The Best Advice Anyone Ever Gave Me as a Young Engineer

Regardless of your age or experience level as an engineer, I bet that you can think of one or two pieces of advice that were instrumental in your engineering career development. I certainly can, and I would like to share them with you in this post.

I started off my career as a civil engineer right after my undergraduate studies. When I started my career, even though I had been exposed to a lot of different classes, I had no idea what specific discipline of civil engineering I wanted to pursue. Like all of the different fields of engineering, civil engineering has so many different disciplines, making this choice very difficult, especially when you are fresh out of school.

Now, on to that valuable piece of advice. When I started my career, one of the senior engineers told me not to commit to a specific discipline too early in my career. What sounded like a simple piece of advice proved to be invaluable for me time and again, not only in my engineering career but in life.

Based on this advice, in my first few years as a civil engineer, I had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects that covered many different disciplines. I made it very clear to my managers that I wanted to try as many different aspects of civil engineering as possible. Thankfully they agreed, and I participated in all of the following types of engineering design in my early years:

  • Structural design for small bridges and culverts, both steel and concrete;
  • Geotechnical (soils) engineering, including both field investigation and report preparation;
  • Hydrologic analyses associated with stormwater design for large residential and commercial sites;
  • Hydraulic modeling for residential and commercial sites;
  • Land surveying, which gave me a better understanding of how projects were built, making me a better overall design engineer;
  • Residential site design, including attendance at town board meetings to seek project approvals.

Eventually, I settled on site civil/residential design work; however, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t draw on some experience I had while working with the other disciplines of engineering. While civil engineering is broad, many of the different disciplines are interrelated, so having knowledge in the different areas has been instrumental to my success as a project manager.

Beyond engineering, I have adhered to this advice in my coaching and speaking career, as well as in life in general. I never jump fully into something without evaluating all of the other options. It’s amazing how powerful such a simple piece of advice has proven to be. Please leave a comment below by sharing advice that has helped you in your engineering career development efforts.

This is a guest post by Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success. Anthony found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website and subscribe to the top 3 resources Anthony has used to become a partner in a firm at the age of 27.