What inspired you to want to become a civil engineer?
Growing up in a developing country like Zambia, I witnessed water, electric, and transportation scarcity first hand. Zambia has a chronic infrastructure problem, where infrastructure has been ageing and failing for years. Roads have been the epitome of that issue; portions of the population walk several kilometers to get to their villages from the city. Further, very few individuals have access to means of public transportation due to a lack of roads. Experiencing these inequities first-hand inspired me to pursue a career path where I had the opportunity to make a positive impact and help the communities I live in, as well as the general public.
How did you get involved with industry associations?
I was initially encouraged to attend meetings by my former employer but once I realized the benefit it had on the company as well as my career, I began to willingly attend events. At these events, I networked with people and when volunteer or leadership opportunities arose, I threw my name in the hat if I believed I could provide value in the position. I must recognize RK&K, who from day one has supported my involvement in these organizations and encouraged all staff to participate in professional organizations.
This was one of the main reasons I joined RK&K.
What is your level of involvement with these industry associations?
I am a member of some (NSPE and ISI) and an officer or director of others (ASCE, ASHE, YPT). My roles are
• ASCE National - TD&I Young Member Committee
• ASCE National Capital Section – Education Committee Chair and Younger Member Secretary
• ASHE Potomac Section – Young Member Coordinator
• YPT DC – Sponsorships Chair
How has this involvement been beneficial for you and your career?
The networking benefits excluded, I have been able to learn more about the industry, develop my soft skills, improve my time management abilities, and hone my leadership skills while being a part of these boards. I have also been able to take the skills learned from these groups and apply them to my work at RK&K.
Have you ever networked with someone that yielded an unpredictable result?
Yes, I was able to get my position at RK&K through networking. I was introduced to someone at RK&K at a 5k fun run, and I was actually not looking for a job at the time. But we exchanged information and I decided to join a couple of months later. I think this is a cool story of how powerful networking is even when you are just trying to have a fun.
What advice would you give to someone who has never been to a networking event before?
If you are a young professional like myself, I highly recommend joining or attending any young member events as they serve as a lower stress environment to network in. At the event, I would recommend you find someone else you notice struggling to break into conversation or hanging out on their own and begin a conversation with them. If you have coworkers attending an event, ask them to introduce you to others. I am a strong advocate of building lasting relationships and not superficial ones. With that, I do not recommend anyone go into an event with the goal of obtaining the most business cards possible. Rather, focus on just meeting a few people that you can build more meaningful connections with and
progressively build your network from there.
In time management, how do you weave networking into an already tumultuous workload?
As the adage goes, you make time for what you care about, and in this instance, I care about the growth of my career and my roles in these organizations. I will make the time whenever possible and, in most cases, this will be after work or on the weekend. Fortunately, my employer supports me in this effort, so it rarely gets overwhelming.
You are incredibly active on LinkedIn, what results have you yielded from this?
I personally enjoy using LinkedIn because you can get so much out of it. Being active has resulted in my profile getting more noticed and getting other opportunities like this interview. I typically use LinkedIn for three main items:
1. News – I like to keep up to date with latest industry news and local organizations.
2. Network – I use it to connect with people I have met, rather than having a traditional rolodex. I have also used it to do a bit of research before going out to events, if a registration list is
3. Personal Branding – I create and promote posts that align with my personal brand and what I want to be associated with. It is a powerful tool that can be used for marketing yourself as well as your company.
I’ll start this by stating that a mentor can be a great resource to help guide your professional and personal growth. I believe mentorship is akin to friendship and should not be one-sided. The best mentor relationships are the ones where each side learns something from the other. No matter how young you are, you never know what someone can learn from you.
For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to find a mentor within your own organization, you should look into formal mentoring programs. These can be just as helpful. One example is ASCE Mentor Match, which has a framework set up to facilitate mentoring by putting the onus on the mentee to choose a mentor based on criteria such as occupation, years of experience, specialty, or interests.
Once you have a mentor, it is important to ask the right questions.
Here are my top five questions to ask your mentor, as a young professional:
1. What is a key lesson you’ve learned that you wish you’d known as a young professional?
This is a question I always recommend, since it can provide valuable insight that you can take on board in your own career. This helps you avoid falling into the same pitfalls as others and can help you with mapping out your own path.
2. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how is it valuable?
I always like to ask this one because it helps you learn leadership techniques and ways to apply them. Leadership is a skill, and learning from others will give you a head start in developing your leadership skills.
3. How do you balance your work and home life?
I believe this a great question to ask as young professionals often find it difficult to set boundaries. I know I did. It can be difficult to say no and all too easy to try to impress your peers by taking on more than you can handle. However, you must take care of your health and clearly define the line between business and personal to have a more fulfilled life.
4. Can you tell me about a time when you had a difficult co-worker or work environment? How did you handle it?
As a professional, you will undoubtedly be faced with difficult situations, and it can help to understand how to best navigate those, learning from someone who has gone through it. Learning how to have difficult conversations and deal with conflict can be a useful skill to learn early and can later be used in leadership positions.
5. How do you go about building/maintaining your network?
This is may be common knowledge but having a strong network is beneficial to growing professionally. Your network can open doors for you and provide opportunities – whether that be jobs, contacts, mentorship, the list goes on. I believe it’s best to begin building your network as a young professional and continue to grow it as you progress in your career.
There are several other questions you could and should ask your mentors. These are simply my top five that I believe will give you invaluable insight and hopefully help you start your career off on the right foot or keep it on track.
If you don’t already have a mentor, I definitely recommend finding one. Just someone you can turn to when you need advice.
**See article featured on Member Voices here: https://collaborate.asce.org/careerbydesign/member-voices
Get Your Resume Right!
Here are my top resume tips for young professionals and students that I think can help you secure more interviews and stand out based on my experience and having spoken to a couple of recruiters.
Lastly, I always recommend getting your resume reviewed by a colleague, peer or family member to help catch any errors or check for clarity. That being said, I am happy to review anyone's resume, so please send them my way. Hopefully you can find some value from these tips and they help you secure more interviews and subsequently jobs.
**This a re-post from an article I wrote on LinkedIn in 2016 but I believe the recommendations still apply and I tweaked it slightly for 2021**
From the euphoric highs of graduation and reveling in the culmination of a 4 year long goal to the depressing lows of staring at a screen hoping for a lifeline, I've experienced it firsthand. Life often comes at you hard and fast, leaving you to scramble to get to grips. I know what it feels like to be unemployed immediately after graduation, it is not a pleasant feeling to say the least. It's difficult to see your peers progressing with their careers while you're standing still. But I'm here to tell you it doesn't last forever, just believe! Here are some of my tips for getting through this challenging period.
While I was applying to all these jobs over a span of time that felt like forever, a close friend would always tell me "you only need one to say yes". Thankfully, I have now been employed for 4+ years and have even switch jobs once. Those firms took a chance on me and I come in everyday making sure they never regret that decision. I hope this helps anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
**These tips are based on my personal experience and should not be taken as guarantees**
The Journey Begins!
Here we go, welcome to my blog! I having been debating about starting a blog for over a year, because I would like a vessel to share the information I have gained throughout my young career. While not all the information, tips, and thoughts may be useful, I believe there will be at least something in each post that can be taken away. I am gearing this toward early career professional in the Civil Engineering industry but hope to add more young adult life content as well.
Hope you take this leap with me as I begin my blogging journey!
Young Professional desperate to share lessons learned and help future engineers from falling into the same pitfalls.