Although the majority of PE/FE test takers may be from the US itself, international professionals who have had their academic careers outside of the country also need to go through the same process in order to be able to work in the US. And in today’s episode, Maithili Dey (from Bangladesh) elaborates on her journey as a trained civil engineer and gives some tips, as well as critical habits that helped her pass the FE exam.
She is an extremely experienced professional who has had the opportunity to build a strong network of professionals, in addition, to add a lot to her knowledge along the way. She was part of the Emergency 2007 Cyclone Recovery in Bangladesh, helping build shelters for people during natural calamities.
If you are a FE/PE future test taker from the US, this episode will give you a kick start on your journey to prepare for these exams by providing you with the best advice on how to practice your problem-solving skills using time management and other tools. And, if you are an international professional who wants to come to the US and work here as an engineer, Maithili’s story will definitely serve as a model and a guide for you. You may also want to check out this article about Top FE Resources or even grab our free FE resource guide found here.
Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown – Maithili’s book recommendation
CollabSuite – Maithili’s Facebook Group recommendation
KUET – Khulna University Of Engineering & Technology
Emergency 2007 Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project – Project from the World Bank;
CEA’s FE On-Demand Training Program – civilfereviewcourse.com/freetraining.
CEA’s Youtube tutorials and practice problems – Here.
Civil Engineering Academy – If you need exams, solved problems or courses, make sure to check out our home base
CEA Community – Haven’t joined up on our free community? What’s wrong with you? J/K. Ok, just go there and join a group of like-minded civil engineers!
Reach out to Isaac- [email protected]
CEA Show Notes
Download our Summary Show Notes for free right HERE.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. What's going on, everybody. Welcome to another fun episode. I have Maithili Dey with us today. How are you doing?
Maithili Dey: Hi, Isaac. I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. We're excited to have you on and share kind of your journey, your experience being a civil engineer and hopefully get some tips out of you on, you know, what you did to prepare for the FE and things of that nature. So, as we dive into this first why don't you tell us a little more about yourself, maybe how you got into engineering and what you like, what you like to emphasize in. Things of that nature. How did this journey start for you?
Maithili Dey: Well, I was born and brought up in Khulna, Bangladesh, and my school, college, university was all there. In Bangladesh, our education system is like that, we can choose the discipline, science, arts or business from grade nine. So, when I was in grade nine, I chose science. And after my high school, then I was preparing for designation in engineering school. So, it's also a system. We have to pass the exam to get admission in any engineering school or college or medical college or any university. So I got chance in civil engineering department in Khulna University Of Engineering & Technology, KUET. Then I started my bachelor. So when I was studying that time, I felt my passion is in water and wastewater treatment. My thesis topic was Effluent Characteristics of Shrimp Processing Industry. And after completing my graduation, then I came to Dhaka and I started my career. So, first I joined as an intern in BUILDTECH. So I was designing for residential buildings, five-story and six-story buildings. I was the only one woman engineer in that firm. That was a small firm. It was a nice journey. It was a nice experiment.
Isaac Oakeson: Could you go back to -- You said Dhaka, right? Describe what that is. What's that?
Maithili Dey: So, about my project?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah.
Maithili Dey: Okay. Those sites were in Dhaka. So, I worked for two projects and the soil condition was good. So, these buildings. I just designed for a normal footing foundation. So, one was in Chittagong division Noakhali district and another was in Dhaka. So my internship was like near about nine months. So I finished one project and another was going on. Then I joined as a manager international division in Southeast Asia Management and Engineering Services. That was an interesting experience. So I was preparing technical proposals and recruiting international civil engineers. So that time I met a lot of international experts. So I learned about especially bidding documents, bidding estages, how to win the project. So I learned those topics from that company SAMES.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. It sounds like you got a lot of experience very quickly in that.
Maithili Dey: Yeah, because in my university, there was no session jam . So just I completed my four years and then joined, you know, a job. And after the journey of SAMES, then I actually followed my passion because that I have already told you. I love to work for water treatment, wastewater treatment. And then I joined as a junior engineer in emergency 2007, Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project, ECRRP. So my firm was RPMC, Resource, Planning, Management and Consultant firm. And I also worked for the local government engineering department. So the project was to build construction of cyclone shelters. Government primary school cyclone shelters. Those were elementary schools and the project was funded by world bank. So anything we prepared for example, drawings, architectural drawings, plans structural drawings, audit papers, specifications, environmental impact assessment, social impact reports. We all had to submit to the World Bank. So it was another nice journey because that gave me, I got an opportunity to go to pretty close to the people, work for the public and sites in remote area. So, I was working at head office. Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). So--
Isaac Oakeson: What is a cyclone shelter? Is it just that it meets certain specifications so that it can take on a cyclone? Or what is that, detailed?
Maithili Dey: Actually, our project goal was to provide shelters to human beings and their their livestock during natural calamities. And during that time, they use that shelter as school, elementary school. So, for this reason, the name is government primary school cyclone shelters.
Isaac Oakeson: Got you.
Maithili Dey: It's not a -- One more thing. I'm really happy that these shelters, these schools shelters right now using for this purpose. It helps a lot of people. And these buildings are not a typical site shelters. I mean, in our project, there were three types of buildings, option one, option two, option three. We go the land available. So option three was three-story building. So second floor actually livestocks can take shelters. So we provided ramps from both sides so they can easily enter into the shelters. And also provided emergency facilities for pregnant woman. And solar panel, and two tube wells in each school so they can get fresh drinking water, safe and hygiene sanitation facilities. We also provided it. Tube-well installed either 2nd floor or 3rd floor. So interesting journey. Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. So you did that. Now take us through how, how did you end up here in the United States? So keep going on your little story. This is great.
Maithili Dey: Okay. So I finished first phase in that project. After that, I got married in 2014 and came here in Wisconsin. Then another journey started. My daughter was born in 2015 and when she was 20 months old in 2017, that time I decided to come back in my career. And first thing I started to prepare for the FE exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Good. And you've got that done, FE?
Maithili Dey: Yes.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. So I guess what's next is career, get some experience and then apply for probably the PE - is probably on your radar.
Maithili Dey: Yeah. Now I'm searching for jobs, especially in water resources field. And of course I am in touch with my study because it needs for the preparation of PE.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, that's great. I think you bring a lot of different experience because you have an international experience and now ou've come here to the United States and you'll be getting experience here. So you've got all of these different experiences to make you a better engineer, knowing how the whole world works on some of this stuff. So, that's really great. I have another question for you, but through all of your experiences, is there a tool or a tip or even some career advice that you would share with, you know the next rising engineer?
Maithili Dey: Of course I have. So two things actually I realized the first thing is software skills. It's very important for an engineer, like AutoCAD, Civil3D, GIS, Staad Pro, ETABS, HEC-RAS. So when I was starting that time, it was actually my call STAAD Pro. Then I learned AutoCAD and Etabs. But in my career and my previous job, I didn't use ETABS. And here I learned HEC-RAS and Civil 3D, but AutoCAD is still ongoing process. I had this acknowledge of GIS because it needs about mapping, serving the location. I had to update the report. These tools are really important and the next one is networking. It's really, really important to find jobs, to develop any skills.
Isaac Oakeson: That's perfect. I love that advice. And I think, you know, not only do you need to understand the software-side of things. As you graduate and you start working in an industry, you'll realize that there's, you know, obviously there's quite a dependence on the software. It's also helpful to understand how that software is working for sure. And then I really liked your comment about networking. There's a lot of different ways to network, you know, you can join different societies. Today it seems like LinkedIn is a great way to try to make connections with people too and introduce yourself and things of that nature. So yeah, networking is a big deal. Thanks for sharing that. Why don't you share with us if there was a lesson learned or something that you've seen a mistake from a distance or mistakes you've made yourself. Tell us something that's happened in that arena.
Maithili Dey: It's a great question. I am always learning. I make mistake and I also made mistakes in my previous job, especially when I entered as a junior engineer in cyclone shelter projects. That can question my prepared estimates for the improvement shelter and new shelters. That made me learn another software, RSEPS, for estimating. So it was new and you know, that each and every item in detail had to reflect in the estimate because it affects the budget and bid documents. And so that time I missed some items codes. Somy senior engineers, my team leader, they were really amazing. My books. So my senior engineers really helped me to understand. That time I learned how to overcome these mistakes and focus, especially when prepare the estimates. And then I learned in detail about the software RSEPS.
Isaac Oakeson: Great. Yeah. I think -- You know what, when you're preparing estimates, it is -- You miss a few things and it could hurt you on the other end. You discovered that.
Maithili Dey: And one thing I learned that, you know, that we engineers are always under pressure with a lot of things on the plate. It's good because we can learn. And I also learned how to handle pressures, solve issues, because most of the time we have, I had to talk over phone, different, different sites. So I've learned from that conversation.
Isaac Oakeson: That's a good point. I think when you're maybe in school, you think you might have more time to figure out a problem. Because I mean, in school you have to take time to solve problems. But when you get out in the workplace, you know, there's deadlines that need to be met. And it's almost like, you know, I hate to say that they care more about that deadline, but you know, it's like you have to be really efficient. You know, you have to solve problems quickly, to make decisions on things much more quickly than you think you do. So that's a good point. I love that. Well what about this one? What's something you've been working on recently? I actually haven't mentioned to people, but you've been working a little bit with us, Civil Engineering Academy, but what are some -- You want to go into any details on what's been an interest of you? What are the things you've been working on in the civil world?
Maithili Dey: Now, Now I am searching jobs in water resources arena. So I'm also doing some self certification courses. Last week I attended a virtual training program about fundamentals of secondary treatment in Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA). So I always try to attend this type of webinars, conferences regarding job hunting and my field. So that really helps me. And it also involves me to the extend that I am busy with them and I'm also preparing content for Civil Engineering Academy to help other engineers pass their FE exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Great. And we have appreciated it. So --
Maithili Dey: Thank you for you because you gave me this chance.
Isaac Oakeson: And we did a little review of your LinkedIn profile too, to try to help boost your visibility there. So, and I opened that up to everybody. If anybody wants a review of their LinkedIn profile, shoot me an email and we'll do a little review of it. So, hopefully that helps you out in the long run. So that's great. So I say let's switch over to the FE now and you have recently passed that. What are some tips you could share about preparing for, either books or courses or resources or how you took the exam, any strategies and tips you want to share about the FE Exam?
Maithili Dey: Yeah, of course. So the first tip is -- I felt that, of course we have the clear conception about the syllabus, Civil CBT specifications, calculator specifications and time management. And, about books. So I also bought every manual booklike other engineers. And I also want to mention other books like the Civil Ultimate --
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, our exam?
Maithili Dey: It really helped me. Other books from PPI, ebooks and in YouTube, actually. There are a lot of tutorials. So when I was preparing for the FE exam, so I solved lot of problems. I tried to solve a lot of practice problems, so it really helps.
Isaac Oakeson: Yes, it does. Okay. So practicing problems, gathering resources. Those are good tips. Maybe I could add this. We at civil engineering Academy put together like a free training program. So if people want to kind of kick start their studies, they could go to civilfereviewcourse.com/freetraining. And it's like an on-demand webinar where we'll teach you kind of how to get started and resources you should get and things of that nature. So definitely go check that out too. But yeah, YouTube is a great resource. There's a lot of free content on there. We ourselves produce a lot of free problems to solve and we love trying to help people there with that as well. So let me ask you this with time management, a lot of times that really hurts people and they don't realize that they, you know, you don't have that much time to solve a problem. So, I mean, and at the same time, the problem can't be as difficult as the time they give you. But what, what did you do to try to manage that? What did you try to do to, I guess, manage your time?
Maithili Dey: Oh, okay. So when I practiced those problems, I always set timers. Like I was setting in my mind that I have only three minutes or two and half minutes. So some simple problem or some fill in the blanks, you know, that we can easily solve it within one minute or two minutes. So I suggest the step that we should try at the beginning, when we practice, we should maintain it, then it will be habit. So then we won't face any difficulties. It's tough when we start. But when we have started, then it will be habit to solve any problems. Some problems that takes four minutes, any structure problem, or transportation problem. So yeah, in my exam, I saved many times and then I focused those problems. It really helped me.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. No, that's great. And I think that applies to any exam that would apply to the FE and the PE exam. So yeah, make sure you're, you're giving yourself a timed, either exam or time yourself on the problems you're solving. And when I took the PE exam, I remember I would set aside four hours to do like the breadth exam. And so, you know, if you take your time, you're really setting yourself up for success because you're putting that pressure on yourself to try to solve these quickly. It'll just help you out. So good tip. I want to jump into some quick questions, kind of a short-answer round with you. So what's an obstacle you faced when you became a civil engineer. What's been the biggest obstacle?
Maithili Dey: That's a good question. Actually, obstacle is part of our life. I feel sometimes it is good. So when I was preparing for the FE exam, I faced a difficulties. Because new country, new environment, new culture, I didn't have any books or notes. I didn't have any friends here. And it was really tough, but I overcame. So, I realized that I could overcome because of two reasons. The first one is, when I started in my bachelor, the syllabus was international standard. So when I restudied it helped me. Yeah, few courses were new but it was okay. So It really helped me. And another thing, that my family, my husband, he helped me a lot. My friends, most of my friends live in another state, but they also helped me here. Some of Bangladeshi students who are studying in UW Madison. They also helped me.
Isaac Oakeson: Great.
Maithili Dey: Yeah. My mother-in-law visited here, so she's stayed with us. So that time she also encouraged me.
Isaac Oakeson: Good. So you had a good network of support.
Maithili Dey: Yeah, actually I have really a good network. Not only here. When I was in Bangladesh with my job. So it's really-- This network also helped me.
Isaac Oakeson: That's good. I think that's important, especially when you're studying for these big exams. I mean, you have to get support from people and they're buying. So, to help you, because this ends up being almost a part time job when you start preparing for these exams and studying for them. So that's a great, great advice. How about this one? What's the best advice you've ever received or just good advice in general? You've already shared some, but maybe, maybe there's one more.
Maithili Dey: Okay. So discipline. Discipline is the key to success. And from my childhood, I learned this advice, discipline. My father is very disciplined. So, I think anything to achieve in life, discipline is the key factor. And another one is hard work. Without hard work, nothing is possible. So, I believe these two things are really important in our life.
Isaac Oakeson: I love that. That's great advice. Yes. I agree. And today's culture, everything's so fast-paced, you know, with phones and social media. It's hard to sit down and be disciplined. To look at, you know, civil engineering problems and solve those or just things at work sometimes too. So no, that's great advice. I love that. Does that translate also to any personal habits you might have? How do you --
Maithili Dey: Yeah. I'm an early bird. So I always try to finish my hard task in the early morning before my family members wake up. It also helped me to pass the FE and anything. I always support this habit that I have, this one. And I always try to divide a big task into smallest steps. That really helps me. And another one, I always follow a notebook. So what I finished, I just note down. So, at the end of the day, it really makes me happy what I had done and what are those pending, So this notebook really helps me. It's a great start for the next day.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Great tip. I like that. I love hearing what your habits are and your work ethic is. I think it's great, man. If anybody out there needs a water resources engineer, you got go get ahold of you. This is great. Let's keep going. Just a few more quick questions. Is there someone that you look up to and in life and why?
Maithili Dey: I always tried to follow my teachers, my bosses, my employ, my bosses, my folks, my friends. So I don't want to mentioning a specific name, but they really helped to my early carrier and still they're in my touch It's really good. And I also want to mention you that you also advised me guided me. And one person is Mel Butcher. One of my friends Jing Liao. So, one of my friends actually introduced to her through LinkedIn. She is also nice person and she is also helping me. So whatever I need, I point as some guidance. So you guys are always helping me.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's great. I love that. What do they say? It takes a village to raise somebody and maybe all these professors and all these influences in your life have really formed how you are. And that's, that's really great. How about this? A resource what's a resource you'd recommend to the Civil Engineering Academy community. It could be something on leadership or education or some something fun. It doesn't have to be engineering, but what's, what's something you'd recommend to the community to check out?
Maithili Dey: Oh, well. So for leadership, I went to recommend one book Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown. I read this book this year. So she focused on the vulnerability and we can't avoid the difficult situations or conversations. So how to deal with those. She presented some examples, stories with solutions. So I think this book is great for engineering. I always try to read articles, podcasts, blogs. Like last time, I had a tutorial that I attended a training program. So I got a client book. It really helps develop skills and the present situation. So what's going on in the industry because I am focusing in wastewater, water treatment. So I always try to read those articles, blogs, posts.
Isaac Oakeson: That's fantastic. Well, we'll link some of those resources you know, in the show notes when we're done with this, but that, that those are great. And I think every civil engineer needs to learn something on leadership because you do become the leader of what you're doing. I mean, whether it's your project or you move up in management or you become a project manager. All of those things, leadership is good skills to learn about. So, all right. How about a fun question? If you had all the resources or all the knowledge in the world, what's something you would like to be a part of in the world of civil engineering?
Maithili Dey: Good question. So, yeah. If I had all those resources, I want to work for those people who is suffering for the scarcity of fresh drinking water and safe and hygiene sanitation. Because now in this world, in this present situation, mmost of the countries, most of the parts of the world are still suffering of safe and pure drinking water.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh man, I think there's some really good organizations out there too that help develop safe drinking water systems in places that need it too. So I think that's a great cause. Great thing to be a part of. That's probably one that I would choose too. That's a good choice. Okay. Well let's go and wrap this up. Is there any last piece of guidance or anything you'd like to share? And also share like the best way for our audience to contact you. If they have any questions about your journey, or if they have a job offer. That'd be good.
Maithili Dey: Okay. Yeah. If you're just going to contact me by email. [email protected] and for women actually now I'm following the page in Facebook CollabSuite. So, they're actually working for woman empowerment in industries. So women engineers can follow this page. I'm also -- I want to tell your viewers that they also can follow the Civil Engineering Academy. Now, I'm preparing content. And also some other contents and tutorials that will come and it's really helpful, because it helped my journey to pass the FE exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Good. That's great. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing that. So, I'll just repeat your email. That's [email protected] That's M A I T H I L I dot D E Y @gmail.com. Right?
Maithili Dey: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay, cool. Well, thank you for joining me. This was really fun. I think you shared a lot of good tips for not only the FE, but just life in general. So, I love the experience you've had international. Now you're here in the States. You're getting experience here and I just think you'll be a really good engineer for -- Well, you've done great stuff for us, but I think, when you get a job doing wastewater stuff, you'll be fantastic there too. So, thanks for joining me on this episode.
Maithili Dey: And thanks Isaac, that you invited me on your podcast episode. Thank you very much.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. See you later.
Maithili Dey: See you. Bye.
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