Scott Blackhurst draws on his experiences over a varied career to offer advice to young engineers embarking on theirs.
Having recently reached the grand age of two score and four, it has dawned on me that I have more or less hit the mid-point of my career. Time, perhaps, to reflect on the past 20 years, during which I have held numerous positions covering design, supervision and management roles working on a broad
range of project sizes, from providing a new window lintel to complex large-scale buildings and infrastructure.
These roles and projects have allowed me to live and work in the UK and further afield internationally, collaborating with an interesting mixture of consultancies, contractors, clients and government institutions. In this time and these places, I have learned a great deal technically, professionally and personally. In this article, I aim to assist young engineers in facing some of life's decisions which may arise while working in this challenging and rewarding profession.
The daunting post-graduation step into the unfamiliar world of practice is rather like being flung back to your first year at university, where you find yourself facing a broad range of possible avenues to pursue over the coming years. It can be a time of uncertainty but, in reality, most employers are supportive and understanding and want to see a new generation of enthusiastic young engineers ready to challenge and change the way we think.
However, don't expect to be all things to all people. Specialisation in engineering, as in many professions, typically comes much later once you have a broad and solid foundation under your feet. Try to avoid taking long-term decisions at this stage and focus instead on gathering as much varied experience as you can.
In my first five years, I worked on projects covering the design and supervision of marine structures, building structures, seismic upgrades, roads, drainage, and high-rise demolition, to name a few. In short, try to experience as much as possible in your early years and hold this in reserve to help guide you in subsequent years.
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