Resources >

Structural Engineering

Job descriptions and profiles of structural engineers

By the editors of gecc

Marcia Brown

Company: Fluor Corporation (www.fluor.com), Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Job Title: Structural Engineer
Education: B.S. in architectural engineering from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo (1989); M.S. in civil engineering from the University of California Davis (1990)

1) How long have you been at your job and what do you do there?

“I joined Fluor Corporation in 1991, after working in a small engineering firm for a year. As an engineer for Fluor, I perform calculations and create drawings for industrial buildings, power plants and oil refineries. I also answer field questions from contractors and work with the building department.

“Most recently, I worked on the Long Beach Emergency Command and Operations Center, a steel building on base isolators where 911 calls are received. The building sits very close to the Newport-Inglewood Fault and it is vital that the building is functional after a large earthquake, so emergency crews can respond to people in need.”

2) What one thing do you know now that you wish you could have known in your past?

“I now know how strong I really am. You are your own worst critic. Ease up!”

3) What is the best and worst career advice you’ve ever received?

“The best career advice would be to follow your passions. If you are unhappy with where you are, leave.“The worst career advice would be to start your own firm. Working for Fluor provides me with all of the opportunities and technical advancement that I need without the stress of trying to be a one-woman show and handling all aspects of my own firm.”

4) What advice do you have for students interested in your field?

“Get as much field experience as you can, like working on a construction site or answering field questions. Designing structures on paper takes on a whole new meaning when you actually see a person trying to fabricate something you just drew.”

5) How do you relieve frustration with your job?

“Frustration from my job usually is caused by time constraints. So, I try to deal with things one at a time and not let the frustration get to me. It helps to realize that you can only do so much and people understand that.”

6) If they made a movie about your life and work, what would it be called and whom would you want to be the star?

“That’s a tough one . . . I can’t think of a title, but I would like Sandra Bullock to star. She seems casual and fun-loving. My life and work have been pretty smooth sailing; nothing dramatic, which isn’t a bad thing.”

7) What’s wrong with the world? What’s right with it?

“What’s wrong with the world is that people forget what’s really important in life; they get too caught up with the day-to-day small nuisances. What’s right with the world is children and their pure innocence.”

8) Who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

“I suppose I would choose to be reincarnated as an eagle. The bird is pretty high on the food chain and has the freedom to go anywhere.”

9) What do you do for fun?

“I love the outdoors, especially the beach. I play a lot of softball and I’m just starting to pick up golf, which I love. My husband and I used to do a lot of traveling; now we have twin girls who are almost two-and-a-half years old and we really enjoy our time with them.”

10) What cartoon or sitcom character do you most identify yourself with?

“I’ve always liked Disney movies (even before having kids), so I would choose Belle from Beauty and the Beast. As a kid, I was always looking for adventure and to spread my wings beyond my boundaries.”

11) If there’s one thing my colleagues don’t know about me, it’s this:

“During my leave of absence, after the birth of my twins, I held another job. I was a ‘stage mom’ while my twins shared the role of Maddie on Beverly Hills 90210 during the last six episodes of the show. I traveled to Van Nuys twice a week, shuttling the girls back and forth from home to the studio.”

John L. Watts

Company: Michael Baker Corporation (www.mbakercorp.com),
Virginia Beach, Va.
Job Title: Structural Engineer
Education: B.S. in civil engineering from Penn State University (December 1996); currently pursuing a master’s degree in structural engineering from Old Dominion University

1) How long have you been at your job and what do you do there?

“I started with Michael Baker Corporation in the Virginia Beach office on March 31, 1997. I am a structural engineer working mostly on bridge design.”

2) What one thing do you know now that you wish you could have known in your past?

“I wish I knew how fast time was going to fly by!”

3) What is the best and worst career advice you’ve ever received?

“The best advice—Don’t get involved in office politics!“The worst advice—When I was at Penn State, someone told me ‘Don’t worry, you will never use this method of analysis’ or ‘you will never see that program again (FORTRAN).’ Don’t believe it! I guarantee that the day will come when you have to dig deep into your old notes to try and figure out a problem using a method you never thought you would have to think about again.”

4) What advice do you have for students interested in your field?

“You are going to quickly realize how little you really know. The ‘real world’ is a much different place than the classroom. My advice is to treat the first year of your job like an additional year of college and listen to your peers.”

5) How do you relieve frustration with your job?

“I try to turn my frustrations into something positive such as motivation to do better work. However, sometimes I simply have to vent with a trusted colleague.”

6) If they made a movie about your life and work, what would it be called and whom would you want to be the star?

“I think they already made that movie. It’s called Office Space!”

7) What’s wrong with the world? What’s right with it?

“Wrong—Racism, violence, poverty
“Right—How our nation bonded together after 9/11”

8) Who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

“Paul van Dyk—International DJ. He gets paid millions to travel the world and play his favorite music, how cool is that?”

9) What do you do for fun?

“Ice hockey, softball, jet ski—basically, anything to do with sports!”

10) What cartoon or sitcom character do you most identify yourself with?

“Boy that’s a tough one. I guess Ross from Friends because I start talking about bridges the same way he talks about dinosaurs. We both think we are cool and can’t understand why everyone else thinks that we are nerds”

11) If there’s one thing my colleagues don’t know about me, it’s this:

“I am extremely stubborn and I hold grudges. I can’t help it, but when someone does something to make my life miserable, I don’t forget!”

career profilesstructural engineering

Resources >

newletter