Any student of structural engineering has a desire to understand how structures are built and how they will react to environmental challenges like wind, earthquakes, floods and deterioration. But knowing your trade is not everything - here are six things needed for designing a successful engineering career.
1. Core knowledge in key academics
Like physics, mathematics and cognitive science is a must. Take time to understand subjects such as calculus, statistics, and drafting. If you struggle, find a tutor, if it’s an option for you. For those younger and more eager students who have not yet started their career at university, but already know they want to be a structural engineer: let your teacher know of your career goals. Sharing this information will give them the ability to help you better understand numerical solutions, matrices and modeling in a way that makes you realize why these methods were created in the first place.
2. A strong, supportive network
For a strong, supportive network of like-minded professionals and students: Join a networking site where you can ask questions from your peers, faculty and industry professionals. You are not alone. There is a huge network of other students who are walking the same journey as you. You will also find many retired structural engineers who are willing to share their knowledge and recommendations. Good sites to consider include Tekla Campus Lounge, Quora, Reddit, ASCE, and engineering.com.
Learning the right software can boost your understanding both in terms of industry and structural knowledge. Learning software like Tekla Structures helps you understand design intent and how structures come together, as mentioned by Viraj in his Tekla Campus spotlight feature. Use your time at school to master the software solutions industry professionals rely on.
4. Look into mentoring or internship opportunities.
Many universities offer mentoring programs and internship opportunities as part of your degree. These opportunities can lead to potential employment but this should not be your entire endgame: Do also discover what you like most about your career choice. Find a mentor or someone you can trust and learn from them, it might lead you down new avenues.
In a competitive industry, you must be able to showcase your knowledge and skills. This is also a great way to set yourself apart from your peers. Companies know that participating in a competition is a valiant effort for a student. It shows that you are ambitious and not afraid to compete or get measured against others, and is a great way to add value to your CV. For structural engineering students, the Tekla Global BIM Award Student competition offers a venue to showcase skills amongst the most iconic projects in the industry.
Do not commit to a specific discipline. One of the best pieces of advice we have heard is from an old article, The Best Advice Anyone Ever Gave Me as a Young Engineer, where Anthony Fasano writes about a piece of advice he received: “Do not to commit to a specific discipline too early in your career.” This allowed him to branch out and work on many types of projects, and it gave him the opportunity to explore and learn about many different types of structures.