The student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE, hosted a Professional Networking Event in Smith Auditorium this past Tuesday, providing students with the opportunity to speak with and learn from professionals in the civil engineering industry.
Some of the companies represented at the event included ExxonMobil, STV, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Thornton Tomasetti, Turner Construction, Moretrench, AECOM and Buckland & Taylor. Fortunately for students, the twenty or so professionals in attendance had varied experiences and levels of tenure.
Vincent Terrone, senior civil engineering major and president of the colllege’s ASCE student chapter, kicked off the event by welcoming both professionals and students, and asking each professional to provide a brief introduction that included why they chose civil engineering. These answers ranged from playing with Legos, to a fascination with buildings, to a love for math and physics, to being inspired by a grandfather who was also a civil engineer.
Of the professionals present, many were alumni while others were simply interested in acting as mentors. Dave Pecorini, geotechnical staff engineer at Moretrench and recent Manhattan College alumnus, was always interested in acting as a mentor.
When Terrone reached out to him about the event, “Absolutely,” Pecorini said, “Anytime I can help out I’d be happy to.”
Asheque Rahman, a City College graduate who now works as a program manager in Logistics Technology for NYC Emergency Management, was another professional present at the event. As a student, he benefited from different networking events. While he did not graduate from Manhattan College, he was approached by Paul Pache, head recruiter for the student chapter, and asked to attend the networking event.
Rahman was happy to share his experiences with students, and what he has learned along the way. Even though Rahman does not directly use information he learned in his core classes as an engineering major, he credits them with teaching him skills he needed for upper level courses.
“Students get frustrated and fail to realize that … you need core classes,” Rahman said. For Rahman, the data analysis projects he completed during his last two years at college were “crucial to undertaking of my first job,” Rahman said.
The event was organized into four different ten-minute networking sessions, where students changed tables to have the opportunity to speak with different professionals. As students moved between tables, they were exposed to different parts of the industry, something that is critical for students as they navigate the job application and interview process.
For Sam Singer, a geotechnical project engineer at Langan Engineering and Environmental, career fairs were key to his understanding of the industry. As a student, it was a way for him to break into the industry and talk to people with real world experience.
This was just some of the advice shared with students, who were also encouraged to “get an externship or internship to see what you do and don’t like,” Singer said, “Get your foot in the door and understand what each branch does.”
The professionals at the event chatted easily with students and provided practical advice, highlighting the importance of soft skills, like effective communication and technical writing. The response from the students at the event was positive.
“It’s broken up nicely, the amount of students we have to professionals,” senior Chuck Pallas said, who helped organized the event.
For student Dana Coniglio, the event really helped her make connections.
“It was great because I connected with the former president of Engineers Without Borders,” Coniglio said. “I went over and introduced myself, I now have his email for questions about fundraisers.”
To close the event, Frank Lombardi, P.E. and former chief engineer of the Port Authority of NY & NJ, spoke about the importance of networking, and even more so, the value in being a strong communicator.
“What business are we in?” asked Lombardi, to which one audience member responded, “the people business.” But Lombardi insisted that whether involved in architecture, business, or construction, the industry simply boils down to communication. For engineers, an idea from the brain ends up on paper, and then is passed along to a person. “Refine, redesign, check, build it,” Lombardi said. “What happens if it’s not communicated well?”
Lombardi also spoke about how the last six months of senior year are filled with anxiety, as students try to finish their studies while simultaneously interviewing and trying to find the perfect job.
Lombardi’s advice for students in this position is to seek mentors and ask questions.
“If you learned anything tonight, what did you learn? Reach out, pick up and learn, try to focus on some of those skills, oral communication and presentation skills,” Lombardi said. “Get up there and make an impression.”
The key to this success lies in not only finding mentors to help develop these skills, but developing and cultivating the relationship with those individuals.
“Don’t be afraid,” Lombardi said. “They will gladly help you if you approach them.”