Great question! The biggest goal I had coming out of college was to obtain my PE license. As a civil engineer, getting licensed is a huge part of our ability to function in our job. I’ve needed a license for almost every aspect of the job I’ve done… environmental (signing wetlands plans), land development (signing subdivision design plans), transportation (signing road design plans) and pavement analysis (signing department memos.) Getting that license was a big ordeal and I felt very happy and accomplished when I passed the test! Go ahead and look up the board of professional engineers in your home state (or international versions). First you become an EIT- Engineer in Training. Then you become a PE (Professional Engineer). It’s tough and rewarding!
After receiving my license, I wanted to work in several fields of engineering. I wanted to see what I could do with my knowledge! I worked in environmental, transportation, land development, public and private sector, with consultants and with the government. Since working at a state DOT, I’ve wanted to move around and learn all of the aspects of what we do- construction, materials, right-of-way, pavement analysis and design, road maintenance, safety, and a host of other things. I want to know why we do what we do and how we do it.
I also wanted to see if I liked management. In the engineering field, generally, you can go one of two directions with your license; you can become very technical on one subject and become the statewide expert, or you can manage people and work your way up in the department or workplace. I did some technical studies and enjoyed being a statewide expert in pavement management, but I found that I was feeling pigeonholed and I worried that I was too young to stay in one place doing the same thing. Now I’ve become a manager and it definitely has its challenges! I have to really work on my people skills as well as my engineering skills. I’m not sure I like it as much as being the technical expert yet, but I want to give it a fair shot.
After this? I just want to retire knowing that I’m very well rounded. I want to know how to do everything that a civil engineer does. And one of the most rewarding feelings is designing a project and seeing it built. I definitely want to do more of that. Drawing plans on paper and signing them… then sending them out to be built… then seeing your ideas come alive with concrete and rebar and asphalt and soil is one of the best feelings in the world. I think that’s my next goal… to put my stamp on the area I live and be able to drive past something and say “I designed that!”
-Karen Merrick, PE