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Civil Engineering Overview

Joel L. Volterra, E.I.T.

Geotechnical Engineer
Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
New York, NY




B.S., Civil Engineering, Union College
M.E., 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 claims analysis."
"Pursue 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?
Volterra:
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?
Volterra:
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?
Volterra:
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?
Volterra:
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.

Q: What does it take to be successful in this line of work?
Volterra:
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 job?
Volterra:
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 daily tasks.
Volterra:
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 the field.


 


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