To celebrate Engineers Week 2020, we're introducing you to several engineers at Parametrix. They'll be sharing what inspired them to pursue a career in engineering, what they enjoy most about their career, and their advice for up and coming engineers.
Today, meet Sheng-Wen Seow. He is a transportation engineer based out of Southwest Washington. He has over 20 years of industry experience.
What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
I’ve always been interested in figuring out how things worked since I was young. When I was a kid, I dreamt of being either an inventor or a mad scientist. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that while being an engineer may not be as “glamorous” as being an inventor or mad scientist, but it is a career that is realistic, suits my abilities, and serves the greater good. However, if you have the aptitude to be an inventor, you should go for it! It only takes one great invention to retire early – just make sure you hire a good patent lawyer! I’d pass on being a mad scientist though – last I heard the only demand for mad scientists was in Hollywood B-movies.
What do you enjoy most about your career in engineering?
As a civil engineer, I find that there are many areas where you can challenge yourself and grow. In this industry, you typically start out developing your expertise in Design Engineering or in Construction Management. As you progress in your career, many engineers will move on to Project Management and Business Development. Others may choose to stay on the technical track and may become experts in a certain niche. I’m fortunate to have worked on projects ranging from small projects (less than $5 million) to mega-projects (over $1 billion), and each project is unique and comes with its own set of challenges. It’s true when they say “it takes a village” – I’ve had the good fortune to team with talented engineers in the various Civil Engineering fields (bridge structures, geotechnical, traffic modelling, environmental, to name a few) to develop solutions to complex problems. It is especially rewarding to see your projects being built, and then get to drive on them after they are complete.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in engineering?
There are so many fields of engineering and so many applications for each field of engineering. Try to get an exposure to different engineering courses and be open to making changes that suit you. I started in Mechanical Engineering with the desire to design cars but wound up in Civil Engineering designing the roads that cars drive on! Along the way, look for opportunities to find a mentor, but also give back by mentoring others – you may find this one of the more rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your career. After you’ve gained some experience, while you are young and can spare the time, consider using your talents to help the less fortunate by joining a trip organized by Engineers Without Borders. There are also local opportunities that do not require as big a commitment, such as Habitat for Humanity.