What do engineers really do? How do they spend their days? The answers will surprise you, especially if you think they mostly sit at a desk doing math. The engineers below do it all: design, invent, fix, improve, research, travel, present, inspect, draw, write, calculate—but most of all, they work with really interesting people on great projects that are changing the world for the better.
1. Rachel Romero
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
As an energy engineer, I often meet in person with industry experts who make buildings more energy efficient. I use what I learn from them as I walk through different kinds of buildings, finding ways to make them use less energy. I email and talk with people at the Department of Homeland Security to help them with their energy management program. I write about new ways to convey the message of how important energy efficiency is to my clients, who mostly work in different federal agencies. Recently my colleagues and I wrote the guidelines for the student design competition 2017 U.S. Department of Energy Race to Zero, which hundreds of students participate in every year. Throughout the week, I’m on the phone and using email as I oversee project budgets, scope new opportunities for clients, and make staff plans.
With all of these responsibilities, my days are never the same! It is immensely satisfying to know that everything I do helps people save energy by making buildings more efficient and by using renewable energy.
2. Tasha Kamegai-Karadi
Our clients need help with remediating, or cleaning up, groundwater and soil from different pollutants and types of contamination. First we meet in person with the client to fully understand the issues. Then we contact and meet with the right technical experts to tackle the problem. I spend part of my day on the computer analyzing environmental data, which is how we can tell what progress we’re making on remediation projects, and writing design reports. I go to all kinds of job sites—rivers, old industrial facilities, orchards, for example-to manage teams that are conducting investigations. I travel around the country to different trainings to learn about the latest research.
I love that we take on the most complicated problems and develop inventive solutions. I enjoy teaching junior engineers new technical skills and how to be leaders in the field—and I appreciate learning from my own mentor, who gives me great career advice. Finally, I work with great people! My colleagues have become some of my closest friends.
3. Gus Boschert, PE, PMP
Assistant Program Manager - Senior Military Operations Analyst
Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc.
On a typical day I hold meetings with my team, call or meet with my clients, and spend time on the computer in order to make sure my project is on budget. The projects I work on make a difference because they help make our military a more prepared, agile, and responsive force. Depending on the project and the client, I may spend a lot of time researching a topic, developing materials to explain an idea or process, or writing a technical report to capture my findings. Sometimes I get to lead conferences of subject matter experts to develop future concepts of operations.
I love trying to understand the problem a client has – not just what they say the problem is, but really understanding the underlying cause. Then my team and I work together to deconstruct the problem to its component parts. I really enjoy mentoring younger analysts and engineers on my team. Every day I also learn from managers, senior analysts, and engineers who have been working in my field for decades.
4. Anne Dare, PhD
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
US Agency for International Development, Washington, DC
One part of my job involves traveling to the Middle East to support scientists and engineers in conducting research and exploring ways we can encourage sustainable development and build peace in the region. Oftentimes, part of my day is also spent working with my colleagues in Washington, DC on ways scientists and engineers can improve how they communicate complex, scientific information with one another, policymakers, and the public. After work, I take courses in Arabic language and culture. Communication and cultural understanding are very important skills for my job.
In Washington, DC, I have the opportunity to learn from an incredible range of people, from top academics to elected leaders and foreign diplomats. Many of my colleagues have degrees in international studies and foreign affairs and form a highly diverse, interdisciplinary team. After years in the field of engineering, I now work at the intersection of international development and policy and bring a science, technology, and evidence-driven approach to the table. I like that I get to insert "engineer thinking" into a non-engineering space.
5. Rajan Jha
No two days are ever alike when you are a civil engineer. Some days I’m in the office, making a presentation to a client or working on the computer. I use all kinds of software to make challenging design calculations, which are used to plan the construction of buildings, water distribution systems, and other projects. On other days I’m in the field, investigating pipe drains or building projects. Some of my most memorable work experiences have happened while I’m out in the field. I also travel to conferences where I showcase my work and learn from colleagues.
Becoming a civil engineer has given me exactly the kind of lifestyle I’ve dreamed of. It is so satisfying to work with my team and finish a daunting task for a client. Meeting with clients, building design simulations, and presenting my work all over the world has shaped me to become what a call “A Passionate Humane Engineer.”
Special thanks to the United Engineering Foundation for sponsoring this page.