Depending on the company you work for, you’ll probably go on work trips from time to time. In today’s episode, Isaac and Mark discuss their own experience taking lots of work trips throughout their careers, and whether or not they really benefit you as a professional.
Tune in to Learn:
- Is Travel Required for Success as a Civil Engineer?
- The Types of Companies That Require More Frequent Travel from Their Employees
- The Intangibles of Face-to-Face over Online Meetings (Even in This Day and Age)
- The Logistics and Anxiety Factors of Traveling
- The Positives and Negatives of Work Trips
- Why Your Communication Skills With Crew Members are Crucial
- When is It Too Much Travel?
- What to Do to Make it More Enjoyable If You’re Not a Fan of Work Trips
Built Bar (Use code CIVAC to get 10% off) – https://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/built
CEA Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/newsletter
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
CEA FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
CEA Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
CEA YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
CEA Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/theceacademy
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 get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: What is up, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy. Excited to be with you again in another fun podcast episode. In today's episode, we're actually going to be covering if travel is required for success for engineering. So I'm going to bring Mark on. We're going to talk all about it. But before we do that, I want to talk about some resources and some good stuff to help you out on your exams.
Isaac Oakeson: One of them is Built Bar. If you haven't checked out these guys, you definitely need to, and go use our affiliate link at civilengineeringacademy.com/built. This thing tastes just like candy bar. I've used them. They're awesome. One of my favorite's the coconut one. If you're a fan of coconut, you're going to love them. If you're not a fan, they got other options. So they got 130 calories. They've got two and a half grams of fat, four grams of carbs, four grams of sugar, six grams of fiber, 17 grams of protein. You're going to love it. Go compare that to the rest of the bars that are out there, even candy bars. And you'll be happy you do it. So go check that out at civilengineeringacademy.com/built. Use our code CIVAC and you'll save 10% off your order.
Isaac Oakeson: The other resource is that we have our newsletter. If you're not a part of our newsletter, you definitely want to be. We send out all our updates. We send out news related to civil engineering, talk about our resources, our free practice problems that come out. Go to ceanewsletter.com, go check that out as well. So those are the resources for you. If you're preparing for your exams, you'll definitely want those.
Isaac Oakeson: Anyway, let's bring Mark on so we can talk about travel and if it's required for success. Mark, what's going on?
Mark Oakeson: Hey, Isaac! You keep inviting me back.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, I know. This is part of the gig, man.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah, it's fun. We always have a good time.
Isaac Oakeson: So I did a little intro there. So today we're going to talk about travel and if it's required for success or not. You've done quite a bit of travel. I've done travel for various positions that I've held, whether it was local travel or travel to other states. So I guess let's just start by answering that big question: Do you think travel is required to be successful as a civil engineer?
Mark Oakeson: Well, I would say that, yes, it is required. But it depends. There's always a caveat, right? I think it depends a lot on the type of organization that you work for. If you work for maybe more of a national organization, that's got locations all over the nation, could be international, you may have locations outside of the country too, but if you're working with individuals that aren't within your office and you have to interface with those individuals, including management people that may be your superiors, that you may report to directly, I think travel is required so that you can have some face-to-face time with those individuals and get to know them more personally, you know?
Mark Oakeson: It's not just -- You know, we're kind of in an age of Zoom meetings now given the COVID that we're still kind of getting through. And so those kind of things are, I think, more acceptable. But they still don't take the place of personal interaction. And so to get the full, I'll say, all the facets of personal interaction that you need to have with other individuals in your company, especially if it's kind of a nationally based firm, you've got to travel some. It's just part of the deal, I think.
Isaac Oakeson: I think it's funny you bring that up because COVID has definitely changed some of the thoughts on how we communicate with each other. And I can tell you when I go out into the field, sometimes that is not the best way for people to communicate. So in a recent trip I made, there were some issues that were happening out on the job site, and the construction crew and the owners rep, you know, they had some issues. It was hard to really get everybody in the same room to talk about it. And that rarely happened basically because of COVID rules that were established a while ago. So everyone's used to email, Zoom calls, a phone call, things of that nature. And no one ever set up a regular, face-to-face to really talk about stuff. And I think that really did some damage at least to the communication piece. It's funny because we have all these tools to communicate, but there's some intangibles that go with a face-to-face communication meeting versus something on a screen. And that's kind of hard to describe.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. When you can actually look into somebody's eyes and see how they hold themselves and their mannerisms, you get -- I don't know. There's an extra dimension there of that interpersonal interaction, right? That you just don't get on Zoom. You just can't.
Isaac Oakeson: I totally agree. So anyway, I thought that was an interesting thing, and you know, that's something that I wouldn't have witnessed unless I traveled somewhere to see this stuff.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: So most people that do travel, you know, there's a certain level of uncertainty that's happening. You're going to a place maybe you might be unfamiliar with. And it does make people uncomfortable.
Mark Oakeson: It's it's a time to get a little anxious. It's what it is, Isaac. You think about the logistics of just, you've got to get up, you've got to pack for the occasion, right? You're usually staying over maybe a few days. Sometimes it's just one day [inaudible] overnighter. But you're trying to pack, you're trying to remember everything you have to bring with you. And then just the logistics of getting to the airport, getting through the airport, right? Getting through security --
Isaac Oakeson: Getting groped.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. Getting groped, right? Sometimes they get pretty personal with the security check. So just getting through all of that. And then once you get to your destination, navigating your way to wherever you're going, you know? It might be an office. For me it was always another job site, which could be in a dense urban environment, you know? Maybe downtown Chicago or something. You know, I'm not from Chicago. I don't know the area really well. So there's a little bit of anxiety that goes along with that, you know? Just getting to the location.
Isaac Oakeson: So I thought it would be fun to talk about maybe some of the benefits first, and maybe we could talk about some of the downsizes of too much travel. And I know people do love traveling that are out there, and they want to do it frequently and often, which is totally fine. Everyone's kind of in a different spot. And so I do think it is required, though. As a civil engineer, you're going to be asked to go check out a job site or go look at stuff. And it does depend on the company and the circumstances you are working in. But for the most part, if you're designing something, oftentimes you might be asked to go check out that design or make sure things are going well. So what's a benefit you can think of of travel?
Mark Oakeson: Well, there's those interpersonal relationships that you build. That's definitely a benefit. And I think it -- I don't know. It shows that you're willing to go the extra mile. You're willing to put yourself out there if you're part of a team, and you're willing to go and meet with that team personally, face-to-face. It's a really good kind of a team-building experience to do that. I don't know. I think it sends the message to your employer, to your manager, that you're willing to do what it takes to be successful, to jump in, you know? Feet first and all in, man. You're going to make this thing work and you're a team player. And no matter what it takes, you're going to try to understand all the people that you're involved with, you're going to try to understand all of the obstacles that you're up against, and you're willing to go that extra mile. It's one of the big benefits.
Isaac Oakeson: I know for sure it builds relationships. I've had positions and jobs where, you know, you've designed or maybe you're, for me, representing the owner of a job. And you go out there, you don't know who's out there exactly. You know someone's constructing it, you know? There's probably an owner that's overseeing it, but you're not quite sure how all that fits together in one big puzzle piece. So you go out there and you start developing relationships. You find out, you know, who they hired. Maybe they've hired a subcontractor to really run the thing as a supervisor supervising the whole thing. You get to know the boots on the ground for construction. Maybe there's an inspector that you can tag along with.
Mark Oakeson: So you gain an appreciation, kind of, for everything, don't you?
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, yeah. Not only do you build relationships, but I think it also develops a new perspective. Sometimes we get very myopic. We see one thing, we see engineering the whole time. We don't see how these guys build stuff or the issues they face when they're out there. And so when you go out there, it's like, "Oh, man!"
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. I'm glad you that. That's definitely a benefit. And I think, to be a good engineer, especially a good design engineer, you have to get out in the field. And that requires some travel. You have to get out in the field and see how your design is affecting those that are actually building what you design. You know, a lot of engineers don't realize the constructability facet of their design and how it affects the guys that are actually trying to put things together, you know? Everything fitting together is anticipated. And so, to really get a good appreciation for how your design is affecting the guys swinging the hammers, hoisting the rebar, placing the concrete, and whatever else they're doing, you know? Erecting the steel. You can't fully gain appreciation for that unless you travel and you go on the job site and talk to the guys, "Hey, what worked and what didn't work?" And then, you know, make those changes.
Isaac Oakeson: I think it also -- I mean, not only is that part of the job, but I think that helps refine you as an engineer. It makes you a better engineer. You know, you become a more seasoned engineer as you get out there and you see this stuff, because you know the next time you design the thing, you're like, "That didn't work. That did work.", "The crews are going to hate you if you do that way."
Mark Oakeson: And in fact, some of those things that you're talking about, the things that work and don't work, are actually based on the region that your project is in, you know? You may have certain materials that are available in one region where you're doing some design, but maybe they're not in another region. And so you have to account for those things, and you don't really get a full understanding unless you're out [inaudible], traveling and talking to the people putting things together. And actually spending some time in those regions that you're designing in.
Isaac Oakeson: Yep. So I also think your communication skills are probably a big one that might take an uptick. Sometimes you're required to voice your opinion about something or an issue. I had a friend that likened going to a site visit almost like going to war. Like, you gotta suit up, you gotta get ready, you know? Kick some dirt up, you know. You've got to go inspect stuff, and if something doesn't line up or it doesn't look right, you've got to make that observation.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. Well, they might be going to war if you have an adversarial relationship with the guys that are building your stuff, you know? And so, in your travel and in your job site visits, you'd want to create those relationships so that that wasn't the case. So it wasn't like going to war.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, sometimes, and you know this, a construction guy will butt heads with an engineer, and it might be because they had some bad relationship with a previous person in the past. But the better you can communicate and just get along with the people that are doing the work, moving up forward --
Mark Oakeson: And superintendents are smart, man. As an engineer, if you explain the reason behind the way you design something, if he can see the reason why, he's a lot more understanding why he's got to take a Burke bar and try to pry something into place and get it to fit. Because it has to be there, you know? And obviously, I deal with a lot of trying to fit rebar into tight spaces. I'm on a job right now where we've got these core walls that are part of the lateral system on this resort building that we're building. And the spacing on the rebar is just so tight, and the confinement steel in these shear walls is crazy.
Mark Oakeson: And so my superintendent's looking at that going, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to put concrete in this wall? The rebar is so dense I can't even do this." And so, you know, the engineer of record, the structural engineer will come out. You know, my superintendent's complaining, but once he understands the seismic requirements and the reason we have to have confinement steel in a shear wall or a boundary element is so, when the building starts shaking, that concrete in the core of that sheer wall or that boundary element stays in place. Because if the concrete breaks out of there, then the wall is then no good and the building tends to fall down.
Mark Oakeson: And so, you know, once they see that and they're like, "Oh, yeah. Okay." Then they can kind of deal with it, you know? But it's because the engineer of record, the structural engineer of record, is willing to travel to the job site and develop that relationship with us and my superintendent that some of those issues get worked out.
Isaac Oakeson: Nice. Well, so I mean the benefits of travel, obviously, I think outweigh any downside to travel. But there are definitely some downsides to traveling. You know, most people are going to have to go through an airport, and airports just generally stink. You know what I mean? Unless you love people watching or whatever. Sometimes that sucks. And there are some airports that just generally suck.
Mark Oakeson: Well, Yeah. I've been in a lot of airports in my career and I can name some that just always stink. I don't know why.
Isaac Oakeson: "Your flight will be canceled."
Mark Oakeson: "Your flight will get delayed.", "Your flight will be canceled." Yeah. There's certain airports that I really try to avoid, especially when I'm flying cross country. And yeah, airports can be tough.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. You know, some people, like I said earlier, love to travel; some don't. And you know, even when flying -- I was flying home one time, there was a guy that was pretty big, and I thought he was fine flying. But as soon as we hit some turbulent air, I've never seen somebody seize up and grab a seat in front of them before. And he was like, "Oh, crap!"
Mark Oakeson: That reminds me, I had an experience flying into Star Valley. We were doing a job in Jackson, Wyoming. And man, Star Valley gets some nasty crosswinds. And back then I was flying into Star Valley from Salt Lake City on one of those little Brasilia 120 type turbo prop planes, and it was a wild ride. It was a wild ride.
Isaac Oakeson: Little rollercoaster?
Mark Oakeson: Yeah! Roller coasters are tamer than what we went through that day. But man, the pilot got us through it and got us on the ground, but I was white-knuckled all the way down. It was a scary experience. But there was a lot of people on the plane with me that were just like that. They were just white, you know? Thinking, "Oh, we're going down."
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I mean, that can suck. Another part, I think, of traveling so much is like, when you first hear you're going to travel and that you might get to eat out a lot. Sometimes that might be exciting. But after the third, fourth, fifth day out there and you're eating out for every meal, you might come home a few pounds heavier.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. How do you deal with that, Isaac? How do you deal with that? I've got the same problem.
Isaac Oakeson: Use that gym at the hotel.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. And wherever I've traveled, it's like your itinerary is so booked solid. I don't know. There's time enough to get back at the hotel after you've had dinner and then you're basically going to bed. Then you wake up the next day and then your itinerary is completely full again. There's not a lot of time to work out, you know?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. And sometimes you just want to go to bed anyway, because you're just mentally exhausted.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. You just kind of wiped out.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. It's tough to find time to do that. You know, you make the best of it. Try to make better healthier decisions.
Mark Oakeson: Get up earlier or something. Get you workout.
Isaac Oakeson: There's a little bit of like, "Oh man, I'm getting a per diem." or "I'm getting reimbursed for every meal.", Whatever that reimbursement is. So people do feel obligated to eat all of those meals. They just end up eating a lot. I know I was feeling it when I came back from my trip.
Mark Oakeson: So how much would you say is like too much travel? Where do you draw the line?
Isaac Oakeson: It's a good question. Personally, I think it depends on your family life, you know? Are you a single guy? Are you single girl? Are you married? Do you have children? Do you not have children? Do you enjoy traveling a lot? Do you not enjoy it? I mean, when I go on a travel trip, I have four kids, and my wife doesn't like that. You can imagine why. I might like, it. It gets me away. Take a little break.
Mark Oakeson: When I first started my career, I was commuting to St. Louis from Salt Lake City. And so I'd fly into St. Louis on Sunday nights so I was there at the office Monday morning. And then I'd work all week and I'd fly home, you know, Friday afternoon, Friday nights. I did that for over a year. And you know, my wife back then -- My boys were pretty young. They were two, three years old. And that got tough. That got tough. I was glad when that little stint of my career ended, because it was tough commuting that far.
Isaac Oakeson: That's another thing to talk about too with travel is like, some people -- I know myself, I enjoy making Monday and Friday the travel days. Like, I'm billing the job, I'm traveling Monday, Friday. But some companies want you to travel on Sundays so you're there Monday morning. And it probably depends on the job, and the company, and the culture you're with. But those are things that you have to think about when you're traveling.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah, because it's actually encroaching a little bit on your personal time, right?
Isaac Oakeson: Yes.
Mark Oakeson: That also goes back to, you know, whether they view you as, you know, maybe this guy's more of a team player. He's willing to go that extra mile, and he's willing to travel on a Sunday afternoon or a Sunday night, you know? So he's there Monday morning. Sometimes those things are required.
Isaac Oakeson: I totally agree with you. So a lot of stuff to consider, I do think travel's going to help, especially as restrictions are going down and more and more companies are encouraging people to go travel or go look at stuff, from what I have noticed. But I do think that, to be successful, you will probably need to step up to the play when travel time comes. And you know, go up your game, level up your skills, and go learn more about your job and the team you're working with, and all those things. So I think all those are good stuff.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. I agree.
Isaac Oakeson: Good points. Anything else you want to add to our travel discussion?
Mark Oakeson: Well, just you know, we've kind of circled around here a little bit. But we've determined that it is required for success, and it depends on, of course, the company you're working for and everything. But just plan on doing it. And so the trick is just making the best of it. If you're somebody who enjoys travel, you enjoy the challenge of figuring out where you're going, you know? Then good on.
Mark Oakeson: But if you're like, I think, most people, and it's a little bit of an anxious time where you're trying to figure out where you're going and just the logistics of getting there, it can be a challenge. So look for those things that make it better, you know? I used to always find little podcasts or something I like to listen to on the plane. Or you know, maybe you get your favorite movies lined up on your mobile device. Whatever it is, there's ways to make travel bearable, you know? Or more enjoyable.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I totally agree. Well, this has been a fun discussion. I think it's always a good point to talk about. We've both taken a lot of work trips, so it's good to hammer these out and talk about how travel affects civil engineers and what we do in this industry. So Mark, thanks for jumping on. And if you guys need any more resources to help you pass your exams, go check out Civil Engineering Academy. We've got FE courses, we've got PE courses, we've got lots of resources there. So go check it out. And if you found us on our YouTube channel, make sure you are subscribed. And go subscribe to our newsletter so you'll be the first one to hear about anything else we're producing. So good stuff. Anyway. Thanks, Mark.
Mark Oakeson: You bet. See you.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Other Great Content