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Agneya Loya is an alumnus from the 2016 batch. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Department of Civil Engineering and is currently working in Clark Construction Group as an Engineer in Project Delivery department. In this article he talks about the opportunities in the Civil Engineering core sector and also looks at the age old non core vs core debate from a new angle.
It’s taken me a while to write this but this has allowed me to come to the humble conclusion that it’s easier to get advice than give advice. You don’t ask just one person whether they liked Chichhore, you ask a few people and reach a weighted conclusion. So please read what follows with a pinch of salt, ask the same questions to people on a different journey, and challenge your assumptions and form new ones as you do this.
Core vs. Non-Core?
Looking back, I think this question should be thrown out the window because it boxes you in. Yes you’re in XYZ engineering because you had a choice or you didn’t, but the world is increasingly interdisciplinary, innovation is often at the intersection of traditional industries, young university students in international universities take the liberty to change their major and so you owe it to yourself to try everything that interests you. In fact if you entered IIT as a Civil Engineer and want to graduate as a CSE student take an extra semester or two or three, hack the system and take every CSE course you like, do more internships and graduate as the engineer or consultant or social scientist you think you want to be! If your advisor says no, ask if they wouldn’t want their daughter to have this freedom. If the institute says no, question the Deans because they shouldn’t get to define your career.
My journey in Civil Engg:
I grew up seeing my father’s civil engineering business and Nat Geo documentaries and I was passionate about becoming the “shaper” of large infrastructure projects. While the CEE curriculum at IIT-B largely focuses on Structural Engg, I was lucky they introduced Construction Management in my final year and I found the idea of managing projects, utilizing 3D modeling, and thinking about organization design more exciting. I also had great pride in sticking to “core”. I sat for placements and also applied for Masters programs across America – I loved keeping as many options open as possible. Among the first few days of placements, I found the jobs offered by core firms paled in comparison to other branches – low salaries, possibility of remote placements, and unsophisticated contractors.* Fortunately, I made it into the Stanford Sustainable Design and Construction (SDC) MS program. The breadth of the SDC degree allowed me to study construction management, industrialized construction, real estate development, urban planning, life cycle assessment, BIM modeling and also audit a deep learning (AI) course. I’ve now been working with a general contractor (Clark Construction) in San Francisco for 1.5 years and am focusing on understanding the entire value chain of the industry, note best practices and also think about what innovation is lacking in construction.
What does “Core” Civil entail?
At IIT, the main curriculum will introduce you to Structural Engineering (Buildings), Transportation Engineering, Soil Engineering (Geomechanics), Water Resources Engineering, Bridge Design, Construction Management and maybe a few other areas of CEE. From my experience, you can go on to specialize in any of these areas and join a traditional role in that area or find a more niche role with a company/ startup pushing the envelope, ex. Sidewalk Labs, Uber, PlanGrid, Procore, Exponent (forensic structural engg.), etc. For those so inclined you could explore academia and become a professor.
Experience with the CEE sector/ reflecting on it:
The Harvard Business Review ranked construction and agriculture as the bottom most industries in the utilization of technology. This is likely true and represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Construction workers still suffer injuries routinely, work is installed incorrectly and must be redone costing time and money, material supply chains are ridden with uncertainty and all of this makes the day-to-day job of a general contractor very challenging. Large GCs in America such as Clark are doing the best they can documenting best practices, training new hires, adopting progressive contract types and trying to innovate internally. And there is also a recent wave (past 5 years) of tech startups looking to addressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dress these challenges. In contrast, my colleagues in structural engineering and transportation engineering solve the kind of challenges you see in IIT courses and deal with less uncertainty. So as a student, as you gauge your interest in CEE vs. other jobs, a parameter to keep in mind is the engineering-management split in a job which I think correlates with your capacity to operate in a more or less ambiguous environment.
Growth opportunities in my company/ industry:
Speaking from my experience of the construction management industry, companies tend to have a rigid hierarchy with promotions spaced out every 2-3 years going from Project Engineer, Project Manager, Senior PM, Project Executive to ultimately VP and ownership roles. In this, you have the opportunity to specialize in project development (marketing, estimation, purchasing, VDC) or project delivery (project start-up, execution, close-out). People are also able to leverage this experience to switch into a real estate role or any other industry that you can prove your skills transfer over to.
Job satisfaction and future plans:
I’ve learned a lot of soft skills and industry specific knowledge in a fairly short time at my current job. IIT helped strengthen engineering aptitude with limited opportunities to practice management skills. This job has challenged me constantly in developing that aspect of myself. Moving forward, my goal is to continue to improve my people skills, take greater ownership of tasks and identify opportunities for technology interventions (possibly leading into a startup). A great
Resources/ media recommendations:
MIT blog advice for incoming students – https://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/50_things/
Developing your passion vs. finding it – https://news.stanford.edu/press-releases/2018/06/18/find-passion-may-bad-advice/
JK Rowling on failure – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHGqp8lz36c
Curios Lives by Richard Bach – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/71724.Curious_Lives?ac=1&from_search=true
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40611510-the-last-lecture?ac=1&from_search=true
Designing Your Life – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26046333-designing-your-life?ac=1&from_search=true
Thinking in Systems – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3828902-thinking-in-systems?ac=1&from_search=true
That’s all : ). Thanks for reading this and feel free to reach out with questions, comments or feedback.