The first time Cody Sims appeared on the show, he was a college student with an internship position. Now, one year later, he jumps back on to talk about how his life has significantly changed after graduating, passing the FE exam, and starting to work as a full-time civil engineer.
If you’re a student about to graduate, uncertain about the road ahead, then this episode will do you a huge favor! Cody lays out the details of what he did to study and pass his FE exam on the first try, successfully apply for a job and secure an interview, and most importantly, get hired. And guess what..You can easily apply all these things to your own life!
What You’ll Learn:
- How Cody Applied for a Job Position With SpaceX
- His Studying Habits to Take and Pass the FE Exam on the First Try
- The Best Resources He Used to Prepare for the FE Exam
- Test-Taking Strategies He Personally Used
- How He Beat Test Anxiety Having Pre-Workout for Lunch
- What Alternative-Item Questions Look Like―And How Get Them Right
- Are Multiple-Choice Questions Still a Majority of the Questions in the FE?
- How to Prepare for a Timed Exam And Not Run Out of Time During Test
- How CEA Materials and Community Helped Cody Prepare for the FE Exam
- The #1 Job-Hunting Tip That Helped Him Land the Job He’s at Now
- What You Should Do Before―And After―Applying for a Job Position
- What Determines Whether or Not You’ll Get Hired After a Job Interview
- Cody’s Experiences and Lessons Learned With Job Interviews
- Why You Should Take the PE Before Waiting Four Years, If Your State Allows
- His #1 Tip for Those About to Graduate and Start Their Professional Journey
Engineer 2 Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
CEA Podcast Episode #33 With Cody Sims – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1errzO5LlY
Cody Sims on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/codywsims
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
CEA Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
enGENIEer YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/enGENIEer
McClella Consulting Engineers – https://www.mce.us.com
Arkansas Department of Transportation – https://www.ardot.gov
SpaceX – https://www.spacex.com
Other CEA Resources:
CEA FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
CEA Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
CEA Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Additional Resources Mentioned:
NCEES – https://ncees.org
Engineer to Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
Civil Engineering Reference Manual – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi (Use this link to grab a copy for a 15% discount)
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right. What is going on, Cody? Thanks for jumping on again on the Civil Engineering Academy podcast. Round two.
Cody Sims: Yes. Thank you for having me on. Thank you for, I guess, a third chance now. We had some technical difficulties the second time around. Hey man, I'm happy to be here. It's always a privilege to talk to you.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. We'll love to throw in some bloopers or something. Because it was pretty funny there at the end, trying to get an internet connection while at work. So it's good times. So, what we wanted to do is kind of, you know, check in on you. You've done a lot of things. It's been about, I don't know, close to a year, probably, being out of school and such. And you brought up that it'd be kind of fun, and I agree, to find out, you know, stages of your engineering career and how things are going. So, how are things right now?
Cody Sims: Man, they're good. They're real good. So I think I was engaged whenever we last talk. And so Melissa and I got married, and we just celebrated our one year in August. So that was a big deal. That was fun. So I mean --
Isaac Oakeson: Happy one year. Nice job.
Cody Sims: Yeah! We lasted through one year. We're going. Passed my FE, so that's a big deal. I look forward to giving some tips about that. And I mean, I've steadily increased my salary with every job that I've taken. So I'm excited. I'm happy to be back on. And I mean, I was thinking about it last night, I think I was watching something on YouTube or something, and it reminded me of you. I was probably watching one of your videos or something. But it reminded of you.
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, at least someone's watching them.
Cody Sims: Yeah. That's right. Yeah. So I mean, I shot you an email and said, "Hey, you want to do like a one-year update?" Because I remember giving so much advice in that last episode, and I figured it'd be a good idea to show how that could go into fruition when you have your goals set. So yeah, I'm happy to be here.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. Well, last time we were chatting, I think you were drinking the V8 juice. You know, you were going to build some roads on Mars. Is that still the plan?
Cody Sims: You know, I'm glad you said that. So, the V8 juice, I don't think I've had one since. So I mean, it was good. It was just, you know -- I don't know. I guess I never got around to it. But yeah. Roads on Mars. Funny story, actually. I applied to SpaceX. Really, really interesting.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow!
Cody Sims: Yeah. You know, that was one of those moments where and there's a nugget of knowledge to listeners. It's one of those moments where if you never take a step, you'll never know you know? So they had an open position for, like, a construction observer or something like that. Something in construction, which is, you know, part of my background. At ARDOT, we mentioned that in the last episode, I had two or three years of ARDOT experience. That's Arkansas Department of Transportation. I was an inspector for that, or intern. But really, I was an inspector. That was kind of my duties. So I figured it'd fit right in line. Shot over my resume. And they basically sent me an email and said there was a complication with the application. We advise that, you know, you reapply at a later time whenever the technology settles out. So it was pretty cool to get something back, you know? Not many people can say they got an email from SpaceX,
Isaac Oakeson: But you tried. You applied.
Cody Sims: That's exactly right. Yeah. That's something that I want to tell my kids, you know, later on life. 10, 15, 20 years down the road, whenever they're scared to do something, I'm going to be like, "Hey, dude. Look. I applied it [inaudible] Elon Musk's job". So, yeah. It was really, really cool.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome that you did that. Well, let's take a step back. So, you mentioned that you passed the FE exam.
Cody Sims: Yes, sir.
Isaac Oakeson: So maybe, what tips do you have for those that are about to prepare, or they're studying, or they're about to take? What tips do you have around the FE that you might want to share with the audience?
Cody Sims: Sure. You know, I really mentioned in the last podcast about watching YouTube videos. And that's pretty much what I did. I watched YouTube video after YouTube video. And there was a lady-- I forgot her name. It was like Ms. FE or something on YouTube. I can't remember. But she really helped because she explained it really well. And I wish I would've wrote it down. But just know there's a lady out there that helped me, whoever you are. No, I mean... That and practicing problems. That really helped. Went through the FE manual and the reference manual, and that really help. Where you know that thing front to back, where you need to be looking, and you practice with that. Because at the end of the day, with the FE, that's all you're going to have. You're going to have a marker -- At least for me, it was a marker board, dry erase board, with a marker and eraser. And obviously the reference manual. But that's it, you know?
Cody Sims: So, whenever I would get to a question that I didn't know -- just FYI, I passed on the first try. So this isn't just ludicrous, okay?
Isaac Oakeson: Right. Nice!
Cody Sims: When I was taking it and I got to a question I didn't know, I skipped it. And some people, they even told me this, my professors and stuff, "Never skip a question. Just guess and move on. And then, if you have time, go back". So I flagged it. You were able to flag it on the computer. And so I would guess, and I flagged it, and made sure that I did the stuff that I was really, really confident on, or you know, I was real energized about. Sometimes when I get with a problem that I enjoy doing, I get excited about it.
Isaac Oakeson: Nice! "I know this!"
Cody Sims: Yeah, that's right. And it goes like clockwork. So, what I did was, I did those questions first, that seemed so easy, and I double-checked it to make sure that, you know, it wasn't just one of those flukes where they try and trick you. And then at the end, you know, I went back and made sure I did all the ones that I guessed on, and you know, kind of sort which ones I thought I could get done in time. So that was really helpful. And I guess the second, or however many we're on tips, I brought pre-workout for lunch. So I obviously ate lunch, like a sandwich or something. But what I drank was some pre-workout and water. And I think that also helped me. Because during the test, at least me anyways, I get test anxiety. And so when I'm sitting there for four hours, or however long the first half was, I got just mentally exhausted. So that little bit of a boost kind of helped me go into the second, second half. And to be honest, the first half was stuff that I didn't really understand. It was like econ stuff, statistics. I mean, that stuff goes over my head. But the second half was more civil related. You know, like foundations and transportation fill-in-the-blank.
Isaac Oakeson: Do you feel like there was a lot of theory problems on there? Do you feel like they had a lot of theory-type?
Cody Sims: I think it was half and half, if I remember right.
Isaac Oakeson: Really? That's a lot!
Cody Sims: Yeah. It was pretty even. I think that there were a lot of "what's the best case here" You know, "which one's the best answer?" And that's where that engineering judgment comes in. And that's where they're trying to test you to see if you have that, I guess, minimal capacity. I forgot what they call it. But they're checking to make sure that you have that minimum requirement to be an engineer.
Isaac Oakeson: Do you feel like a lot of people are scared of the alternative item type questions? Do you feel like that multiple choice was still a majority of the exam? Or do you feel like these alternative item types really were a lot of questions?
Cody Sims: What are the alternative Item?
Isaac Oakeson: Alternative item types --- So instead of just being multiple choice, they could pick drag and drop, multiple correct. It doesn't just need to be like four answers. It could be like 10 of them, point and click and fill in the blank, I think is what they are. So do you feel like the exam was still mainly multiple choice, or you just feel like, you know, if you know what, you know what, and you're going to solve it the right way?
Cody Sims: Both. So I do think that, if I remember right, there were a lot of multiple choice. And there were also some where, you know, "select the following" kind of thing. "Select the correct answers out of the following", or something like that, especially with the ethics questions. And that can get you. I remember taking tests in college, and it would be the "select all that apply". And I mean, that was just frustrating. Because you'd miss one, and you miss the whole question.
Isaac Oakeson: Yes. I have one other question about this FE and tips around it, but a lot of people get hung up on the timing of it, the time issue. Taking an exam that's timed, how to get through the questions quickly. Do you have any advice around taking a timed exam knowing you only have so many minutes per problem?
Cody Sims: Yes. So a couple of my professors really helped prepare us, as students, for this test. So they basically made their exams around the FE, which I thought was really crucial. It definitely helped everybody who took it, because by the time you took it, you're like, "Oh! An hour went by, and I'm however many questions in". So that helps. So I guess where I'm getting at with that is, time your question. So I think on average, what is it? Like three, four minutes a question?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. 110 questions. Yeah. Less than six hours to do it. Like, five hours and 40 minutes.
Cody Sims: Okay. So make sure that you space out your questions whenever you're taking a practice test. Make sure that you actually time yourself, you take your test, and then, you know, see however far over you went, or however many questions you have left whenever time expired. And that'll give you a good ratio on where you're at, whenever you actually take it. And chances are, you're going to be really nervous when you actually take it. So you might want to have a factor of safety on that, and maybe tone it down 10% or something.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. And Cody, did a Civil Engineering Academy help you at all?
Cody Sims: You know, I never paid for a class. I'm sorry.
Isaac Oakeson: Shame on you, Cody.
Cody Sims: I know, I know, I know. But, if we're going to talk about the PE, I may purchase it. I'm looking into it. It's not that it gets you. I think your program's great. It's just --- Anyways, we don't have to get into that.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, that's all good. If people need it, you can go check it out at civilpereviewcourse.com. And we also have the FE at civilfereviewcourse.com.
Cody Sims: I'll try. Now your YouTube videos did help. I will say that. The ones where you would work out a problem. I remember right now laying in bed --
Isaac Oakeson: You were watching them in bed?
Cody Sims: Watching them at 9:30 at night so that way it stays in your head. I guess that's another tip. You know, they talk about sleeping with a book under your pillow, or whatever the saying is. You know, that's something that I did. I would watch your videos at 9:30 at night, and watch you solve a statics problem. I mean, I remember that. So yeah, you did help. You really did.
Isaac Oakeson: Well. Those are good tips. So if you're studying for the FE, those are great tips, Cody. So thanks for sharing your experience with that. You know, if people need more answers to questions, they could definitely find you and reach out to you on those.
Cody Sims: Yes. And I said it in the last podcast, the Facebook group is really, really great. The community. CEA community
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah! ceacommunity.com. Go check it out.
Cody Sims: It's great. It really helped me. I could go on there and look at random stuff that people were struggling with. I could practice those problems, doing them myself, see if I can figure them out. And if I didn't, there was probably an answer in the comments somewhere.
Isaac Oakeson: Nice. I'm glad you used that. Well, let's fast forward a little bit. So you got that done. Walk me through what's happened after graduation. And what job did you land? How did you get that job? Things of that nature.
Cody Sims: Sure. So, I guess after the podcast, I started a new job with BGE incorporated in Fayetteville. And I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to name drop them, but there it is. I haven't asked for permission. So, oops. So, yeah. I started a job with them, and it was really, you know, a temporary type job. They offered me a full-time position in Hot Springs, but Melissa and I were up here in Fayetteville, so that wouldn't really work out well. She was still in school at the time. So it was experience with ARDOT. So like, reports, material reports, that type of thing. A lot of paperwork. And then after graduation started getting my name out there, started going on LinkedIn like crazy, started, you know, sending in my applications to people. And landed a job in Fayetteville.
Cody Sims: And I stayed there for like six, seven months. And you kind of know when a place isn't for you, and this isn't necessarily a disrespect towards them. It's not anything like that. But you kind of get that feeling where, you know, it's time to move on. So that's what I did. I moved on to where I'm at now, McClellan Consulting Engineers. Which by the way, they're hiring now. So if you're listening to this, you're in Northwest Arkansas, you need a job as civil engineer, or a licensed architect even, they're hiring those as well.
Isaac Oakeson: What area of civil engineering do they kind of specialize in? Or is it all civil department? What do we got here?
Cody Sims: I'm glad you asked that. So I'm in land development right now. I meant to say that and I just forgot it. I got my feet wet after graduation in land development. I thought it was very interesting, because you're really doing everything. I mean, you're looking at research, you're looking at survey, you're looking at, you know, geo-tech reports, you're messing with utilities, you're messing with easements, you know? And not to mention grading and all that stuff. So I thought it was interesting. So I accepted a job for that. And then that's what I'm doing now. McClellan does about everything except structural, I think. So they do aviation. They do -- I don't want my business card on me, but there's probably 20 things that they do. So they do a wide range of things. Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: So Cody, what advice would you have for somebody that is either about to graduate or is looking for a job? Do you have any tips around trying to land a job or find something?
Cody Sims: Well, your number one resource is going to be your friends. Your friends, your family, or somebody who you know. I remember my dad telling me, you know, growing up, "connections is everything". And that couldn't be more true. I mean, I knew some people where I'm at now. I know about four, five, maybe even six college students that I graduated with. They work there. So it's huge, you know? You've got to make connections, make sure that you stay in connections with those that you were in college with. I said this in the last podcast even, about making sure that you make friends in your classes or whatever.
Isaac Oakeson: So, did a friend help you land the job that you're in? I mean, Was that through a connection?
Cody Sims: Yes, that's exactly right. So I called up one of my friends -- Actually, I had two offers and I took this one. So I called up two of my friends, two or three. And basically they said, "Yeah. We're hiring. Come on [inaudible] and we'll put in a good word for you". And so, I mean, connections. They're really important. They got me to where I'm at now.
Isaac Oakeson: What kind of interview tips would you share with the audience? You know, starting a new job. Anything around an interview that pops in your mind?
Cody Sims: Well, I guess my first thing is, use the -- Whenever they post the application online, use that as sort of your study guide. And by that I mean, whenever you're sending in your resume, you need to have keywords on there that reflect that application. So whenever they say, you know, you need three years of AutoCAD experience, you need to make sure you have that on your resume. Because a lot of times they're going to look at your resume, and if you don't have what they want, they're not even going to interview you. So that's what I did with the job I have now. I basically went through the application---I did it with SpaceX too---went through the application, used as a study guide, and made sure I took notes on what they wanted, and put that in my resume.
Cody Sims: As far as interview, whenever you actually get in the interview, a lot of times they're going to ask you, "Why do you think you deserve to be here?", or "Why should we hire you?" , or you know, fill in the blank. You need to have your notes out that you wrote down as far as -- Because they're looking for a certain candidate, right? They're looking for somebody to fill a position, and you need to make sure that you have the right words to say to make sure that they understand that you are the right candidate for that position. That's probably my biggest piece of advice is, use that application as a study guide.
Isaac Oakeson: That was perfect. I love that. Yeah. I mean, that's where it all starts. That's how you're going to get through any sort of applicant tracking system, if they have one of those. But you know, that's what they're going to want to see on a resume. And that's good advice. And I've noticed a lot of times when you are doing interviews, a big component of you getting hired is how you're going to fit kind of in that company's culture a little bit. Like, are you going to be a good team player? You know, how this is going to work out. And so, some of those odd ball questions, sometimes you get at the end of the interviews and things like that, kind of are related to those kinds of things where they're trying to test how your culture will fit.
Cody Sims: I have a good example of that. So with McClellan, with the interview that I had, it was an hour and a half long. It wasn't necessarily hand-drilling me with questions. He's probably going to listen to this. I asked him for permission earlier today, if I could do this.
Isaac Oakeson: We won't name names.
Cody Sims: Yeah. So at the end, it was more me and him just talking, you know? And he just said, "okay". And I guess it was one that he had written down, because it seemed like it was a change in the vibe in the room. So you know, we were just talking and communicating. "Okay, tell me a little bit about yourself". Oh, I'm a hard blah, blah, blah, blah, blah". And then, I don't know, probably 30 minutes later he says, "Okay. To shift gears here, are you competitive?" And I'm like, "Yes". I mean, I don't want to come off as super competitive, but I also don't want to say that I'm super laid back. I want to be, you know, number one. I want to be the champion. I want to have the trophy at the end of the day. So I made sure that, you know, I didn't come across too strong, but I made sure that he got my point. That I'm willing to beat somebody in a softball game or something.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. I like it.
Cody Sims: Just an example of what you were saying.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's a lot of those kind of questions people struggle with. That's kind of what they're trying to see. Well, that's exciting. So a full year has gone by. You've done a lot of stuff. It's kind of fun to see and document your own journey into this world. Where do you see yourself here in the next year? Or like, where do you see yourself planning for the PE in the future? Where do you see yourself maybe in the next, you know, 3, 4 years, you think?
Cody Sims: Well, I do hope to take -- So I think Arkansas made it to where you can take the PE as soon as you graduate, or as soon as you get your FE. So I mean, pretty tempting if you ask me. I know some friends who are taking it in October. I decided not to go that route. I wanted to see how they did, you know, starting out. And see, you know, not necessarily how little I have to study, but how much I should study. Because life gets busy, you know? I mean, I feel sorry for those who had to wait four years to take it, because by then your life takes off.
Isaac Oakeson: Some kids and a couple other things, and it gets real hard.
Cody Sims: So yeah, I plan on taking it the next round. And then let's see. I mean, gosh, I hope to be at the same company three or four years from now. I love them. They're great. And I love working with who I work with. And they're real patient. So I hope that -- I don't hope. I will be a PE at least four years from now, or, you know, maybe even a little less. Three years or so.
Isaac Oakeson: I would recommend -- You know, you haven't been at school that long. I would definitely recommend trying to get it done earlier. Because, you know, the longer you wait, the more knowledge you kind of lose from schooling as you specialize. You start specializing in the career that you prefer and you like, and you kind of lose touch a little bit of, you know, other subjects you went deep into. But if you're fresh out of school and you can still do it, you know, I would say, get it done if you can. So if that's what your state does, that would be a really good thing to do.
Cody Sims: Maybe you'll be getting my bank account info for the PE Review Course.
Isaac Oakeson: Send it over. We're very affordable. Well, good deal. So we got the PE that you want to do. And it sounds like you're really happy with where you're at right now. Do you see yourself more in a land development role? Is that kind of what you're liking? I mean, you kind of don't know what you don't know. And as you grow in companies and careers, there's usually paths that you can end up taking down the road. But it sounds like you're happy with what you're doing. Is that kind of what you see yourself doing?
Cody Sims: Yeah. That's a really good question. You know, I like it. I like land development. It's certainly not one of the mainstream civil engineering things. It kind of threw me off that it was even a thing to be honest when I started out at my other engineering firm. So you know, in college, my favorite class---and my manager knows this, so it's no surprise to him---my favorite subject was transportation. And this isn't necessarily me telling him that I want to change, you know, business lines or anything. I'm happy where I'm at. No big deal. But yeah, man. I really liked transportation. I haven't done any transportation design, so I don't know what that would be like outside of school, obviously. I've done the inspector position. But I think it's really cool that, with land development, you can do everything.
Cody Sims: I mean, we're talking like, whether it's designing a road where I have to go ask a question for transportation, like what should the slopes be, or the cross slopes, or gutter, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You're talking with so many people that you're not necessarily just stuck in a cubicle. You're on the phone with clients, or you're sending emails to clients, or you're on the phone with electrical companies, you know? That's really what I like about it. It's kind of like, you're not going deep. You're just real shallow and wide. So it's really neat.
Isaac Oakeson: I like it. Well, that's good to know. Well, you've shared a lot of good stuff with us, man. I appreciate you jumping on and sharing your journey with us. It's always fun to catch up, see how you're doing. Do you have any other advice for anybody that's, you know, looking at graduating school and starting this journey of civil engineering?
Cody Sims: Well...Hey, you've made it, you know? If you're graduating, you're on the other side, basically. Just get you a full-time position and -- At the end of the day, you've got to do what's best for you. Somebody told me that a while ago. So if you don't take risks in life, you're never going to reap the rewards of the risk. And obviously you're going to fail at some point. But I think [inaudible] just learning lessons. That's how I look at them. So yeah, that's what I got.
Isaac Oakeson: Sweet. Cody, thanks for jumping on. I really do appreciate it. I really enjoyed our last episode. I'm glad that you reached out and wanted to give us a little status update.
Cody Sims: If you couldn't tell, last episode was really tired, number one. And number two, I was really nervous. So I would advise everybody to not listen to that episode if you haven't yet.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, man. It's a great one. Everyone should go check it out, if you haven't. Thanks, Cody. See you in the next one. Bye!
Cody Sims: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
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