I believe strongly that ASCE and other professional organizations are what you make of them. The more you get involved, the more benefits you will reap. A great way to jump start your ASCE involvement is to attend a conference. The 2011 ASCE Annual Conference is just around the corner; have you made your travel arrangements?
Need another perspective? Rafael Gomes de Oliveira is a young engineer who realized his goals through persistence and participation in the 2011 Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) Structures Congress. Hereis Rafael’s story in his own words.
If there is one city in the world where luck really matters, it’s Las Vegas. Some luck is random and some is earned. It took a little of both at the 2011 Structures Congress, but I left with the opportunity to land my dream job.
I first learned about the congress through an ASCE email sent the previous January. I was assured that the conference would be a great opportunity to meet structural engineers, watch lectures on current topics, and visit Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.
At the time I was studying structural engineering in Texas. So the next step after deciding to attend was to figure out how I would get there. The overall trip expenses including registration, plane tickets, and hotel were around $800. That’s more than most college students can spend on such a trip. Then it occurred to me, what if I could get my school to pay for it? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to exploit the university. Perhaps I should phrase that. How would the university benefit from me attending this conference?
I came up with three good reasons to receive my university’s support. First, I would give a presentation to my classmates about what I saw at the conference. Sending me would be almost the same as sending all the civil engineering students. Second, by attending the congress and carrying myself in a very professional manner, I would promote the university. Third, I would meet professional engineers who could eventually come speak to the students at my school about their engineering experiences.
After putting together a proposal that included the costs and purposes of the trip, I looked for the people who could fund it. My search went beyond the civil engineering department. I even emailed the president and the provost of the university and received a positive response. This made a big difference in the end. You might be surprised by how willing people are to help if you have an organized plan and good intentions.
I left for Vegas the day before the structures congress was to begin. My efforts started paying off on the plane ride there. I met an engineer who was also attending the congress and who later accepted an invitation to speak at my school. I had already met one of my goals!
The three days I spent at the congress were really amazing. The hotel where it was held was nothing short of spectacular. The presentations themselves were very informative and interactive. It surprised me that every time I told someone I was an undergraduate student they would respond that I was the first one they had seen at one of these congresses. I had expected that many more undergraduate students would be there in order to network and attend the presentations. Their absence helped me to stand out.
In addition to the conference activities, I was able to walk across and tour inside the Hoover Dam and see the Hoover Dam Bypass project. I attended an SEI Young Professionals Committee meeting just as the committee charter was being developed. I [VAC1] explored the Vegas Strip, walking in and out of every casino from Treasure Island to the Luxor. During my visit to Planet Hollywood, Kourtney Kardashian was celebrating her birthday. But more importantly, I received two job offer leads.
One of these opportunities developed into a full time internship in Chicago – it’s pretty much my dream job. I happened upon it by chance. If I had sat at a different table I would have missed my opportunity, but my attendance at the congress wasn’t coincidental. It wasn’t luck that I wrote a funding request proposal. And it wasn’t by chance that I emailed the president of my university to ask for funding.
To land your dream job, all it takes is taking a little initiative, talking to everyone you can, and staying optimistic. Upon returning to school, I presented my experiences to about 60 people. Many of them are planning to attend a professional conference in the next year. After reading this, I hope you will be attending one as well.