Interview with a Civil Engineer – Part 1

Many career options are often presented broadly, but offer much more specific branches to choose from. For aspiring engineers, the options are plenty: chemical, mechanical, electrical, computer, civil, software; the list goes on. When you first decide to pursue a degree in one of these, it can be a challenge to feel confident that you’ve made the right decision until you are well into your studies. I recently had the chance to sit down with a civil engineer of over 30 years to discuss what this career is like in more depth. You may find this helpful if you are just embarking on your new journey as a university student or contemplating whether this is the right path for you.

What made you want to pursue a career in civil engineering out of all branches of engineering?

I had a certain appreciation for the work that went into monuments, buildings, things that have been built overtime all over the world and their wide variety (Eiffel tower, Millau Viaduct, Cathedrals, Greek temples, pyramids in Egypt). It was sort of like an art to me. I was inspired by all that went into these, like the design, construction, and physics, and wanted to do something similar.

What does a typical day at your job look like?

I would say there isn’t really a “typical” day, each day is a bit different depending on the project at the time. Most days are at the office. I have meetings to discuss designs for a project, plan our schedule, evaluate costs, verify calculations, and check our materials. It involves a lot of teamwork. Some days I go on-site to check how construction is going, that we’re not falling behind schedule, see how the work is progressing – that it’s done well and safely.

What is the most rewarding or enjoyable thing about your job?

For me, it’s rewarding to be able to solve technical problems, because I enjoy it. I like being able to take part in and witness the progress in taking someone’s idea and realizing it so it becomes a reality.

What do you find most challenging about your job?

Probably being able to adapt. My job has taken me to many different countries and you have to be able to very quickly adapt to different people and policies and norms in these various countries.

What has been your favorite project to work on be?

My favorite project was a high-rise office building built on pre-stressed concrete. It required complicated and precise calculations so that the concrete would resist the load and I liked this challenge. I was very happy with the result.

Do you remember what your first engineering job was?

Yes, my first engineering job involved assembling precast reinforced concrete to realize a residential building. I was a junior engineer, just starting my career and working at an engineering office.

(Please check this blog later for a Part 2 to be uploaded soon.)

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