It’s a Friday night for these university students, and career talk is in the air. Now, that’s commitment.
“The room was full and we stayed there until 9:30, 10 o’clock,” said Carlos Peña, P.E., M.ASCE, among the ASCE and National Society of Black Engineers members on hand to share wisdom with students at ASCE’s Conversations with Civil Engineers program, held during NSBE’s recent Annual Convention in Boston.
“I haven’t seen that much enthusiasm and energy and that much smart, focused talent in a long time,” said Peña, vice president of CLE Engineering Inc. in Marion, MA. “I’m heading toward the end of my career, and it was great to be around those people beginning their careers. They’re all going to grow to be great engineers and make a contribution.”
This year’s career mentoring event is the third held by the ASCE Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to offer students about to begin their careers guidance from professionals. Committee chair Kim Parker Brown, P.E., helped develop the program.
The forum kicked off with the engineers opening up about their careers and experiences as pros. Then the students broke into smaller groups and engaged the pros in question-and-answer sessions.
“It was great conversation,” said Khalin Redding, a sophomore at Montgomery College in Maryland, who is studying civil engineering with an emphasis in structural. “They were really as open to learning from us as we were to learning from them.”
Redding especially appreciated a story during the session from an engineer who started his career in a discipline that didn’t suit his skills before working his way into a more ideal role.
“Talking to someone of an older generation in the field can help me and show me how I can adapt to various situations,” Redding said. “As an engineer you have to adapt. You cannot get stuck in whatever situation you’re in.”
D’Shawn Thomas is less than a month away from receiving his master’s degree in materials engineering from Purdue University, so his career path is at the forefront of his mind these days.
“I thought I should try to connect and find a mentor in ASCE,” Thomas said. “It was a good opportunity to hear other people talk about where they took their careers.”
Tony Puntin, P.E., F.ASCE, the Boston Society’s executive director, appreciated the chance to talk with students because he figures he would’ve appreciated the chance to talk with the professionals when he was a young student.
“I wish I had a chance to have some semi-old man give me some sage advice when I was in my early 20s,” Puntin laughed. “When you’re at that age you don’t know what you don’t know.”