I learned I like to write. Not sure exactly when and where that happened. But that has to go back to somewhere in College. University of California, Irvine, thank you for ingraining in my head that writing is important. This could have started before or after college though. I had a stack of magazines and books always at my side. Car magazines, computer magazines, sci-fi books, non-fiction books, a bunch of like minded friends surrounding me. The friends all went off to do their own thing. Programmers, investment bankers, medical industry, Architects, and here I am the only one of my close-knit friends before college, who got my engineering degree and stayed in the field. A couple of those above got their engineering degrees but left the field shortly after, I don’t blame them. Its funny how I don’t mention Wilson in the above, because actually he was a friend back then and stuck it through and obviously now we are business partners.
So here I was in middle school, and for some reason I took a test through UCLA that came to our school. I scored the highest they had ever seen in some visual skill thing and they said I would make a good Architect or Engineer. I am positive my love of legos at such an early age played a part in this. I floated through school and eventually was dropped down a math level because I saw how to get around doing homework and always got A’s, but that didn’t work quite so well once the tests came around. A somewhat strange thing I had to learn at an early age. Never fake it. At the end of high school I was in a geometry class and finally saw the light. Wow this was easy. Matt, big boat shoes, showed me how to do a proof and it all connected. As I went to math analysis in High School the tests were easy and I stopped studying again, but still was getting the highest grades on test this time around. Somewhere at this point I could read something and memorize the jist of it. So it was smooth sailing until I hit UCI.
UCI was a great experience. I was now surrounded by all like minded individuals. Before going full on engineering courses, it was easy to tell who I was around. It wasn’t easy and never was. The Chemistry was awful. The physics were sometimes hard. The math, the math, the math. I still have nightmares of the math. I have asked other engineers over the years if they have nightmares about this and they say yes. So I know I wasn’t alone. The calculus was one thing. There is higher level math mixed in with all the Calculus we had to take. But everyone has heard of Calculus at least. Engineers have to take the same Chemistry, Physics, and Math courses that each of those majors take. Its not a walk in the park no matter what anyone says, they just want to sound cool. To top this off you are also taking engineering courses. To sum this up, its just a bunch of math. Ungodly amounts of math being taught in such a short period of time. Math, math, math, almost to the point of seeing letters as numbers. To the point I was talking to a friend and saying that I see sentences as math. And you have to take it all in. This is why if another engineer talks to another engineer, both parties know exactly what they went through. There is a huge level of respect between engineers, and I know I got this when I didn’t know how to do something early in my career. In fact its very easy to tell who knows what based on how they treat another engineer. The smartest one are the most helpful. We have all been through the pains of learning something new on the fly. In this industry everything is on the fly and you have to adjust now or bite the dust.
While in school I worked at the library. I loved the library. I worked a certain amount of hours and if I could finish faster than I had free time, then I could sneak away. On that free time I learned even more. I would go down into the basement and pull out the old magazines (Time from the 60′s was a favorite decade) and just read and read and read until it was time to go home. At some point in there I memorized the entire main library numbering system. I am thankful to say that this is now out of my head somewhat. But a student was looking for a certain thing and I could tell them the stack and shelf almost instantly. Fun times.
And then the best part happened. After an interview and 2nd in line, I took my first real internship at Caltrans. I don’t know how much I really learned in the engineering world, but I learned a lot about the engineering office world. This was a great time that I will always remember. My boss, Majid Movahed (awesome, awesome, awesome), was really nice and was in charge of the maintenance for the highways in Orange County. They had to decide when and how to fix the roads. Do they shut the freeway down completely and finish in one night or close off a few lanes and take a few days to complete the repairs. I eventually found the intranet site that had all the Caltrans vehicles that drove every stretch of highway to show the condition of every inch of the road. I was hooked for hours watching this stuff. Kiss me I’m an Engineer. I was in charge of making the spreadsheets for them. My actual job was creating a database of these spreadsheets that anyone could find on the intranet. Queue my first job making money working on a database and a website.
After this became the real stepping stone to the interviews after interviews after interviews and building relationships with everyone I still know from those early days. That will be for the next installment, as maybe some younger Civil Engineers will be interested in how I went about from starting at a small family run Civil Engineering business to my own Civil Engineering business.