A typical ice breaker question when meeting someone new is “where do you work” or “what do you do”? As a civil engineer and land surveyor, when I answer this question, people’s eyes start to glaze over and they appear to quickly look for ways to escape the conversation. Maybe some of the lucky ones do! 🙂
Granted, engineering and surveying are not always glamorous, flashy, or high tech professions. I could list numerous examples of tasks I’ve been a part of throughout my career that probably don’t rank at the top of most people’s “sign me up” list, such as:
Taking concrete and dirt samples
Digging up section corners (especially when they’re buried in 6 feet of snow-welcome to Iowa!)
Looking in manholes to see how deep they are or where they go (is that Mike Rowe calling!?)
Fighting and cutting through multiflora rose and poison ivy (who doesn’t want to do that!?)
The list goes on and on!
Some of the individual components of what engineers and surveyors do can be a little tedious, however, the outcomes are extremely important to the communities we serve. Most of the projects we are involved in are for parts of the world around us that we take for granted, which is what personally drew me to this profession. What we do has real meaning.
For example, a civil engineer is needed to help layout ADA pedestrian ramps. While numerous small tasks are involved from an engineering standpoint, ultimately these ramps will allow someone with special needs to safely and easily access the building/area/street where it’s installed. This is the part of the job that gives it meaning – without our services, these ramps wouldn’t exist, and therefore, someone with special needs would have a much harder time accessing the areas they would like to or need to go.
Looking at the bigger picture of what we do is what keeps our team motivated each day. The families who will turn houses into homes in a subdivision we recently designed. The child who has a huge smile on their face because they have a swimming pool in their community and didn’t have one before. The homeowner who doesn’t have to worry about flooding each time it rains because the water is going to drain correctly now. The driver that has a safer work commute due to a newly constructed bypass. This list goes on and on as well!
Ultimately, all of the various “non-glamourous” tasks come together and we end up helping our clients build airports, streets, highways, improve water quality, and more. With the variety of projects engineers and land surveyors are involved in each day, we continually find ourselves assisting with projects that are making meaningful impacts in the Iowa communities where we live, work, and play.
In conclusion, I don’t expect everyone reading this to want to be an engineer or surveyor (it’s not for everyone), but hopefully, now you will feel a little more educated about what we do and why we do it. So the next time someone mentions they are an engineer, I hope you will stay and talk to them about a recent project that might have made a large impact on your community (if the engineer actually wants to talk, that is…but that’s a story for another day!)