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Can being a member of ASCE qualify you for a job? YES!


 

Travis Attanasio PE

ASCE Texas Section Vice President Professional

City Engineer, City of Haslet

 

I was a student member of ASCE in college, but it was only for the free pizza.  I didn’t do concrete canoe or steel bridge in college, both my freshman and senior design projects dealt with acoustics.  My first job out of college came at a general engineering firm where I really started to figure out the world of civil engineering, such things as “what is a station equation?” And “why is there so much red ink on my plans from the City?”  After time as most EIT’s do I settled in and started producing plans with less and less oversight, and started to find a niche in drainage design.  My first interaction with ASCE after college did not include free pizza but rather  a three day class in HEC-RAS.  The non-member price being significantly more than a member price jogged my memory that I was in fact at one time a member of ASCE. 

 

Reactivating my membership, I quickly signed up for that class and another in Dam Breach modeling further locking me into become a civil engineer specializing in hydraulics and hydrology.  In 2005 I attended my first local ASCE Branch meeting and it happened to be the meeting where they were asking for volunteers to fill out the various committees of the Branch.  My boss volunteered me for meeting set-up chair which at the time seemed outrageous seeing that it was my first meeting but in hindsight really set my path in ASCE.  The meeting set-up chair was responsible for the nametags of the Branch which makes it really easy to get to know peoples names and where they work.  The networking that was inspired at these meetings allowed me to expand my mind as to how many different facets of civil engineering there was.  Given one question, what do you do at COMPANY X?, many engineers would dive into a full dissertation of their projects from highways and high rises to harbors and flood plains.  In addition to talking with other engineers the monthly presentations at the Branch meetings made me only desire more and more information.  I wanted to know it all.  I wanted to know how water pressure planes worked, I wanted to know what a hydraulic jump did to a concrete structure, I wanted to know how a contractor can mess up a good set of engineering plans, and how an engineer can really make a construction really difficult.  I started to volunteer for more positions within the Branch and then was introduced to the Texas Section…wait…what!?! I can get information from engineers across the State not only from the Local Branch!  Sign me up!  I opened up my network.

 

 Now not only did I start to understand the complexities of engineering in the DFW Metroplex but across the state from the dust mitigation plans in El Paso, the important function of playa lakes in Lubbock, sump storm drain systems in Houston, and port engineering in Corpus.  My head started to become filled with random facts about engineering.  I would be driving past the UNT campus in Denton and mid-conversation say “did you know those wind turbines power the entire campus” or the Port in Corpus interrupting with

 “did you know that you can leave the Port of Corpus and never hit a stoplight until you come to the Atlantic or Pacific”

and not only did I know the facts, I wanted to know why they were facts, how it worked, what challenges there were to construction, and much more.  Through ASCE I was able to get these answers.  I was always able to call someone and ask questions and if they didn’t know they knew who to call.  At the Texas Section Meetings during the famous poker tournaments conversations would abound about what works and what doesn’t. I even Branched out to Regional meetings and now I could gain information about how Cleveland interacted with the Cuyahoga River, Denver with the Regional rail system, and how a water system in Detroit reacts when all the customers move away.  10 years of ASCE, 10 years of gathering knowledge, 10 years of consulting in various firms, and opportunity struck.  A city engineer position opened up and I was contacted by the City Government as to whether they could advertise the position on the Branch Website.  After agreeing and reviewing the job position I decided that I was at least somewhat qualified for the position and put in for the job.  I made the short list and was interviewed by the City Administrator during which I sang the praises of ASCE.  I recounted the facts I had learned over time, the successes and failures that were shared with me.  I explained how my network of colleagues from across the state and the country helped me get to the point I was at in my knowledge base. Most importantly I stressed that I did not know how to do all the tasks of a City Engineer, I knew a little about a lot of stuff, but through ASCE I knew who to call to help.  I ended the interview with one of my favorite quotes published way back in 1914

“Educated people are not those who know everything, but rather those who know where to find, at a moments notice, the information they desire.”

 I ended up getting offered the position and a little over a year into it I can say that definitely ASCE can qualify you for a job.

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