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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 Journey of a Young Engineer

posted May 8, 2022, 6:13 PM by jeffery jim


This is a story of a young bridge engineer whom I have known for more than three years. I got to know Awang when we was doing his industrial training under project delivery partner while I was the resident engineer for a highway project. He studied at International Islamic University Malaysia and at that time I am surprised and taken aback as this is my first encounter with civil engineering undergraduates from such university. Nevertheless, I don't have any bias except for curiosity about his ability to cope as he is not from universities with great background in engineering.

2. He was a bit reserved and since he is not directly under my apprenticeship, I cannot work much with him. There is a restriction to bond with him directly as he was attached to another party in a construction project. Although such restriction is a hindrance to me to mentor him directly, I keep our relationship cordial. Despite of his reserved outlook, Awang is a wise young adult who work around with opportunities to learn new things. At free time, he will spend more time with the consultant design team and learn almost everything he can with two other fellow undergraduates from University Malaysia Sabah. He knows what he want and he works on things he want.

3. Like most undergraduates undergoing industrial training, it seems like a good opportunity to capitalized on free labor for a couple of months. However, there are caveats for this kind of arrangement so that both parties can benefit at the end of the day. Initially, Awang supposed to gain experience by visiting site and getting familiarized with construction terms and drawings but under my apprenticeship, I took it to another level.
The first few weeks, I gauged the overall capacity of all three undergraduates including Awang. During this period, they are exposed to pressures - physical load and mental load. Somehow they endured and shown me their resilience and grit; they passed all subliminal gauging procedures in a week.

4. With the right mind, Awang was sent to site and conduct all kind of geotechnical and field test under the hot sun and even when it rains. He and the rest pushed through without smile. Deep inside, that sort of smile renders a very clear sign of satisfaction. After almost a month exposed to all sort of tests at site and also laboratory, they entered into a new phase where they are treated as junior engineers. They were given tasks related to quality assurance instead of quality control. They have mastered the art of quality control in the first five weeks. At this stage, they are challenged to prepare method statements for all laboratory works based on standards specifications from contract document and collections of Malaysia Standard, British Standard and Eurocodes.

5. Their attachment came to an end when they completed their 3 months industrial training requirement. They start to compose their report and to their surprise, there are too much to write. I look and chuckled behind them and told them that I don't need to read their report. I will sign off their log book; satisfied.

6. Awang still come to our project site on his free time during semester break and learn new things that was not done during his short stint. He graduated and I did ask him about his decision for not working in own brother's consulting firm. He took his liberty and focus on his objective to work and learn under the capacity of contractor's site engineer. After graduation, Awang finally found a job as engineer to supervise a huge building. After sometime, he gave up and quit his job there.

7. I met Awang at my site and he is looking for opportunity to work with the contractor of my project. He lamented to me that he don't see he is progressing much in his previous project and wonder if he could continue in the project which he was involved. Finally, he got his opportunity to continue in the project where he completed his industrial training. This time, he is assigned to the bridge department which is my forte. I grin at him and tell him not to worry. I am confident with him.

8. He started as bridge engineer who does a lot of paperwork and documentation. At this stage, design check, clarification and setting out have just taken place and physical works have yet to start. Slowly, he got involved with construction and site issues. Imagine their department have to build 11 bridges and they are in a small group of 3 engineers. Awang got his opportunity and was given two bridges; single span interchange and twin span long major fly. Despite of his young age and close to three years experience, he is now leading both bridges on challenging terrain and high traffic flow.

9. This story about Awang as a young bridge engineer is an exceptional example for youths who have just entered their professional career. Behind his reserved display, he is an extremely wise young man. He crafted his career path before he graduated and chartered his way to initial success. He kept his composure as things did not go according to plan and then recover as his tenacity and persistence for success is beyond word.

As for the two other undergraduates from UMS - Asri and Angelia; they are successful as well. Asri have close to 3 years experience and now is the Assistant Resident Engineer, while Angelia is a structure engineer at Singapore. These three are my pride and seeing them around excel through every engineering obstacles and challenges bring joy to me.

10. I will write more stories about young engineers if I have the time.


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Actuarial Science

posted May 8, 2022, 5:57 PM by jeffery jim

As we usher into Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0), we used to hear about the potential of human loosing their job to computers. How true is this claim?

Certainly not true. Only jobs which are routine in nature without much analytical methodologies will suffer under this scenario. Marketing cannot be replaced with software, logarithm, programming and artificial intelligence. IR4.0 is loaded with intelligence where the center or nexus of processing is based on the axis of information. Human and their humane properties are totally different cases. What lacks in IR4.0 is the allocation of intelligence related to emotional, creativity and adversity which are among the different quotient dimensions.

That is why big data which is the current issue involving many professionals and various fields. Can software be programmed to be ultra reliant when it comes to automation? No. With sets of data, the only way to go forward is for queries to be made by professional (human) and process all sorts of inferential and return with more key findings in summation processes.

In highly competitive industry, generic queries are no longer useful in applying statistics or actuary science. The next approach would involve creativity in tweaking queries and exploits available statistics and opening new field for data queries and mining. The next thing is the attachment of queries to exploit human vulnerable part which is their emotional. Lastly, competitions create advantages to edge rivals. Despite multiple failure, it is the adversity of the human behind those big data queries that will hold strength in taking advantages and making suggestion to see progression of real-time data. Without adversity to thrive and going through hindrances, success remain an objective far away from an individual or a group sight.

If you read and worry about job loss and worry the future of your offspring, just remember this. Intelligence through memorization is no longer the milestone for success. It is how you prepare them for burst of creativity, emotional intelligence when dealing as an individual, group, community, subculture or human in general. Lastly, you have to groom them to be resilient and grit, avid readers, trouble shooting skills and develop their reaction in adversity.

Another recommendation from me is the need for kids to have spatial intelligence and statistical abilities based on narrative or when encounter difficult scenarios. I gave a lot of thought about this 10 years ago and that led me to learn statistics of all branches. There are so much more to learn but at least with ten years self-education, i managed to solve some gaps in engineering through statistical procedures and get these published in journal articles. Spend your time to understand statistics and let your kids learn. It is the largest investment for their future. They are never too young and you can start to teach them risk assessment, sound judgment and injury avoidance with statistics and spatial intelligence.

Geotechnical Engineering Basics for Young Civil & Structural (C&S) Engineers

posted May 8, 2022, 5:55 PM by jeffery jim


Today, I spent some time with young civil and structural engineering graduates. The followings are some of my advises I gave and probably some of you can benefit from these.

2. Young C&S engineers are clueless about their career path, whether to specialized in structure design, civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, hydrology and et cetera. Most would just follow the flow and accept what is offered to them and make the best out of it. It seems like a norm like many other career where specialization will take place after one is comfortable and willing to further excel in certain field or discipline. In my opinion, the best way to move forward is to understand challenges of each field and/or discipline of engineering since this particular branch of engineering is relatively vast.

3. If you are a young C&S engineer and not so sure how to progress forward, I encourage younger engineers to start with geotechnical engineering before heading for structural engineering and the rest. It is known to most C&S engineering undergraduates that geotechnic is the toughest discipline in civil engineering. Nevertheless, it is the best field to start as a young engineer and easily optimized regardless of your working condition; in design office, supervision, laboratory and testing, management or so forth.

4. Geotechnical engineering is quite a niche area of civil engineering although it is widely use for all types of works. Everything will fall back into the understanding that one has about soil as foundation, capitalization of its bearing capacity, hydraulic nature and even to the state of soil affected by geology, pedology and reaction by bacillus. The information is limitless and one can treat extracted information from field testings and site investigation as big data. There is no specific way to understand and determine particular soil properties. Moreover, it is the way that derives records and reports are translated, and dissemination of information which relies on possible structures in affecting, mediating and moderating. It is quite similar to statistics where underlying cause cannot be directly translated unless steps were taken when reviewing available information, making inferential, correlations for the purpose to explore possible diagnostic approach which reveal possible prognosis or theory.

5. A young and inexperience engineer can start with geotechnical engineering based on their pace and their job scope. First, seek for your opportunity to be relevant or work with geotechnical engineering information. The journey began with standards and specifications. In this case, as I have frequently advice, one have to start with JKR standard specifications. There are numerous but always start with basics such as Standard Specifications for Building Works, Standard Specification for Road Works, Slope Design Guideline, Inspection and Test Plan and et cetera. These references are important sources of requirements that one must be familiarized before making reference to British Standard such as BS 1377 and BS EN 5930. In this instance, I would recommend young engineers to comprehend the requirements in BS 1377 Part 1, 2, 4 and Part 9. These are essential for basic testing for all kind of works related to conventional projects where other parts may be required for detailed soil testing.

6. BS EN 5930 comes on handy when a C&S engineer start to get involved in design process. Substantial number of principals and veteran professional engineers are not competent in planning for a proper site investigation and geological interpretation based on raw data. Most time, geologists recommendations are the sole reference point of reference although geologists state disclaimer in their own report. This has been a dangerous practice and in many cases, wrong interpretation could increase the project price variation. If a young engineer could understand this particular guideline and comprehend Eurocode 7 or BS 8004 and other relevant geotechical engineering guideline, it would be a great advantage to the design office.

7. BS EN 5930 tied up closely with Eurocode 8 for seismic design especially when the Peak Ground Acceleration is close to 0.08G and the need to introduce low to medium ductility structure design. Often, this was not tackled as per my past experience as an independent checking engineer for projects in Sabah. An upgrade from status quo via Eurocode 2 to ductile design based on Eurocode 8 will lead to a significant increase the project cost and may exceed 20% of the initial cost.

8. BS 1377 is still in place with newer revision for certain parts. This particular standard have complemented most of JKR standard specifications and hold certain prerequisites related to concrete design mix with a few exceptions such as the use of JKR Probe for site investigation.

9. Other manuscripts and guidelines by British Research Establishment (BRE) are great as source for detailed ground conditioning aside from Geospec by Hong Kong's Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD).

10. With these references as mentioned in earlier paragraphs, I hope young C&S engineers can propel forward and be advocates to the importance of geotechnical engineering in nation building. Without proper foundation and bearing, none of the infrastructure would stand stable, robust and durable.


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Great Businesses when You Forsake Your Education?

posted Mar 17, 2022, 10:42 PM by jeffery jim

The recent development about seventeen thousand students who dropped out from their tertiary education is alarming and around 5 thousand suspended their study for no reason. At the same time, with the gig economy allows many graduates to divert from their initial career and involved on all other works and jobs for better income. In certain cases, some of them believe that they would survive when venturing in business and forsake their education or what they have studies in their diploma and/or degree program. Is it worth it?

What is a great business? This is a typical question many ask and wonder. It is also the money pit to scam the money out of you with worthless self-empowerment scheme.

Frankly, there is no specific model to build a business although there are miscellaneous business models available out there. The question is which and what to tweak along the journey. Let us not talk about cryptocurrency as it is an intangible investment for all or scalping share market as you understood you have least control of scenarios. Candle charting is one method but there are science behind it in order to maximize possibilities where theories only rely on ceteris paribus.

Let us talk about things you have control for both tangible and intangible. In other word, what are physical and explicit cost as well as the hidden implicit cost. If you hold dearly to Robert Kiyosaki teaching, then you are free to go with crap quadrants. How many people have their bubble burst in real estate in the recent pandemic era? Hence, you have to invest in yourself and rebrand yourself.

What is self investment and self/personal branding? It is a the initial process of expansion in entrepreneurial processes. Self-realization is the core to entrepreneurship where one realized a communal problem and try to exploit the opportunity with time and resources. Without self-realization, no one can be a successful entrepreneur. Nevertheless, age is not the benchmark for entry point as an entrepreneur. Some young children can be entrepreneurs at a tender age while some will have to go through intrapreneurship before he or she found the right exploits. The ability to find gap is the fundamental while grit is required to be persevere throughout the long hours while laboring on an idea. Those born with silverspoon may have advantage but in a rather conservative way. Reservation and tribulation will shape the character to be patient and stay passionate. Therefore, there is no shortcut.

What business then? We were taught to jump into blue ocean and avoid the saturated red ocean. What we see all around us are people jumping into the bandwagon what seems to be the trend and fad. That is the first key mistake when making decision for business entry.

Younger millennials are misled by this as they forget the term rich and wealthy. Bill Gates described both terminologies in great details when describing his daughter's choice in hand when choosing a husband. A wealthy person have money while a rich person is a person's ability to generate and accumulate wealth apart from quotients related to intelligence, emotions, social and adversity. The adversity quotient have placed millennials far from the path of being successful and slower progression. This is why new generation could not be sustainable. Most are not willing to face adversity and hindrance in the earlier part of their career.

What is the best business? Investing in education and well-being. These looks like a waste of time but they are not as these are building block in self-realization which will path a way for entrepreneurial exploits. Many have not treated these as opportunity costs in decades to come. Education is important and time is of the essence in such undertaking. Good education opens your perspective to a new realm when gaps can be resolved. The critical event that must take precedence would be service for whole or all but in niche market. This create demand - essential and not duplicable by the rest since knowledge is known to be very exclusive to those who seek for it.

There are many businessmen out there who are successful in duplicating business model but what about their sustainability and exit plan? While McDonalds have great sustainability, think about great individuals like Elon Musk who have proper exit plan. The way he reinvest his yield from PayPal into Tesla and Space-X.

Education and knowledge require time. Time is the first business you need to tame before entering a business, startup or project. Without the ability to have proper continuous education is a real drawback to many. Proper education helps you with gap finding and resolving issues where such critical thinking may not systematically occur in non-intellectual individuals.

Knowledge will allow you to find remedies for exploits when others are not aware. Experience will bring wisdom in orchestrating processes and grit will be useful in facing adversities. Business? It is a choice of field when you realize what makes you happy - certain routines which make you feel like you are no longer a wage worker.


Technical Report

posted Mar 17, 2022, 10:20 PM by jeffery jim

Dear academicians,

I have been getting queries and requests by many engineering students about technical reports. Frankly, I am disappointed and students can be resentful in such predicament. It is admirable that students are requested to initiate moves to be very close to the industry but please understand one thing. Have empathy and sympathy on them.
It is not right to leave them with small scale assignment and request them to duplicate what the industry is doing by leaving them astray like headless chickens. I pity them and I wish I could help them but before doing so, let me be very clear with this issue.

An academician or a mentor should be guiding and teaching their apprentices with dedication and not half-hardheartedly. It is futile and at oblivious side of the leadership continuum especially when they are about to be part of professional guild. When talking about leadership continuum, it is not transformational but rather laissez-faire based on my perspective.

If academicians want them to replicate what the industry do, then academicians have to be prepared and should have done sabbatical at least once every five years. This kind of exposure not only keeps the lecturer aware of the industry wants and needs but also as an opportunity to see how reports, records and all sort of documentations are done. Aside from that, this is the time when a academician can compile and understand sample of reports and records.

For me, independence have nothing to do with format of work. If students are tasked with making reports, kindly provide them with templates. It is reasonably fair to have a template for them to work on. Some of them are not lazy but rather clueless.
I meticulously changed many government agencies' templates for better reporting. We professionals also exchange templates out of necessity. Nothing to do with our capabilities. Hence, it is only appropriate for a template to be provided or at least a checklist. The world is revolving in yearly basis. It is predicted that in the next four years, a revolution will occur similar to a leap of a century. Where will you be? Where will the students be? Surely not gig economy!

For us the professionals within the industry, we would love to see those in academia lead youngling and have them exposed but in an appropriate manner. Academicians should leave text books and do some soul searching after reading this post. Find the missing link and be that great mentor again. That missing link is similar to research gaps academicians have been seeking but this time it is about yourself and your teaching method.

It is the academicians' duty to guide these young ones with fair salary in teaching but also bear in mind, academicians are responsible for their learning curve before shipping them out to the industry. Blessed are those who are trying their best and I hope this particular recommendation I made will make most of academicians strive for the best especially in equipping young engineers in nation building.

A professor's stupid question

posted Mar 17, 2022, 10:15 PM by jeffery jim

1. I was asking myself why is this professor asking me a stupid question when it perfectly makes sense with a simple reply. Parsimony! Why more?

2. As I am not happy, I spent almost days reading on subject that matters. I found out that his question is stupid but valid.

3. This made me understand one simple fact. A stupid question by a smart scholar leads you to realization that you are much better than who you were last week.

4. The time you consumed is worth it as you have learned more by force and critically. It is a process that is relentless but rewarding.

5. Now, reflect on the time you think that you are smart when arguing or mingling with stupids. Those are time you suffered losses in progression.

6. Time is of the essence they said. It is also relative to actions we drive to thrive in life.

7. A stupid question by a scholar is an economic equity. When you count your profit or monies, always include your opportunity costs based on efforts you have invested into.

8. It is an opportunity to learn from stupid question(s) as long as it comes from the o' wise one. At the end of the day, you are a step further than others and also ahead of other scholars.

9. Life is a continuous journey filled with excitements and discoveries. The day I die is the day I will realize, I brought too much to the grave without anyone noticing it.

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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