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Interview with an Engineer

December 7, 2016


A high school student in California recently reached out to CEI requesting an interview with an engineer. Below is a brief transcript of the interview held with John Degunya, PE in our Fresno office.


1.What is your current position?

Project Manager / Engineer of Record

Would you briefly describe your responsibility?

I’m responsible for our office to produce quality engineering documents required for construction.


2.What degree(s) do you possess?

Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees

What were your major(s) of study?

Civil Engineering and Engineering Management


3.What was the hardest transition for you from school or college to work?

In College, the Student is paying the University to teach them. So, the student has a relatively unlimited amount of time to understand the material. At work, the Client is paying the Engineer consultant to produce for them. So, the engineer must already know what they’re doing to adequately resolve the client issues. Fortunately, young engineers have access to professional mentors that can assist with the transition from college to professional life.


4.Why did you decide to become an engineer?

Mathematics and Spatial Mechanics have always come a lot easier for me than reading and writing. I work hard at communicating my thoughts well to others.


5.What are the most fascinating aspects of your job?

I get to design products based on my understanding of the physics laws governing our world. I then get to see these products built and used by humans. 

The most frustrating?

Every project that I work on has competing political interests. It is nice when politics and business agree with the social benefits of our designs.


6.What would you do differently if you were just starting out in the field now?

Being smart and having an ability to critically think is not enough to being a good engineer and business leader. You must also be a good listener and sound decision maker in developing your leadership skills. I would’ve attempted to learn more from my mentors and technical support staff early in my career. Many people bring different perspectives at solving problems that may not always be based on what you already know. This collaboration is essential to maximize the value of our services for our clients. This also brings in new work opportunities for the future by leveraging talents within the company.


7.If you were to hire someone for an entry-level position, what would you like to see on the resume?

1.) A good communicator/listener.

2.) Articulates their thoughts well.

3.) Takes initiative while working in groups to solve problems.

4.) Has the basic technical qualifications.


8.How important are physics and writing skills to the field of engineering?

They are equally important with being a good communicator. Vital to the development and growth of a professional and their business practice.


9.What advice do you have for someone about to enter college?

Become good at planning and organizing your personal coursework with the goal of efficiently understanding the course material. Be flexible. More importantly be involved in social/group activities where you can learn to take turns with leading, organizing, doing, and following others.


10.Do you feel that you had to work harder to get to the point you are now due to your race/ethnic group?

No, not my race/ethnic profile. However, I wouldn’t have been able to afford college on my own. I relied heavily on student loans, scholarships, grants, and I entered University through a MESA entrance program. The MESA support group was influential in my early years at the University since I was a first-generation college student. I had to work hard at developing my leadership potential while at University and business life. The Math came easier for me than the social leadership aspects of my growth.

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