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Undergraduate Career and Employment Guide

This page is dedicated for undergraduates and jobseekers (for construction industry) where tips on preparing resume, following up application, interview preparation and employment in updated periodically. 

The Ultimate Challenge of a Structural Engineer

posted Sep 6, 2021, 2:32 AM by jeffery jim

The ultimate challenges of a structural engineer is never about the design - even if it is 100 storeys high. Everything we have today are empirically available for basic calculation. In addition to that, we have finite element method (FEM) to calculate all complicated structures and situation and we can even model extreme weathers manually and software.

There is one particular thing that have been the Achilles heel to most design and it have nothing to do with design but the preparation for materials where many structural engineers have left it as assumed figure or value. The problem with materials are usually not single material or metal alloy; it is usually about matrices or compounds such as soil and concrete. These mixes are usually deviate although there are abundant contemporary reference available.

Hence, there is a need to have specialists who are able to interpret or plan for desktop studies and/or term of references during the beginning of the project.

Examples:

1. Planning works for site investigations and explorations are heavily dependent on the engineer and his understanding of the geological, pedology, lithology and even hydrogeology conditions of a site before planning for type of test suitable to be conducted at the site to ensure proper parameters are derived as well as validation of seismic requirements. Without proper information, design cannot be properly justified and stand no chance to be vindicated during a value engineering phase.

2. The basic of concrete selection depends on many criteria such as exposure and application. But these are fundamental requirements where there are a lot of missing criteria aside of strength, such as the concrete class and physical properties. The concrete nature as a matrix which binds a whole different types of component requires thorough checking of materials. Water should be potted water, or else water from natural source or aquifer may lead to exposure of deleterious materials such as magnesium, sulfate, chloride as well as natrium from plantation lime, fertilizer and so on direct contamination. Aggregates need to be from proper sources which indicates less chances or risk which may trigger aggregate-related reaction coming from different type of immature rock quarries, granites, dolomites and several other types of rocks.

These are not the only risks involving concrete, it continue with several controlled material such as cement itself which have more than 10% of the maximum foreign materials allowed from less-developed countries' clinker and so on. Leave alone chemicals and other things which are part of trial mixes.

For these reasons, I contemplated and believe that there is a need for a center of research for engineering material research institute in state level in Malaysia or at least regional to say the least.

MBA is pointless in business and as a Leader?

posted Sep 6, 2021, 2:28 AM by jeffery jim

This is one of the many comments I got after completing my MBA. It started with Google and Apple organizations before Facebook told the world that they need people who are talented, not with MBA. Then the hyped bugs catched everyone who have gut to say it is pointless program. What is sad, these people have no proper education and think that experience matters the most.

2. It is true, MBA is a general masters degree which will not teach you anything specific because your degree is the one that determined your specific career and niche market you are embarking. Some hustled their way and made a specific trade their niche market for exploitation and joyfully labeled themselves as entrepreneurs.

3. Usually most professionals will work for fifteen to twenty over years before they have the abilities to master the trade and market. Some got lucky and successfully embarked into gig economics which lasted a few months before they sell off their business or worst, destroyed by big corps or copycats. I am not going to put too much effort in discriminating which industry but all industries are troubled during this pandemic era. Drought for all medium enterprises and endless plagues for many small setups.

4. MBA program have actually prepared most for this sort of era in entrepreneurship program. Entrepreneurship does not mean one have to be an entrepreneur but can co-exist as intrapreneur in order to exploit opportunities. It is called hustling safely after taking calculated risks for your own good by tapping income from a proper and formal job, and siphoning monies through side incomes and established companies within the same industry.

5. Management is a theory you can casually learn through books and theories or self-proclaimed like most. It is so simple, they are a lot of false gurus out there selling you plans on management and business administration in all sort of trades. The classics would be real estate and share trading where grotesque and ill advice cost you a fortune or schemed nicely for knowledge upgrades through free trial. Bilious scams will stay for those profoundly gullible to be acknowledged.

6. Leadership and management go hand in hand. Leaders are forged to shape, quenched in baptism of fury, and most of all tested through time. Leaders are those who are persistent and endured battles.

7. One way to gain this is through experience at your own mental, physical and financial cost. The other wiser way would be endless simulations in MBA classes. You are taught in no specific way to win an upper hand in a shrewd manner or forfeit and cut your loses in given time frame. You are trained to be malleable as in adaptive during dark hours and as a supple business artist with agility to exploit when chances arise.

8. EQ and SQ are the components that are lacking in modern management. MBA program highlights the importance of emotional quotient above intelligence quotient with all sort behavioral models and theories. A true leader achieved the level of enlightenment or actualization when he uses beyond humane approach to get things done. No persuasion is required but a satiety to his or her soul while satisfactory to the other soul. This can be driven by MBA program and achieved through actual scenarios.

9. True leaders get things done their way, their time and in their favorable condition with least effort. They spend more time fixing than managing. Their objective is very clear and simple; inner peace and in equilibrium with their surrounding. It is certainly zen, surpassing dharma and achieved mokhsa in life.

Engineering Education - A Scam?

posted Sep 6, 2021, 2:25 AM by jeffery jim   [ updated Sep 6, 2021, 2:27 AM ]

Every education program have their own ups and downs. Failure of graduates to secure a proper job or career is due to his own doings.

That person failed to embark on continuous learning at work or academic of his discipline. He failed to secure himself a guru or a mentor to guide himself. He have too much pride to be humble enough or purely out of obstinacy being a dumb twat.
l coached many engineers and professionals in construction industry. They are doing well and they are happy. Even assistant professors are doing their sabbatical with me. I also guide those in finance and business industry in entrepreneurship as well as in politics in the last state election. They all have one similarity; avid learner and leader.

Happiness is never about earning big. It is about redeeming yourself from difficulties and successfully resolved problems with knowledge you have learned. Eventually, with the right focus, perseverance, diligence and happiness; you will acquire wealth when the time comes.

I know many rich boys turned out to be leper by 40. It is the abundance of knowledge that guide and guard your wealth and well-being.


Structural Integrity & Investigation

posted Jul 20, 2019, 7:43 AM by jeffery jim

Many engineers asked me what is the hardest discipline in civil and structural engineering. The answer is quite easy, everything is very hard to masters within the period of 5 years. But if you insist on a single answer, it would be structural integrity and investigation which is required for professional diagnosis and prognosis of a degraded or dilapidated structure.

This particular discipline is the mother of all disciplines in civil and structural engineering. It involves relevant interpretations in material science, construction method, and others which answer evidences retrieved and tell-tale signs. Further to that it involves all sort of perspectives during planning, execution, testing and reporting. There is no definite answer but it involves learned estimation in order to put things in place chronologically. In some cases, remodelling is required which serves as reverse engineering backed by testing; an opposite journey for engineering philosophy.

In the market, there are several consultants or professional engineers who are able to do decent reporting ever since the utilization of emergency grant to make good schools a decade back. Nevertheless, these reports are rather simplistic.

In order to make conclusive prognosis, there are several things which are required. Among these are;
- Geology, geotechnic and soil taxonomy, 
- Geophysics and seismology,
- Hydraulic, hydrology and geohydrology,
- Micro and macro climate and weathering,
- Material Science, chemistry and testing,
- Structural and fire engineering and physics,
- Project and construction management,
- Statistics,
- Guts and sense

Without these, validation of findings may not be tied down accurately. Interpretation is limited and thus, it will reduce the capacity of putting processes and events in chronological order for scientific explanation.

In no way, a justification should be based on common occurrences, and limited perspectives and understanding. This contributes toward cognitive bias and self-deception which in a way limits the possible chances in exploring the unknown and uncommon. It is almost as close as guessing soil condition without executing ground exploration or worst, guessing a spot to drill oil in the vast sea.


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Fresh Graduate's Resume

posted Jul 20, 2019, 7:40 AM by jeffery jim

I hope this article benefits students, diploma or degree or even master’s degree graduates especially in engineering course or program. It is definitely absurd to write proper curricular vitae (CV) or worst, a resume when you are a fresh graduate. Forget about tailoring words and phrases which hot-sell yourself like some in LinkedIn; you don’t even have anything to offer except for your result in an academic transcript.

I saw a lot of online resume templates after all these years as I give career talks around, from the old school dot-your-‘I’s-and-cross-your-‘t’s to modern minimalist infographic styled. None of these formats is wrong and none of these formats is a winner. The clear winner is still content and composition. Apart from that, you have to choose wisely between a CV or a resume. That also depend on which particular firm or company as well as field you are apply for opening and vacancies. Always customize your resume or CV to fit an organization. Remember the golden rule of any resume; HR or Managers have only 30 seconds before deciding whether to keep or to discard your submission. Always keep it short for large corporation or you can go slightly longer for smaller companies since most of the employment is reviewed by the Managing Director. If your resume start failing on you, start to declutter the content size, manage placement which ease the eyes and the use of appropriate font and size; nothing less than 12pt.

The rule of thumb is as follows;
a. Consultant – 1 page resume-CV hybrid
b. Contractor – 3 page CV 
c. Government – None
d. Sales – 3 page CV

Most consultants love resume. It is short and simple, and straight to the point. Applicant should highlight their ability in sound engineering design practices as well as an intermediate operator for design software or in manual calculation. If an applicant has no previous job experience, your industrial or practical training is your gold mine and at times, attachment to a good firm provides better chances to secure a job more than your transcript. Applicant is encouraged to drop or even ditch the minimalist infographic styled resume and adopt a hybrid approach which combines skills as sub-headings with two bullet form sentences describing your ability for that particular skill together with supervision/construction experience. Never rate yourself, instead get a competent person or a referee/referees to sign off at the skill rating attachment. That makes you look like a LinkedIn pro. Remember, highlight your skills which will cut short the process for a firm to teach you from scratch.

Contractor on the other hand will try to probe you more if you are a fresh graduate and you don’t have any experience. Again, your industrial training is the basis to make judgment and assessment. Fancy header on your resume only clutters the reader’s focus; try to avoid it at all cost. You can state your leadership quality and so on (which I often refer as pointless fillers) but it should not overshadow the technical ability from your past experience or lesson learned during industrial training. Instead of mentioning “team player” and what not, try to incorporate the quality as part of your work scope. You can always rephrase or express such terms and qualities indirectly (similar like paraphrasing) such as “coordinate”, “liaise”, “manage” and et cetera. The clear winner among all applicants is the one who did supervision or coordinating during practical training and able to converse like a rookie in construction industry during the interview. So the trick here is to build a CV with some key points which serve as navigation route for readers and interviewers. Another way to impress the interviewer is by bringing a construction drawing from your practical training attachment and show them basically what you have learned about sequence, trouble shooting and your ability to read and interpret drawings.

The CV for vacancy as sales engineer is similar to contractor; however a short course in marketing or finance-related is another great advantage since you will have to do a bit of proposal, pro-forma, and quotation and so on. Another advantage you can use to strengthen your resume would be the ability to do taking-off which is very much related to proposal and quotation preparation.

There are more but I will have to stop here. Good luck in job hunting!



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Geotechnic Engineering - Use your imagination

posted Jun 10, 2019, 7:57 AM by jeffery jim

Many geotechnical engineers are well verse with all sort of calculations but there is one thing lacking; imagination.

The biggest problem in geotechnical engineering is the operator or the designer who often use their right brain in computing a result. Traditionally, geotechnical is not that empirical when it comes to result. It is based on the closest or proximate situation when making presumption.

Similar to its close cousin, geology; no one can exactly predict the exact behavior of soil especially in chaotic geological condition. Unless we are talking about monolithic engineering fill, geotechnic requires raw information to be interpreted into a shrewd manner when executing analyses.

For example, when designing for slope stability.

Most of the time engineer will just go with data acquired from site investigation especially water table, cohesive and friction angle to analyse the stability of a slope. This is inefficient and insufficient! The right way of doing slope stability analysis requires the more than a single stage of possibilities. Conditions and astute understanding of predictive precursor(s) play important roles in making good judgment or prediction.

In this scenario, conditions of a slope stability should be undermined with the in-depth understanding of geology when it comes to composites and movement including creep, and soil taxonomy for superficial disposition. There is more to it than just parametric derived or sampled from the site. Soil taxonomy tell a story about the soil historical formation and composition beyond parametric and the possible behavior under certain stresses or thresholds. By understanding these non-parametric properties, one can make good if not close assumption about possible behavior of the slope under duress when soil is at rest, passive or active.

These are the things that most academicians have failed to instill in the mind of undergraduates. It is never about fancy Greek alphabets or a set of fucked up formula to calculate; it is all about making good prediction with your imagination.

Resolution

posted Jun 10, 2019, 7:56 AM by jeffery jim

Writing a new year resolution is something a 4-years old can do; what Santa often get and elves have to work on by October. To peruse through it all year long, that will take a man with guts, bloods and tears.

1. You often get advice to write down challenging or pragmatic goals. Is there something wrong to this advice? It depends on the magnitude and the path you take. Most of the time, it will be something challenging or at times, fucking unrealistic. Should you halt your dream or continue to pursue it regardless of hindrances?

2. The key in achieving your goals is trying not to achieve your goals. What you did for your new year resolution are not goal(s), they are merely objectives. One need to differentiate between goal(s), visions and objectives. The fulfillment of goals which are usually aspired by stories with vividly painted imagination which is your vision. Now, everything is sweet but should an objective be sweet as well? Here is the turning point. Vision should be adjective-oriented while your objectives should be verb-oriented. That is usually the problem when building up your new year resolution.

3. The one biggest deep hole that many have failed to comprehend when working with their objectives is to take calculated risk as well as to disembark on economic risk. I don't mean economic risk as in macroeconomics or microeconomics in the open market. It is quite close to self-reflection of your own risk profile. Most will try to averse from taking risk or even to be in a situation where things are out of control. The moment you draft a new new year resolution with thoughts of having things in ceteris paribus, you are bound for failures and multiple disappointments and heartbreaks.

4. Learn to fail. Learning to fail allows you to understand parameters or variables which are working against your action(s). It is the continuous modelling of a paradigm to your own view or call for action, or even to societal's view and comprehension. Failure will teach you the most valuable essence of being successful; that is to be agile. Without agility, you will not even nudge any progress for anything in your new year resolutions list. Agility promotes self-consciousness and self-awareness which are essential in repositioning yourself and calling for a review on your set objectives. Repositioning may cause distraction no doubt but it is important in making judgment of each call regarding losses or gains in time quantum or magnitude of efforts. Secondly, repositioning enrich your database of experience in taking calculated risk.

5. Between Failing and Planning. A goal may stretch up to 10 year or even 20 years but objectives may change depending on situations and scenarios. Focus! One have to focus in their main goal and realign their objectives not only annually but quarterly depending on the sensitivity of each objective. Failing is part of the plan since there is no such thing as fixed plan. Probe your actions and gauge your ability as you move forward. Over-analyzing is not good - just measure your actions. By doing this, you will now have a good grasp of variables which affect your moves. It is time to drop ceteris paribus and go in meticulous details. Be proud. Failure elevate you to another level of planning and have better view of your crosshair on your goals.

6. Constructing your life. Planning of your individual goal(s) is very similar with planning in construction. Every planners have unique approach with different styling and school of thought. No one is wrong and it is wrong have one style fits all. The followings are some of the things you can adopt from construction planning in your individual goal planning.

6.1 Start with Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Breaking down your vision(s) and objectives into structured list. This will allow you to see if one action hits more than one objectives. One good move allows progress if your planning is Waterfall type. One good move will reduce the magnitude of efforts if your approach is the Monte Carlo circuit type. By doing so, you can see and prioritize and even allow for slacks and lags when rephasing a single category or in this case, a goal.

6.2 Your plan should be a close-end planning. This allows you to see your predecessor(s) and successor(s). Have a clear view of what you need to do in order to reach your goal. Instead of having annual vague objectives, it is best of have relationship(s) between objectives which clearly highlight the continuity of each achievement as you progress forward. Each objective should carry its own weight. Similar to research methodology, weightage helps a lot when you conduct your EFA prior to CFA.

6.3 Agility. Conventionally, construction planning involves a lot of agility when making calls after risk are identified. You have to move forward after gauging yourself and bridging away from underlying risk. If you are not groom to do so, stick to Agile Project Management technique. Build up an inventory of your abilities. Stage up your sprint, use your inventory by listing the actions needed and time available. Squeeze, sprint and battle it uphill.

6.4 Risk. It is something hard to comprehend as it is intangible. Nevertheless, there are measuring scales and tools when reviewing risks. Knowing and identifying risks should be the major component for each goal. If you don't understand how you achieved your goal(s), it is likely you will not able to survive long. The wealth of knowledge you accumulated as you are reaching your goals is the only investment you have in order to sustain your goal(s) or to leap forward with bigger goals.

7. I hope this will help you with your new year resolution. Always plan at the middle of the year. Allow yourself to study the goal for 6 months before execution.

8. Don't write; act! Remember, a good way to achieve your goal is to have it 80% on paper (planning) and 20% execution (sweat, blood and tears).

Being a Resident Engineer

posted Jun 10, 2019, 7:48 AM by jeffery jim

For those who are in construction industry, the Resident Engineer (RE) is known as the most hated person in the site. He is the person who changed designs and making important calls when it comes to contractual or technical know-how. Sounded like an individual who deserves a lot of credit but in many case they are not. Why?

Usually REs are known as con-setan (contractor's devil) who makes life difficult, especially for Chinamen or even incompetent Bumiputra contractor. The problem with REs and Clerks-of-Work (COWs) or Inspectors (IOWs) is nothing more than the lack of humane and leadership skills.

Knowing contractors who are majority basketcases when it comes to quality, REs try to use the fear factor to ensure compliance which usually resulted as a futile and causing cracks in relationship throughout the project. Shouting, cursing and evwn threats are action which is out of the pretext of a good project management; moreover such actions is outdated.

I have no problem in most of the projects i supervised. I get resistance in the first 5 or 6 months and eventually turn around. What is the right approach?

When every time a contractor shows the inability to comprehend the needs of a test, keep cool and open the specification and make references. Secondly, explain to them why such test is beneficial in validating their claim rather than to suffer during the maintenance period or in any even of opening up due to inconclusive result. Second, i often mix around with contractor's QAQC team. In a friendly manner and in impromptu basis, i quizzed them on the reason behind each step or procedures for QAQC. I gave them the technical reasons behind it and somehow i bait them into craving to learn more.

When these sub-ordinates learned more each day, it would likely be smooth execution instead of having big boss who have no clear reason to even to start a conversation; worst, an argument.

These are some of the soft skills you need at site. Humane skills to show authority indirectly and a leadership by example even if they are at the opposite site. It is called transformational leadership to be exact.

Making Choices on Learning

posted Jun 10, 2019, 7:43 AM by jeffery jim

Yesterday, i dropped by my office and ask if any of the design engineers willing to be stationed at site. Looks like none is willing. It is okay, probably they just like to deal with software.

For me, a great design is beyond design brief. It is about constructibility. If a sophisticated design is erratic, the design is great on paper but it will lead to construction flaws. Men have certain limit in interpretation, now talking about semi-skilled or not highly educated individuals working who have low wage in the industry.

After lunch meet up, I met the old bridge designer who is close to 70 years old. I am amazed. In solitude, I have been hunting knowledge and this humble old man did not brag about his achievement. Instead, he did the opposite. He told me that certain things that I asked are too detail, he even submit to the fact that he have limited knowledge about it. It is a specialist work, of course. Those questions I posed require 3 years course in the States and can only be interpreted by competent person. He passed and mentored me on some of those questions for a while before a brief exchange.

Deep inside, I am quite blessed since I manage to ask to that extend but part of me is dying to have answers. 41 and I still feel I am the dumbest person around. The tree of knowledge is so tall, some could not even see branches; leave alone the fruits.

Geotechnical Engineer

posted Jun 10, 2019, 7:41 AM by jeffery jim

I received two job offers from close friends. First offer is geotechnical engineering checker and the second one as engineering manager. Both posts require me to go back to my home state, Sarawak. It certainly looks like not many good geotechnical engineering workhorse around. Nevertheless, there are reasons why I opted not to take any of it and stay. The first reason is about knowing the boundary and your limitations, and second, understand your efficiency.

The main problem as a geotechnical engineer is your capability in making good assumptions lies on your hands-on experience with laboratory testings and values derived. To be stationed in a 'foreign' land and not used to conditions will be the biggest hinderance when making decisions.

Geotechnical engineering is more than just empirical approach where calculation is very straight forward. There are stark differences between design engineer and software operator. One resolved the problem and the other complicates the problem.

The main issue with geological, geophysics and geotechnical engineering is the range of result proximity where there are needs for data appropriation (after considering time series changes, quantitative changes, qualitative changes and elimination of anomalies and the inclusion of statistical considerations). That has yet to consider the cost-benefit optimization of a design and the level of data required in making pressumably the most accurate model and summation for design recommendations.

Although geotechnical engineering is guided by codes of practice, there is always considerable risk when working on design where trial and error method is permissible with conservative or conventional assumptions and rule of thumb. There are so many methods and approaches when selecting ways through determination via empirical solutions. None fits all and one doesn't resolved all.

Geotechnical engineering has a bright prospect in the country. It is also a great career where a geotechnical engineer can hardly be replaced by hardware or software automation. As one great geologist mentioned before, it is an art of critical thinking.

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