From a Rock Star to a City Engineer

High school dreams change along the way, ranging from a wish to be on stage to spending a career in business. But this student soon discovered a passion for engineering and unlocked the key to personal success.

In high school, I didn’t really know what I planned to study once I got to college. I dreamed of being everything from a rock star to a cosmetologist. My parents tried to steer me in different directions, as did my teachers. I had absolutely no idea what field I truly wanted to enter. I did enjoy science and math, as well as history, but also leaned toward the arts. My mom always preached that my love for the arts would never pay the bills. I kept my enthusiasm for arts, but only as a hobby, playing guitar on the weekends to help pay my way through college.

I started college as a business major, thinking I could start my own company doing whatever I was interested in at the moment. But I soon found I had an interest in engineering. My dad worked for our local municipality and I spent one summer working there as an office gopher for the city’s engineer. I had so many questions about this important role in our community and was fascinated by the different areas his job entailed. I was hooked. I changed my major the next semester and never looked back. The decision to follow this route has made such a difference in my life. I am grateful I was not afraid to change my major and embark on a new career path into a field I thoroughly enjoy.

A typical day for me during college varied from year to year, with some course loads harder than others. I enjoyed and learned a great deal along the way, but found getting involved in extracurricular activities truly broadened my horizons. I acted in a school play once, got involved with organizing a fundraiser for a local foundation and learned to work together as a team with others. That, combined with the skills I learned in my courses, helped me become a more rounded adult and even helped me prepare to become a supervisor of other employees. Most days in college included meeting with friends in the college gathering spot which was our student union building. We often had coffee and studied together in a courtyard on campus. I made many friends that I still keep in touch with to this day. I had some professors I liked more than others and have a couple I call on now for advice on my job.

I attended some job fairs during my senior year in the hopes of finding a job before graduation, but did not find anything that particularly appealed to me. I visited a couple different communities in other states and applied directly, hoping something would become available. These were cities of choice that I thought would be a perfect fit, but nothing was available at the time. Fortunately, I applied for and received an internship at a city complex in a nearby town close to my college and that led to a job offer upon graduation. I wound up working there for five years assisting a city engineer before accepting another job offer.

I currently work as a city engineer which is exactly what I hoped to do when I changed my major. I enjoy impacting my community and working together with downtown revitalization groups to restore historic sections of our city. In addition, I supervise some of our work crews and enjoy the people on my team. It is a challenging position and no two days are the same, but I truly enjoy what I do.

After graduation, the college parties had to come to a screeching halt and I had to get adjusted to the working world. No more calls home to mom and dad for extra cash to make it through the month. I was officially on my own and I had to grow up. Fortunately, I had a good foundation and was actually excited about making my own way. Putting the books away and actually putting the skills I learned in class to work felt great.

Learning how to manage money and budget for a household is a lesson I wish I had learned before graduation. Many students do not enter the real world with that knowledge and wind up deep in debt in no time. Credit card companies come calling even while you’re still in college. It is easy to get caught in that trap. I think basic lessons in personal financial management would have helped me, as well as many of my friends and classmates, prepare for life after graduation.

If I knew then what I know now I would have definitely studied more in college. I also would have studied differently as far as the material on which I focused my time. When you enter the working world with your degree, you are equipped, but different careers in your specialty may focus on different areas of your training. Had I known for sure I would be working as a city engineer, I likely would have added some different subjects to my course load just to fill in some gaps I have had to spend some extra time reading up on since becoming employed.

This city engineer shares with some of the interesting things he learned throughout his career. You can also find other career stories, like and interview with a mechanical engineer.

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