Joel L. Volterra, E.I.T.
Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
New York, NY
Engineering, Union College
Geotechnical Engineering, Cornell University
"As a Geotechnical
Engineer, I have been involved with a number of engineering
assignments including: planning and supervising of underground
investigations and laboratory testing; settlement analysis;
earth pressure computations; and geotechnical construction
opportunities and internships at an engineering firm that
performs the type of work you are interested in to get a
first-hand exposure to the field."
"Being in the field is fun, it's a much different atmosphere than being
here in the office, here in a shirt and tie today -- I've been in the
office for the last couple of weeks -- but being out in the field is very
different, I'm in jeans and work boots, tracking around in the mud
sometimes and getting a little dirty, working with the contractors, it's a
much different environment."
"I've had a pretty good time with balancing my work and my social life,
and I've been able to keep up with those things outside of work that I
enjoy doing... I'm fairly athletic, I play a lot of soccer, I'm still
involved in a league where I play one day a week. I live here in New York
City there's always quite a bit to do outside of work, have a good time
with a lot of friends of mine I'm still in touch with from school who live
in the area. Have a good time outside of work. The hours that I work are
typically eight thirty to five, five thirty, six o'clock. When I do stay
and work later it's unusual that I'm here past eight or nine at night.
When I do work a normal day and I'm done at five thirty, six o'clock I
have plenty of time to do other things outside of work."
"My first two years with Mueser Rutledge I spent quite a bit of time,
probably on average half my time, out in the field, on the project,
watching the project being constructed, taking the contract documents,
working with -- I was the liaison between the contractor and the client --
and working towards those project goals and making sure things were done
as they were prepared and planned."
Q: You work long hours?
The hours early on are
dependent really upon the project schedule. There are times in which you
put in quite a few extra hours to meet the project goals. I think our
office does a pretty good job at keeping the extra hours, overtime hours,
down to a minimum, unless they're absolutely necessary.
Q: How do you feel about
putting in that extra time?
If it's a project that's
interesting, I don't mind staying a couple of hours to work on a project.
You get a real feeling of satisfaction towards getting things done on your
own, and having your name putting on the calculations that are performed.
And taking part in putting a report out, and finalizing a project.
Q: How does the reward
system work? Does it get acknowledged, do they throw you a party at the
end of a project? How does it work?
That's a tough question. I
don't know how to answer that. We really, our office, we get paid
basically at an hourly rate. We're on salary, but if we stay to work extra
hours we will be paid for the extra time on an hourly rate. So the more
time you put in here, the more money you make here.
Q: Is the money good?
I think civil engineering in
general, students when they come out of school are hired at a fairly
decent pay scale and compared to some other professions can make quite a
bit of money in their early years. I think one of the things that tends to
bother some people later on in civil engineering is that there may be a
salary cap, so to speak, that it doesn't continue to go up as fast as some
of the other professions. It's a slower pay increase per year.
What does it take to be successful in this line of work?
I really encourage people to
work on their communication skills. It's a very team-oriented profession.
And you can't underestimate the power of those skills that are sometimes
overlooked in classroom studies of engineering. There are very few courses
in most programs that are dedicated towards presentation of data, and
giving presentations, and preparing reports, writing skills.
Q: How did you find this
When I was in graduate school
my advisor helped to move me in the direction of finding work and helped
me with my resume with some cover letters, and gave me an idea of the type
of place I might want to work. Gave me some names of firms that I might be
interested in. And gave me some contacts of who to call and who to be in
touch with and who to write those letters to. That was a big help. I
encourage people to talk to their professors who know quite a bit about
the field. When I graduated from undergraduate, although I had the
educational background, I knew very little about what practice would be
like, about what my daily tasks would be. But, I looked towards my
professors to sort of point me in that direction.
Q: Tell me about these
My first two years with Mueser
Rutledge I spent quite a bit of time, probably on average, half of my
time, out in the field, on the project, watching the project being
constructed, taking the contract documents, working with -- I was the
liaison between the contractor and the client -- and working towards those
project goals and making sure things were done as they were prepared and
planned. Half of my time that was spent in the office, I spent quite a bit
of time preparing proposals for work, doing some calculations, some
foundations work, looking at the different designs and what would need to
be done in the field. But having the knowledge of knowing who's doing the
work in the field, and really what's going on out in the field, is
invaluable, is irreplaceable really with that, being able to perform the
calculations you really have to have a feel for how things are done out in