So what does an engineering consultant do?
Two months into my internship and I find myself asking myself this in the shower, along with the other mysteries of the universe. It’s a curious thing, starting off on something that you know almost nothing about. You wonder how you came to be in this place, then you think back and painfully laugh at the fact that even with five years of studying the stuff, you actually don’t know much about the real world. It’s incredibly sad. Engineers.
So without further ado, let me show you what I think we do. And as to not be biased, I will take a look at it from the perspectives of the three personality types within me. The Optimist, the Pessimist and last but not least the Realist.
Words from the Optimist: Engineering is awesome. An engineer in consulting is even more awesome! We’re right there at the heart of any big project. From Central Park to the Sydney Opera House, we consultants make sure that the project becomes a reality no matter the size nor scope. We’re designers, but not of the typical kind. Although most of our designs will hardly ever be seen by the public, we wont be selfish as to pick something half contested. Instead we continue to design our power and lighting, our communications and security, our substations and wiring of the entire building to a high degree. Sadly it’s a beautiful thing that only few will see in their lifetime. Another key aspect of what we do is to ensure that anything done must abide by the standards and regulations of that area. This is to provide good engineering practices that ensure a safe and consistent work environment for everyone on and off site. And if this means that from time to time we go out on site visits to see our designs in person, then let it be, we love seeing our work in progress and even more so seeing the project through to completion!
Words from the Pessimist: Please, I beg of you. Don’t become an engineer. Okay that was a bit harsh, even for me. Consulting is what it’s name suggests, clients come to us and ask us whether it’s okay to do this and that and we sit there and sift through a hell of lot of standards and textbooks to find the answer to it. It’s not incredibly fun, in fact it’s boring. It’s not interesting cause you’re used as a lookup table. And also it’s not easy, it takes a lot of time and it’s a slow grinding process, especially if you don’t know where to look. So what does your senior tell you to do when you ask for help on where to look? “It’s somewhere in the AS3000” he claims. And there goes about 2 weeks of me literally trying to stuff thousands of pages of standards into my head to memorise. I never wanted to be a lawyer, you know. Somehow through all of this, the end of the day finally emerges as the clock ticks past 5. An odd thing happens though. Nothing happens. Half an hour later, the first few people leave and so on slowly through the night (I’d have to admit that I’ve yet to stay back long enough to see more than half the office leave).
What I think we do
Words from the Realist: Well, being an engineering consultant has it’s ups and downs. It is neither too intense, nor is it too much of a boring chore. It’s on the break between having just enough to keep you occupied, that you’re learning quite efficiently. Hell there’s an incredible lot to learn here there’s no doubt about that. Every new project comes with it’s challenges and even as an intern, I can see that. Doing the Fault calculations for one project does not at all guarantee that the next will be the same, so nothing is ever easy and straightforward. There are many points in the Standards (which are supposed to assist you) that have counterpoints and more counterpoints on top of points so you have to look carefully because that’s your job. The site visits are definitely a breath of fresh air and the anticipation of free lunch every second day keeps you nice and fresh but it’s not for the faint hearted. It’s true that each day you’ll likely spend more hours than you should at the desk, and just passing on a message that was given to me when I started, “real engineering starts after 5” so don’t expect to leave early for that anniversary dinner of yours (just joking…I think).
What I think we do