Susan Paul (MS '22, BS '21) will start a full-time job as a structural engineer with Jacobs Engineering this fall. She interned with the company in-between the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters and worked part-time during the spring semester. Paul's perserverance and internship experience led to an opportunity to start her career.
Finding an Internship
I started applying for jobs in August 2021 before school even began and went on a splurge of applications during the Fall 2021 semester. By November, I still wasn’t getting many responses, and started to change my thought process to see if I could scout one more internship before I graduate in May during winter break. I had previous internships in civil engineering consulting with organizations like the Chazen Companies, LaBella Associates and Kimley-Horn. Additionally, I had worked for the Westchester County Department of Public Works for one year. I wanted some structural engineering experience because this was the field I wanted to work in.
While applying to different positions, I did a job search on LinkedIn, and found an opening for a structural engineering intern at Jacobs Engineering. I didn’t have great expectations when I applied, and a day later, I was rejected.
I could have easily moved on and continued my job search, however, I remembered meeting one of the human resource professionals at Jacobs Engineering at a conference a few years back. I gave it a shot, and quickly sent her an email. I described who I was, where I met her, and attached my resume and cover letter. I even included that I was rejected a few days prior from the position that seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for, and asked if there would be any similar opportunities because I just wanted to learn. After sending the email, I thought it might have been counterintuitive to mention I got reject, but it was too late, and I thought I wasted my last shot. However, two days later, the HR representative replied, and said she was going to send my resume to all the hiring managers in structural engineering.
This experience taught me a few lessons: One, apply, apply, apply, and do not stop applying! Even if you get one interview, apply to other places. This process is as much about you getting to know companies as companies getting to know you. Two, don’t forget to network. You never know who can give you an extra hand, so do not hesitate to go to all of the networking events, conferences, and continue to meet people. Three, a job search can be a daunting experience, but it will work out! Show passion in what you do, and use the experiences from UB to show that you are just as much, if not, more, than the position you are applying for.
I worked on the initial design phase of different projects, choosing the preliminary sections and modeling them in 3D software before back-checking them using equations in the American Institute of Steel Construction manual. I learned how to use a couple of structural analysis software other than SAP2000 and refined my Revit skills. I attended project meetings with senior engineers, and engineers from other disciplines who constantly answered my questions. I even did a few hand, or, back-of-the-envelope calculations to make sure the software was showing similar results.
The experience was important because it let me use the skills I learned in school. It reiterated the importance of knowing or understanding the fundamentals. As someone who struggled understanding theoretical concepts at times, getting to see the theory applied gave me a better perspective and appreciation for what I was learning. Additionally, it was comforting to hear my colleagues discuss how important it is to do “back-of-the-envelope” calculations. This was something I heard constantly from professor Filiatrault during my undergraduate structural analysis course. I would chuckle because I didn’t believe it when I heard it at the time.
A career in structural engineering
I will be starting in August, and based on my experience working with Jacobs Engineering, I expect to continue refining my computer skills, and do more analysis and modeling. Eventually, I will work on bigger projects. I learned a lot of lessons during my job search, but a lot of credit goes to UB for giving me the experiences necessary to flourish and grow. I have to thank the civil engineering faculty and staff, especially my professors. They let me knock on their door and answered all of my emails because I was confused about an assignment, but then that would slowly turn into a life pep-talk because I would mention something about my job search, or any other typical 20-year-old existential crisis moment.