petrochemical facilities and other.

My undergrad wasn't in U.S so I learnt the standards and codes in European codes, moved here for masters and was mainly doing research. I took other design courses (prestressed conc, adv steel design, steel connection) which helped familiarised myself with the U.S codes. I review the US codes and IBC from time-to-time to know more.

I have been reading often for the past months, not just as preparation towards P.E exams, but for work as well. I have been reviewing some structural analysis books together with P.E exams books, I do this from Mondays-Wednesdays (2hrs after work). Thursdays-Fridays is for my python lessons (I am trying to learn python), and Saturdays-Sundays is for Revit.

Although, I am at the early phase of my career it feels like a lot. It's like so much is expected of you when you're "smart" and had "excellent" grades. I used to work roughly 50hrs a week as I am involved heavily in most of the projects as a junior structural engineer. But I am looking at reducing it to 40-45, slow pace myself, get more time for myself.

Can those of you have been in the industry for long shed light on how to navigate early stages of your career? Thanks

RE: Early stage of career

Everybody's situation is different. I think the early stages of your career are great to be a sponge, and also a good time to ensure your work-life balance is intact. Establish your boundary now, because it is bound to be pushed as you age.

It sounds like you are highly motivated and focusing on the technical aspects of the job. Being able to perform and keep up with these demands is important. However, you are reflecting the idea that you might slow your pace down. I think if you are thinking this now, then your body/mind is telling you something and it is well worth it to make adjustments.

It also sounds like you are doing the right things by preparing, reading, and learning. That stuff can be harder to do as you are getting older and more experienced. Regardless of when you do it, that extra study takes time and it is important not to only climb the mountain but take some time to enjoy the scenery...dig?

RE: Early stage of career

I like the enthusiasm and ambition. Don't try to learn everything all at once, that will come with time and experience. Also, don't get too hung up on learning all of the codes. Codes change frequently so any part of the code you commit to memory could very well change in the next code cycle. Know the basics....load path, free body diagrams, etc. Two more pieces of free advice: never pass up a chance to make a field visit and if you plan to start a family (if you have not already) spend as much time as you can on self improvement now (like studying different topics, studying for exams, etc) because there will be much less "self" time later.

RE: Early stage of career

(OP)

Quote (skeletron)

I think if you are thinking this now, then your body/mind is telling you something and it is well worth it to make adjustments
My body is okay. I regularly exercise 20-30mins after work and I am in bed by 9:30PM so I get enough sleep. My mind is telling me to slow my pace down because I don't know if this all worth it as the early stages. It's like I see the other junior engineer doing basic stuff and I am assigned all these "task" .... I love structural engineering, but work doesn't seem fun these days.

Quote (skeletron)

Regardless of when you do it, that extra study takes time and it is important not to only climb the mountain but take some time to enjoy the scenery...dig?
I actually do go hiking once in a while during the weekends, I have dinner with friends from time to time, and I was even thinking of signing up for summer swimming lessons or joining the gym.

Quote (MotorCity)

I like the enthusiasm and ambition. Don't try to learn everything all at once, that will come with time and experience. Also, don't get too hung up on learning all of the codes. Codes change frequently so any part of the code you commit to memory could very well change in the next code cycle.
Thank you. For now, I'm learning at my own pace. (Eg, I am learning lateral forces, load path, and other concepts but I won't stress myself to go deeply into nonlinear seismic analysis. ELF is enough for me at the moment). The good thing is I have decided to not memorise codes but know the concepts and refer to them each time. This is to prevent mixing up European and American standards in my designs

Quote (MotorCity)

. Two more pieces of free advice: never pass up a chance to make a field visit and if you plan to start a family (if you have not already) spend as much time as you can on self improvement now (like studying different topics, studying for exams, etc) because there will be much less "self" time later.
I haven't had the chance to go to site yet. One of the junior engineers was sent because I was needed in the office to do some designs, but I look forward to that. Single with no kids, thanks for the advice. I remember this till the day I get married lol

RE: Early stage of career

Quote (BulbTheBuilder_EI)

I don't know if this all worth it as the early stages

This is precisely when it's most worth it. The "normal" career arch for a structural engineer in design/consulting goes something like this:

1) Fresh grad - you do the grunt work, task items, nitty gritty calculations, etc. This is because you just learned all the theory and calculations are still natural. You have little notion of how a building comes together, so you just get bits and pieces while a more experienced engineer puts those pieces together. At this phase, it's important that you pay attention and learn how the pieces your creating fit together.
2) A couple years in - you know how to do most of the calcs, and you understand how the pieces work together. Depending on the size of your company and the number/size of projects available, you may stay in the task mode working on bigger and more complex projects or move into a task manager role on simple projects where you're directing the new guys on which beams to design and where the shear walls should be.
3) Get your PE, and spend a few years (perhaps several) running projects and directing the junior engineers. You'll still have a hand in the technical stuff, but you'll be responsible for the bigger picture and will need to train the junior engineers well enough to trust them to do their job so you aren't having to run every calculation yourself. Unless you're just designing tract homes or strip shopping malls, it's rarely worth it from a project budget standpoint.
4) Become a senior PE, move out of project management and into QC/client management. At this point, you're doing very little technical stuff and mostly just making sure that the projects that leave don't have any issues that will cause problems in the field or get your company sued later. You're unlikely to run any calcs (unless you chose to spot check something here or there), and a lot of the time will be working with clients on proposals and scheduling.

As you can see, the further along in your career, the less technical the job becomes. You can 'stop' anywhere along the line, but it also comes with freezing salary and benefits and other perks at that level. Some large firms have 'chief-engineer' spots or other 'technical expert' positions that could take the place of #4 above for those who are especially gifted in a particular niche, but they're not common in your typical consulting firm. So early on when the theory is still fresh and you're constantly exposed to the technical aspects of the job anyway is the best time to soak up as much as you can. As skeletron said, be the sponge.

And as MotorCity said, don't focus on the codes. Codes are important, and you should be familiar with them. But fundamentals and first principals are the key to being successful. The codes set the minimum standard - the worst building you can legally build. They don't cover all situations or contingencies, and there will be times when you run into a situation that simply isn't mentioned. As the engineer, it will be your job to engineer it - probably based on first principals - and compare it to the standards in the code and decide if it's acceptable or not, and you may have to defend that decision to a building official.

RE: Early stage of career

(OP)
Thank you all for your words! I greatly appreciate it.

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