In this career interview, an engineer shares his experience in the industry. He talks about the challenges faced when working for government contracts, and also opens up about racial discrimination he has faced on the job. This is a true career interview as told to LatPro.com. This is one of many interviews with individuals in the engineering or manufacturing fields including interviews with a civil engineer and with an efficiency expert.
I am a civil engineer and I guess you could say I work in the industry of government or engineering. My firm is a privately owned business, but we were set up primarily to fulfill government contracts. I have a grand total of nine years in the field of engineering and five in civil engineering, specifically for the government. Using only three adjectives, I would describe myself as charming, happy and easygoing.
My ethnicity and gender is black and male. Although I think there have definitely been improvements in the way black people are treated, I do not think I get all of the respect I deserve. Race should not be an issue in what I do, and normally, it is not. But a few instances have stuck out, and it’s not anything big – just a little comment here or there, or someone saying something under their breath. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you, which is why I just ignore it and go to the gym later to take it out on the punching bag.
What I do is meet with architects basically to turn their ideas into working buildings (or bridges or statues or what have you). It is my job to make the dream become a reality.
I would rate my job satisfaction at an eight. With government contracts, there is so much oversight and needless bureaucracy it is hard to be creative. It seems as though everything costs four times as much as it should just because the government is so far behind on technology. To unleash my full enthusiasm, I would need more control over the designs.
I got started in this line of work through a program at college because it seemed like a good investment. I was looking for a steady paycheck and something challenging. This job does not necessarily move my heart, but it is fun. I don’t know if I have found my sweet spot necessarily. I think that would be writing children’s books.
I learned the hard way that the government wants certain things done a certain way, and if there is a more efficient way, just don’t tell them about it. I tried to call a government agent once on a project to inform him of an inefficiency. That only resulted in us getting our budget pulled from the next project. My boss was livid for a month. The single most important thing that I have learned about the working world outside of school is that I need to shut up unless my opinion is specifically asked of me.
I get up and go to work each day hoping that something exciting will happen. I feel good when a project turns out actually looking good, despite all of the forces that seem to conspire to make everything just mediocre.
The challenges that make me want to quit are really dealing with the government and my co-workers. Though my job is not really that stressful, it can be boring at times. I definitely maintain a healthy work / life balance as I try to get out and go snowboarding whenever I can. I wish I had more vacation, as I only get 3 week per year, but I make use of what I am given.
A rough salary range for my position would be from $55 to $65K per year. I don’t think I am paid enough, because my friends that work on private projects can make 10 times as much per year. Though money can vary from project to project, to be in my field, you definitely need a college degree.
If I could write my own ticket, I would be working on private buildings for individuals in Los Angeles, New York and Paris.
Male civil engineer image from Shutterstock