Part blog, part oral history, part research project.
How has the Great Recession affected your path beyond college? What is your story?

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I keep hearing that the U.S. is in dire need of engineers—people are desparately looking to fill engineering positions, despite the economic hard times. Apparently, this is true. I spoke with Brian Reeves, a civil engineering major who graduated in 2009 from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor’s degree. He loves his job—and it is exactly what he dreamt of on graduation day.

For the first couple years in school, I saw myself going to design firms to do engineering, but when I graduated I could see myself going into construction.

When I wanted to do design, it was just because that's what I was learning in school and I wanted to do that. Then my first impression of design companies was that the people that worked in them weren't any fun. The companies were all small. I heard that when you go to work for a design company you're not going to get paid a lot and you're not going to get to do design work like you learned in school. You'd be doing detailing, just small parts, not actually doing any of the engineering. Yeah. In construction everybody is, I guess, a little bit more fun to hang out with.

After graduation I hadn't lined up a job and my friends were building a solar house on campus at Santa Clara for a competition. And, my friend told me that I could stay in his apartment while I helped build this house. So I did that. I'd say that if companies were hiring then I probably wouldn't have gone and done this whole [solar] project. I probably would've gotten a job right out of school and begun to work.

During the project I met some representatives from Cupertino Electric, because they were a sponsor of our house and, they offered me an internship, so, I took that. And the internship lasted me about 3 months, and it was a cool experience –my other internships had been with general contractors, so to be working with a sub-contractor was kind of cool to get that other side of the business.

That internship ended in March and I started looking for a job. A lot of going through old contacts, calling companies that I worked for before—they weren't hiring. And a lot of networking through family and through friends. And also going cold to these companies' websites and just puttin' stuff in. Going to career fairs. And, you know, got to a point where, I'd kinda done everything that I could do, maybe after a month or two months and I was just kind of waiting on replies at that point.

The first person that I contacted for a job was my friend Jaden Green who worked for Camden Construction.* Jaden went through the same Civil Engineering program that I went through. She graduated the year before I did. She forwarded my resume on and gave me a good recommendation and it so happened that they were reviewing resumes at that time. I went through other jobs, got a few offers all at the same time, one being Camden.

I was unemployed for about 4 months and started with Camden on July 1st. My job started basically, right on time—I would've had to borrow from my parents if it was any longer.

This is kind of what I was looking for—a construction job in the Bay Area for a bigger company like Camden. So I pretty much got exactly what I was looking for.

I'm a project engineer at the airport. San Francisco airport. And I manage a couple contracts.

If I'd gone straight to work for Camden, by now, I would've been there for a year and a half,—instead I've just been there for half a year. So, I'm that much further behind, I guess, in, you know, growing my bank account and trying to get my life together.

I have responsibilities that are similar to people that have been with the company a long time. 5, 6, 7 years. Yeah and they let you get into that right away. It's nice having responsibilities. When I was an intern at places—they're not going to give you a whole lot of responsibility. Typically you just get a task, I would do the task and then I would take it to them and get my next task. But now I have my own thing where I know what I'm wanting to do and I make my own work. And nobody really 100% oversees what I'm doing. You know, down to every detail. That's nice. To have that kind of responsibility. A little stressful sometimes, but when you get everything done and you clear your plate off it's pretty rewarding.

*Both the name of the company Brian works for and the name of his friend who also works there have been changed.

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