Do you want to learn more about college life? What mindset do you need to enter the world of civil engineering? Learn from Cody Sims, who is currently going to school at the University of Arkansas, majoring in civil engineering. He shares all kinds of great tips about the mindset you need, volunteer experience, habits, and resources that will help you push your way through school and life. It was a fun interview to do and something that any engineer will enjoy!
Make sure to give Cody thanks on his YouTube channel linked below!
- 99 Designs – if you’re in the hunt for a new log for your business, new business cards, or anything graphically-related, then you’ll want to check them out! Use our link and get a graphic upgrade. https://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/99designs
- CEA Community – haven’t joined up on our free community? What’s wrong you? J/K. Ok, head to https://www.ceacommunity.com and join a group of like-minded civil engineers!
- Civil Engineering Academy – if you need exams, solved problems, or courses, make sure to check out our home base. https://www.civilengineeringacademy.com
- Cody and Mel – check out Cody and Mels YouTube channel and learn what they wish they knew before college. You’ll even learn how to make a pizza (or not make one).
CEA Show Notes
Isaac: Hey Cody, thanks for being on the show. We're excited to have you. I've read a real brief bio at the beginning of the podcast so people know a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, why you made the decision to head into engineering.
Cody: Sure. First off, thank you for having me. It's really something special. I'm just a country boy from Lonoke, Arkansas, a small town about 20 minutes east of Little Rock. I've got to name drop them because they don't really have a lot of exposure, this is a big deal to them. I like hunting, grillin. I've got a beautiful fiance. We're planning on getting married August 15th.
Cody: Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much. The reason why I went into engineering, it's funny cause I was gonna major in Physics at the University of Central Arkansas. I got a scholarship to do that, but for some reason, I got accepted at the U of A for engineering. So it was a toss up and for some reason I thought that engineering would be the best route for me. There's so many different aspects as far as engineering.
Cody: I know that it is the same way for physics, but it's a little bit different for engineering. There's different, I don't really know how to describe it, but there's civil, mechanical, electrical, all those different disciplines. I went into engineering with that. I think I was kind of doomed for engineering from the start. My mom drank V8 juice when she was pregnant, so she was drinking that gross tomato kind, cold. That's not my favorite. I'm actually drinking V8 Energy right now. So it's kinda crazy that we're talking about it.
Isaac: I like that kind.
Cody: Yeah. It's actually kind of good. It's the pomegranate blueberry kind, but it's actually the good kind. She drank the gross tomato kind. I don't understand. I actually texted her last night. "You told me all throughout my life that I was sort of a bright kid, I was a different kid than everybody else. Can you basically tell me some examples of how I was stepping out of the shadows from other people?" She told me that when I was a toddler, I had figured out that if I twist this magic sort of cylinder top off a baby food, I'll be able to get all the baby food I want. She said that when mom and dad turned away for a second and turned back, I had opened the baby jar by myself as a toddler.
Isaac: You figured stuff out real early, huh?
Cody: Yeah, no kidding. I still love food today.
Isaac: It was that V8 juice.
Isaac: That's awesome.
Cody: She said that whenever a lot of kids would be watching TV, like watching SpongeBob, I would be over in the corner playing with Legos, building stuff, that type of thing. I was always sort of the outlier, not necessarily the weird kid, but I mean, to this day, I guess something that is weird is I haven't watched the SpongeBob movies still, so you can judge me. Yeah. You can judge me as you wish there.
Isaac: Hey, that's pretty cool. You know, every engineer is, we're a special breed sometimes. I don't think your experience is too off, but you gotta love that your mom drank that V8. That really started your engineering journey.
Cody: I don't know if it correlates directly to good brain health or engineering, but I'm sure it did something.
Isaac: That's awesome. That's an awesome story. Let's talk a little bit about school. Why did you choose the school you did? You mentioned going into either physics or engineering. What was the decision maker?
Cody: I was deciding between three schools. It was between Ouachita Baptist, University of Central Arkansas, and the UFA, Fayetteville. Both Ouachita and UCA had a physics program but not an engineering program. I got a scholarship to both, but obviously with the private school, you're going to spend a huge amount of money, So I was like, I'm not getting into that. I'm not going to spend this much money in a given year. I did the math. I was like, no, I am not doing that. So I threw that off to the side. It was between UCA and UVA, Fayetteville and I think I just wanted engineering. I like building things. I like working with my hands a lot. And visit theories and stuff like that.
Isaac: Well, I have a fun fact, I went there too. I got my masters there. I did it online though. It wasn't in person, but I actually think they have a great school. I loved the professors I had and everything, so it's good stuff. Well, good advice. Is there a tip or a tool or even school advice to help engineers deciding to go into this field?
Cody: Sure. Well first off, I just want to tell you, it's going to be tough. You're going to have four years of you going through a gauntlet. I mean, getting attacked from left and right as far as problems, problem solving, that type of thing. You're going to think, I took it for granted. When I signed up for engineering, I thought, I was President of the Math Club for two years, President of National Honor Society, this is going to be a breeze. It's not even going to be that big of a deal. And then, the first engineering class hit and it hit like a ton of bricks. I mean that's just engineering period. You get ready, buckle up, put on your bootstraps, it's going to be tough. It's going to be worth it in the end. I haven't seen the other side of the tunnel as far as school goes. You have and it looks like you're very well off. I think it's worth it. Everything that's going to be tough is probably going to be worth it in the end. That's just how life works.
Isaac: So true. It is hard. That's a hard discipline to get through. Every teacher has their own program and you have to jump through the hoops that they want you to jump through. Sometimes you'll struggle with a professor or you won't understand a professor sometimes. I mean, just the concepts themselves are difficult because you haven't heard them before. All of those things come into play and it sifts out a lot of people I think from the program. But yeah, I think you're definitely right. You gotta stick with it and know that it's going to be a challenge.
Cody: For sure. I would say after probably the second year, that's when you realize you're in it for the deep end. You need to go to till you quit. About the second year, that's when you start seeing people drop off. When they get through those first two years of introductory classes, is what I'm going to describe them as, junior year, you start getting into the nitty gritty, a lot of times that semester before your junior year is going to be a very, very tough time because it's transitioning from the easy stuff. I say easy. It's relatively easy stuff to the very, very difficult problem solving. You're molding your brain into engineering. It's going to be tough. I think that's a lot of times when people throw in the towel and they're like, I can't do this. They end up doing something else, not to dis business or anything, but they'll go to business or something that they can, I guess relate to more. It's not really that it's easier, but they can sort of grasp it easier is what I'm trying to say.
Isaac: No, I think you're totally right. It takes a certain brain, you got to get that V8 juice going. Maybe that'll help you.
Cody: You're not letting that down, huh?
Isaac: No way. That's a good one. Well that's good advice. Good tips there. Definitely some quality things we can share with others, thank you. Let's dive into what your volunteer experience is. I've noticed you've got quite a bit there. What are some volunteer experiences that you've had and you were involved with? How has that helped you with your engineering future?
Cody: Sure. Yeah. I would say that my volunteer experience really started when I was about a year and two months, that was when my brother Caleb was born and I was born with a disease called Hirschsprung's disease. And he was born with it as well, but it was much, much worse. We kinda knew something was a little bit different. Something was not a hundred percent with him. When he was four years old, we took him into the hospital because we noticed that he had, I say we, it was really my parents, I didn't really have much to do with it, but, when he was about four years old, we took him into the hospital to basically see what's going on. Something's not right. And it turns out that he had neuroblastoma cancer. That was a very big awakening for my family. I helped Caleb from that time, when he was four years old, I was five. So the time that he passed when I was eight, he went to be with the Lord. And from that time I was always looking for opportunities, how I can help him with his disabilities, how I could help him, how I could help my parents. I just wanted to take him away from the pain that he was experiencing, that type of thing. So I guess I kind of learned volunteer experience the hard way.
Cody: After Caleb passed, I mentioned earlier that Legos were a big part of my life. Legos were kind of my coping mechanism through that. So whenever kids were watching TV or something like that, I'd be over there playing Legos and designing stuff out of it. It taught me a lesson about adversity and when the going gets tough, you got to keep going. You keep moving forward. You can't just quit. Like I mentioned earlier. That's good life advice period. Not just engineering, but it definitely influenced my engineering, engineering aspect as far as life goes. When stuff just hits the fan, you gotta keep moving forward.
Isaac: I haven't heard of that disease. Could you say what that is again and what that is?
Cody: Well, it's a genetic disease. I haven't looked it up in a while, but it's a genetic disease that was passed down through my family and it attacks the colon. So basically part of my colon was shut down for a while until something's not right. Took me into the hospital. They had to cut out part of my colon. I have a 12 inch scar on my stomach from where they sliced me up. Caleb, like I said, was much, much worse. I think they had to take out like two thirds of his colon or something. We both had to wear a colonoscopy bag for a while and you know, that kind of stuff people kind of pick on you for. So growing up, this is kind of personal, I kind of got picked on for those types of things and I mean that's just life. You got to keep moving forward.
Isaac: Yeah, that's true. Wow. I mean you've got some experience and life has definitely given you some curve balls. I think through adversity you've come out learning a lot of lessons. I think it's made you who you are, which is kind of special because I think you have some qualities that a lot of people don't have in their life. I know some of these rough experiences sometimes we go through do make you a better person. So thanks for sharing that. Yeah, that's great. Just jumping into more school kind of stuff. What's been your favorite subject in school? What have you gravitated to?
Cody: Yeah. It's always been math I guess. I never really had a favorite subject up until probably sixth grade. Mr. Boyd was my teacher at that point and he had retired like a couple of days ago actually. So it's kind of crazy that I mentioned him now, but he was a super, super big impact in my life as far as the passion about math, the passion about solving problems and numbers and that type of thing. It was really cool to see his passion and that kind of poured into me a little bit, kind of influenced me. I think it started about sixth grade when math was my favorite subject. As far as college goes, favorite subject then, there's a lot of classes that were super good and interesting, especially my senior year. I'm going to be graduating in December, so I'm right in the nitty gritty of it all. Up until junior year it was kind of like classes that nobody really cares about, chemistry, it was like when can I get this over with, and the humanities.
Cody: Yeah. I think that senior year there's a lot of interesting stuff like construction management. I never knew about how things were formed, how the whole bidding process went. Then I learned all that and that's new information. It's like, this is cool stuff. Foundations was really interesting to me. Soils not so much. So that's kind of interesting. Not interested in soils, but foundations is cool. I don't know what happened there. And then differential equations, I know I said I liked math, but differential equations just spanked my tail. I mean, that was the hardest class I've ever taken in my life. So I think
Cody: it's either you get it or you don't.
Isaac: I have also noticed that it makes a huge difference on who your professor is. If you have a professor that you either can't understand very well or doesn't teach the subject very well, then it's hard for you to get a passion for that subject too because they don't explain the concepts very well. I'm not trying to dis on all the professors out there. I think there's some really great ones and ones that need some help, but it makes a huge difference on really the direction of the avenue you want to go to. I had a professor that I loved that was in water resources and I didn't think that would be an area I was even be interested in doing, but because he was such a good professor, it makes you start to change your mind because he teaches it so well.
Cody: You're in utilities right?
Isaac: I'm in utilities. So yeah, something totally different. That's a good point. Speaking of teachers, what do you do if you're in school and you are struggling with one, what's some advice you might have?
Cody: Oh boy.
Isaac: You got any advice?
Cody: Oh man. I've had a lot of really interesting professors I guess is what I'll say to cover my tail. I had a lot of interesting professors as far as me not understanding them. The trick to it is you've got to have friends. You gotta have friends who understand the subject, who can maybe teach it in a way that the professors haven't. I know that with my experience, like in differential equations, I'll have a friend who will be able to dissect it in a better way where it's like, oh, this is what he or she was trying to say this whole time. That's all they had to say. Engineering, we're a little bit, different wired than other people. We have to learn things in a different way than other people. And I guess that just comes down to critical thinking. We think things differently.
Cody: But I would say just get a buddy, get a friend who's in the same class as you. Make as many connections as possible. Like you said on LinkedIn. I've a pretty good amount of connections. That's just from being outgoing, meeting new friends. If you sit by somebody new, introduce yourself. Hey, my name's Cody. How about this class? How'd we get here? Gosh, dang, start a conversation. Just talk, cause who knows, that could end up being a future coworker or something like that. Having that previous relationship could really spark things up on the first day or the interview even. I know at Garver, I knew somebody on the first day who I knew freshman year and it was like a reunion. I haven't seen you in four years. It's so good to see you. So I would say definitely make connections. See if maybe your fellow students can introduce things in a different way, in a different light that maybe you could understand better, that type of thing.
Isaac: Yeah, that's great advice. I totally agree with you. I remember in school actually I had a core study group as I got into the junior year, you find people that you gravitate to and you start creating a study group with. We always had one guy that just was a genius. He seemed to understand every concept that was taught and it was like, dude, how did you understand this? And he seemed to get it so he'd have to re-explain it to us after classes that just was over our heads on something.
Isaac: Yeah. So I think you're spot on. Get a good study group, start making connections and what you said about eventually you don't know where these people end up in your career. I have noticed myself that people I went to school with, they ended up working for all these different firms and agencies. Those connections that you made in school do benefit you even in your career because if you did want to make a career change or you're working with another firm, all of these guys you went to school with are at these places now. So yeah. I think that's right on. So you're in school. Are you preparing for the FE? I don't think you've taken it yet, but you've got it on a schedule to take. What's been your mindset with that? What is some advice on preparing for the FE?
Cody: Yeah, that's a good question. It's kind of funny cause this whole COVID-19 stuff has really thrown a curve ball I guess at everybody. Classes went online and things got canceled. One of those things that got canceled was the FE and that hit home to me because I was planning on taking it right about now. I was going to sign up for it and then COVID-19 had other plans. Like I said, that's just part of life. I would recommend probably watching YouTube videos and I know it's kind of a cliché, but that's what I've been doing. Whenever I have some free time, like right before bed or something like that, I'll watch a YouTube video and your Facebook group is like hands down, one of the best ones out as far as a FE help, that type of thing.
Cody: Like the other day, or I guess it was couple of weeks ago, somebody posted a question, Hey, how do I solve this? And I felt really smart cause I pulled out a pen and paper and solved it out. When I took a picture of it, it was one of those moments where you got to look over your work like 10 times and make sure you did it right. So I posted it in there and he was like, yeah, I guess that's right. I mean it's just really, really cool that foundation that you've set as far as the Facebook group and stuff like that works. It's Civil Engineering Academy, right?
Isaac: Yeah. If you want to join that, we started a community page for Civil Engineering Academy and if you just go to CEAcommunity.com, it'll take you to that group and you can join it. It's there for anybody. If you need help with the FE, if you need help with the PE, or if you need help with career advice, we share stuff there as well with what's going on our website and things of that nature. It's for every engineer to take advantage of and you get a lot of other engineers that are jumping on and can help you at all kinds of stages. It's been good. Thanks for mentioning that.
Cody: Yeah, it's helped me for sure. So I had to name drop it there.
Isaac: Nice. We also do have a YouTube channel for people and we do try to produce a lot of free problems. We also have courses as well. If you're interested in any of those, we created a FE course, we call it the Ultimate Civil FE Review Course. You can check it out at civilfereviewcourse.com and that's a tool to help people too. There's lots of resources out there, plenty to go around and we just try to help where we can in that arena. The FE is no joke either. So, prepare well for that. A lot of people have been repeat takers of it over and over again. They kind of get frustrated with taking it. But you gotta keep going. Most schools require that you take it and pass it to even graduate. So it's definitely a must for sure. You'll have to get back with me on how that goes for you.
Cody: Yeah, we'll do.
Isaac: Alright. Next, I just want to do some quick questions, maybe some short answers. I'll just fire these off and you can answer as short or as long as you want. What's the best career advice you've ever received? Or just good advice in general? I know you've mentioned some already.
Cody: Yeah. I'd always kind of joke with my dad about this cause he, every time I leave my hometown to head back to Fayetteville, he'll say, don't be stupid. Don't do anything stupid. That type of thing. So it was ingrained into me, not that I'd done something stupid before, but he's like, you have an opportunity ahead of you. You have this golden road that you can walk across now. Don't do anything stupid to mess it up. I mean, you have everything going for you right now and be smart about it. So I kind of always grabbed it and went through one ear and out the other kind of thing. But now thinking about it, that's pretty good advice as far as, you've got something ahead of you. Don't do anything stupid to mess it up, be smart.
Cody: That's the best I got.
Isaac: It's great. That's great advice. Don't be stupid.
Cody: It's not as good of advice as I've been given, but that kinda hits home to me. It's simple, but it's kind of deep whenever you think about it.
Isaac: No, it's great. I think people need to hear that sometimes. You don't realize what you got. People that are ahead of us either in life or whatnot, they see things differently than you are when you're in it. So that's really good advice.
Cody: To add onto that, I just thought of something, whenever you're a professional engineer, you have this code of ethics. I don't know if some of you may not have heard it yet. Some of you may, but there's eight cannons to engineering as far as code of ethics goes, whenever you break one, you're toast. You get sent in front of the board I think, and they can revoke your license. I mean, that's serious stuff. So this don't be stupid idea. Basically, always hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public. Don't do anything stupid that could contradict those statements. I know eight cannons is a lot to memorize, but it's more about treat people the way you want to be treated kind of thing. That's pretty much all I got.
Isaac: No, that's great. That's a good reminder. Ethics can be pushed to the side sometimes. So that's a great reminder for people. Engineers need to be reminded of ethics too. A lot of times you don't realize ethical issues until you are out in the industry dealing with customers or clients or things of that nature. So those things come up. I think it's a good reminder for everybody. That's great advice. What about this one? How about a personal habit that contributes to your success as a student or even as an engineer?
Cody: Sure. I'm reading a book right now called, The Productivity Project. I don't know if you've heard about it. Have you?
Isaac: I have not.
Cody: Yeah. The Productivity Product. This is what it looks like.
Isaac: Hey, look at that by Chris Bailey. Accomplish more by managing your time, attention and energy. Great. We'll link it.
Cody: Super good book so far. I've only gotten 40 pages into it, but they've already dropped habits that you should pick up as far as how to be productive. To answer your question before I go on a tangent here, I write down a list every day of things that I want to accomplish. Like today, if I wouldn't have woken up this early, I would have written steps of things that I want to get done and I would get done in that order, so to speak. I would have written interview with Isaac or finish homework or something like that, do homework, three or fill in the blank. It says write down three things, three things that you can do in a given day.
Cody: Whenever you complete those three things, those accomplishments, then you are quote unquote productive for that day. It's interesting because I'd always associated productivity with how many things you can get done in a day. But really if you set a goal for yourself, if you meet that goal, you were quote unquote productive for that day. So it brings a new aspect as far as new thought processes as far as, was I productive? Was I not? It brings on new habits that could help you with your success as an engineer. Yeah, I would recommend that book.
Isaac: That's fantastic. I really liked that. When you set a goal to do something, you might not see the progression, but you do those things over time and you're definitely well prepared. You're well ahead of the game, you've achieved what you wanted, but it all starts with listing. I like that you list three things to do in a day and that's awesome. I have to do similar things. I run this stuff and then I also have a full time job. You have to write goals down or else you're just not going to get much done. That's just the nature of it. That's great advice. You mentioned that book. I would love to link that in some show notes when we get this finished, so that would be fun to do. I think that's a great book to recommend to the audience. As we wrap this up, what's something you're interested in today? If you had all the resources in the world as a civil engineer, what's something you'd love to help with or work on?
Cody: I've always been fascinated with space, outer space, the outer dimensions, things that nobody really knows about. Like 5% of the oceans has been discovered. I want to know that other 95%. There's billions and billions and billions of light years that we just haven't even touched yet and don't even know that are out there. I think that is just awesome. I'm not really sure how civil engineering is gonna incorporate me a job, but I want to work for NASA someday. Maybe we'll build roads on Mars. I don't know.
Isaac: Maybe glue tiles on the bottom of the shuttle.
Cody: Right, yeah. Building some houses on the moon or something. Man, I think it'd be so cool to work for NASA. I've always been that sort of nerd about NASA things. You can ask my fiance, I'll fact drop some stuff on her.
Isaac: We got SpaceX.
Cody: Recently we got SpaceX and NASA and all of that, all of a sudden coming up and in a circle. But even before that, I'd always been sort of a lover of space.
Isaac: That's awesome. That's fun. That's a fun interest. Yeah. There's so much we don't know out there. It's crazy. It's a great interest to have. As we conclude with this, what are any ending pieces of guidance or a way to contact you if people have questions, maybe want to reach out to you?
Cody: Sure. I've got a lot of social media, just about every single one of them. I've got TikTok. I have like two videos on it. Melissa, my fiance, and I have a YouTube channel out there and our most recent video is, Things That We Wish We Knew Before College. The YouTube channel is called Cody and Mel. It's not necessarily an engineering channel, but whenever you need a break from engineering or something like that. Our whole reason behind that YouTube channel is to basically put fun into life. We have an episode about making our own pizza and that's because it didn't turn out very well. Our most recent video was Things We Wish We Knew Before College. All those things are pretty good breaks from studying or doing whatever. When you're laying in bed before you go to sleep. I would recommend our most recent video, if you're wanting to connect or comment, maybe give advice, as far as things that you wish you knew before college, you could make a comment or do whatever you gotta do.
Isaac: That's awesome. We'll definitely link that as well. So if people can find you that way and give some advice on that pizza you cooked and all that good stuff. Cody, thank you for being on the program. It was fun to have you. I think you have a lot of life lessons and a lot of things that you shared with us and the audience could take away something from this. So thank you again for sharing and being on here.
Cody: Thank you so much for having me.
Isaac: Alright, thank you. We'll see you later.
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