We’ve already touched on many cases of people passing the PE exam later in life, as well as on the temporary and uncomfortable conditions we may face in order to achieve something better down the road. Today’s guest is an example of both. After dealing with medical issues that caused a 75% loss of kidney function and being almost 20 years away from the civil engineering arena, Shannon Beranek can proudly say she’s a PE.
Shannon Beranek is currently one of the two engineers for the city of Urbana, after going to college to get her bachelor's, master's, and an ABD on a Ph.D. course. While she was doing her master’s, she had a massive attack on her kidneys due to an auto-immune disease called Lupus that got her kidney functionality down to 25%. After some medical treatment, she found herself in a delicate financial situation and decided to leave civil engineering for areas that were able to pay more.
However, her experiences in other industries didn’t get her the life she wanted and, all of a sudden, she decided to go back into civil. Having taken the FE exam in 2001 — only 19 years away — she reasoned she needed a refresher course for the PE. That’s when she found the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, by the Civil Engineering Academy. In today’s episode, Shannon shares her life experiences, golden tips for test-takers, how the course helped her pass her exam, and also her thoughts on the PE going CBT.
Some links below are affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I make a small commission for referring products and resources.
Shannon Beranek – [email protected]
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – http://civilpereviewcourse.com
Civil Engineering PE All-in-One Exam Guide: Breadth and Depth – https://amzn.to/3oA1j7Y
Civil Engineering PE Practice Exams: Breadth and Depth – https://amzn.to/3r6NNKR
School of PE – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
PPI is our partner to help you ace your FE and PE exams. Use our discount code of CIVAC and our link to get 15% off any book you order, including the Civil Engineering Reference Manual and the Highway Capacity Manual – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi
CEA Episode 51 (Tim Miller – NCEES) – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/cea-51-the-ncees-chief-officer-of-exams-tim-miller-pe
Purple Mattress – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/purple
If you need exams, solved problems or courses, make sure to check out our home base – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Haven’t joined up in our free community? What’s wrong with you? J/K. Ok, just go there and join a group of like-minded civil engineers! – https://ceacommunity.com
Join over 4000 engineers like you and learn the tips and tricks to passing the FE and PE. We even have a free resource for you! – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right! .What's Going on, Shannon? Thanks for joining me on the Civil Engineering Academy podcast. Welcome to the show!
Shannon Beranek: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah! This is going to be exciting. SoI guess -- You know, people want to get to know you a little better. And one of the main ways we connected obviously is that you were a member of our course, the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, and that's how we connected. But your comments on Facebook were always eye-catching and very funny. And so I think one of those comments is that we needed more women testimonials and things like that. And I was like, "Well... Hey, let's connect and get on the podcast. Let's hear your journey". So I think you have a very fun attitude and I think it's good to sometimes take some of this stuff lightly because, you know, people taking the PE can be very, very serious, especially if they're repeat takers and it can get them down quite a bit. So I guess as we begin, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself. How you got into the civil engineering world?
Shannon Beranek: Okay. So I'm born and raised in Illinois. My grandfather on my mom's side was actually a civil engineer. He did a lot of those Chicago expressways and highways and things that, if you get stuck in traffic, like "Why is this built like this?". So, it kind of runs in the family. Since him, I was the only person on that side to really go to college. And I had no idea. It was going to be civil engineering orpsychology. And at the time I said, "I don't want to be in college for eight years". Well, it turns out I was in college for far more than eight years because I did multiple degrees at the university, including going ABD on a PhD. So, it's funny how life works out.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! So you got all the way up into the PhD. You were working on that, I imagine, and what changed? What happened there?
Shannon Beranek: So I have lupus and I'm not afraid to talk about it. It's an autoimmune disease. And when I turned 21, I had a massive attack, basically attacked my joints. I got sick, got over that one. Years later when I'm doing my master's degree, it attacks my kidneys. I got down to like 25% kidney function. Almost need a transplant dialysis. My doctor was awesome. Saved my kidneys. I ended up at three [inaudible] replacements in the process and a ton of medical bills, obviously. So, being a PhD student pays very little, even in engineering. I was making 18 grand a year, which is not much. So I got into tech. I started working for a video game company called Zynga. I'm sure everyone remembers when their Facebook feed was full of "Help my cow", you know, "pet it", whatever. You can blame me for that. So I worked for them for a little while. Kind of bounced around other tech companies because tech is not a stable field. And I actually got to the point where my advisor kind of disappeared on me, so I couldn't finish my PhD. And the university was less than helpful. I don't want to talk bad about them, because it is a good university, but I didn't get a lot of help. And so, I was kind of working video games, not making that much money. It was kind of getting terrible. Like, it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. So all of a sudden, one day, I was like, "I'm gonna go back to being an engineer". And I applied to the local company that was here in town. I got a job within two weeks of applying and haven't looked back.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! That's awesome. So I guess, take us back. How long were you in the video game industry and then how long have you now been working in the civil engineering? It's been a few years now?
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. The one I worked at the most I started there in 2012 and stayed there almost five years. And before that, a couple of years in different places. But I went back to engineering July of 2017.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! Well, that's awesome. So fast forward then to today, what are you doing now?
Shannon Beranek: I am the sole engineer besides the public works director for the city of Urbana. When I started, we had 12 people in our department and we now have five. So, we've had a lot of attrition that we haven't replaced due to budget reasons, and probably other reasons that I don't know beause I'm not an admin.
Isaac Oakeson: COVID maybe? I don't know.
Shannon Beranek: The city's been actually really great on COVID. I mean, we have COVID protocols, we're getting actually testing. That's going to be in our building. So like every day you come in and get your COVID test. Well not every day, like twice a week.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! So you have such an interesting journey, from medical things going on to your experience going to the university to your work experience. So now you're in civil engineering. You've realized I guess, that you needed to pass your exams. I imagine you passed your FE in college.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. Right before I started my master's degree.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. And then you jumped into the PE. So tell us about your experience with the PE exam. What was your mindset? What was the challenges you were facing?
Shannon Beranek: Well, I took the FE in end of 2001. So I hadn't really done a lot of things you'd see on the PE for quite a while. And I recognize that --
Isaac Oakeson: For 20 years, almost.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. So I recognized there was a lot of stuff that I was not going to remember, like trusses. I was terrible at trusses in college and I'm like, "This is going to be on the exam". So actually, I knew right away I was going to need a refresher course. So I started looking around and I found yours. And I do have to say, I honestly don't think without a refresher course, I would have passed. Like, regardless of what refresher course I took, that 20 year gap wasvery forgetful in terms of all of the stuff that are on the PE. It is helpful. At first when I was studying, I was like, "This sucks. I hate it. Why would I ever study this? I'm not a structural engineer". I don't want to be a structural engineer, but it did help. And I'm actually very grateful because I don't know if I could be a repeat test taker. Like, I honestly don't know.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, don't get discouraged for those that areYou just get back on the horse and do it again, you know?
Shannon Beranek: I know someone who took it 17 times.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! Did they pass?
Shannon Beranek: Yes. She is now a PE.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, there you go. I didn't know you could do it that many times.
Shannon Beranek: I didn't either, but she does -- I mean, she'll tell people too. She's not, like, afraid to tell you.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. Well, I love it when people are willing to own that and just kind of say, "Look, I struggled with this". I mean, some engineers just are not great test takers. You have to learn what the NCEES, how they do it, what they're testing you on. And really that time management is kind of a real key when you're taking these exams.
Shannon Beranek: You offered -- Like, I think it had like a little cheat sheet of like, "Here's some tips". And one was like, "Get the calendar and like map out your studying". I did that for when I thought I was going to take the test in April, before they cancel it. I didn't do it again after that, because I kind of knew my pattern at that point. But actually sitting down and writing out, "I'm going to study this module this week, this module next week" did actually help.
Isaac Oakeson: Great! So, what did you like most about the course?
Shannon Beranek: I did like the video lectures because it did help kind of focus onthe important things. Like, the geo-tech stuff. Geo-Tech is such a wide range of things you can cover, and actually just sitting down and going through like soil, mechanics, you know, all of that, step-by-step, was very helpful.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. Do you feel like you got good support? I was curious if you feel like you got supported.
Shannon Beranek: The group was great. The one once you buy the course, like the little private one very helpful. There was a one guy in there, John Pickles, is his name.
Isaac Oakeson: Shout out to John.
Shannon Beranek: He gave me a packet of sample test problems. And he was very helpful. I mean, not just me, other people. So he was great.
Isaac Oakeson: John's very active in that group and I'm thankful for it because he gets in there and answers a lot of questions. So it's great to have him in there. And that's really why I built that as part of this. Because I want community of like-minded individuals taking this exam, or even those that have struggled that can come in and help other people, either your first time or your fifth time or your 17th time taking the exam. Because, you know, once you get it done we kind of all are in that same mindset, same boat. I think we can pass it on, try to help other people when they are going through the exact same thing. So I'm glad that helped you.
Shannon Beranek: Well, it was funny. My old boss before he left to go to a different city, I told I had passed and he goes, "What did you think of the essay questions?". And I go, "The what? He's like, "There was no essay questions?". I was like, "No. It's all multiple choice". So apparently, in the 15 years since he took it, the test had also changed.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. It's changed a little bit. Well, I mean, these things continue to evolve. When I took it, it was, you know, still paper-based, obviously. Butat that time you could change which depth section you wanted to take on the fly because they gave you the book, you know? It was like this thick, of all the depth exams. And so you could write in a different exam if you wanted to, you just needed to change it on your sheet. So you didn't have to like pre-register and tell NCEES which depth exam you're getting and that was the only exam you got. You got all of the exams. And I mean, normally, you would prepare for just one of them. But if you thought it looked horrible, you could switch on the fly if you wanted to. So that's when I took it. Obviously it's going computer-based in 2022, similar to the FE. What do you think about that? What are your thoughts on this exam going computer-based? Would you recommend trying to get it done in 21? Or if somebody is debating, just waiting until 2022 to go computer-based? Any thoughts around that?
Shannon Beranek: If you haven't taken it already, like it is your first time, I'd say stick with doing the paper one. Because even preparing for that, like, all the NCEES stuff that you can buy or the practice problems or your course, focuses on that version. So, since I don't have any idea what the computer-based one will look likeI would say, yeah. If that's your first time, stick with the paper one. Don't wait. But if you have taken multiple times, it might be a better option for you. It might be a better mindset. Different people take tests differently. So, like, I took the GRE for grad school on the computer, and that was far different than the paper prep I had done because it had just switched over. But I enjoyed taking it on the computer. It was much more flexible in where you could take it, when you could take it. So I don't know if the PE is going to be that way. Like, are they going to open up more dates, you know?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. So, it's going to be a year-round exam, just like the FE. And they'll have their own reference manual. Sothat's the only book that you'll have access to. So it will be closed-book exam. And so the thought there is, you know, maybe they're only going to ask questions that are related to that book. That's typically not always the case, because you're not going to be able to find theory, you know, in those books, which theory problems are a huge part of the exam. I don't know if you ran into that on your own, but I always say that people are going to experience probably 10 to 15 questions in the morning and the same in the afternoon. So, you know, that's a big chunk of the exam that's straight up theory questions. And if you can't look that up in a reference manual, typically I would point people to like a textbook that they maybe have brought. You could try to look in the index real quick for a keyword or something, but that's my understanding.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. For some that might be helpful, because like, transportation, I had -- I'm not ashamed of it. I had two suitcases full of stuff that I brought with me with the transportation books. So like, the highway capacity manual is three volumes. Like, a lot of our books are just big. The CERM is big. And so if you don't have to schlep all that stuff with you, or know where some obscure thing is in the third volume of a book you haven't looked at for 10 years, it may actually be very helpful.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. And I actually think, depending on which depth exam, they are providinga PDF copy of the standard. I think that they're calling out. At least that's my understanding. Actually interviewed Tim Miller, who's the director of those exams for the NCEES, and he talked about this exam going computer-based. It was a fun interview. If anybody wants to check that out, go check it out: Tim Miller. But anyway, let's get back to your own journey. What do you think, say you wish you had known when you started this whole journey getting ready for this PE exam?
Shannon Beranek: Okay. So I'm a person who researches things by nature, hence why I spent so much time in grad school. So I wasn't really surprised or felt lacking in anything. I pretty much researched the [inaudible] get out of what I needed to do beforehand. So, it definitely helps like make sure you know -- Say if you're taking the paper one still read all the tips from whatever course you're taking read the tips from the NCEES. That really was a great jumping off point for where I needed to direct myself. And for the NCEES, say you're taking transportation, they give you a list of books. Find all of those, if you can. I didn't use a couple of them, but I did beg, borrow and steal all of the ones I could get my hands on, and convinced work to buya couple of new ones that we needed the update volumes on.
Isaac Oakeson: I agree with you. When I was taking the exam, my work paid for review material, and I know a lot of employers out there want you to get your PE, and they're willing to help support you in doing that. So yeah, I agree. Beg, borrow, steal thosestandard books that you need to bring to the exam. Transportation's definitely one that requires a lot of material. Structures is up there too. I think that scares people, but if you are in those in your workplace that's kind of what you want to do, you know? Get to know that material a little better and spend some time studying that stuff is going to help you in the long run.
Shannon Beranek: Because like, I do a lot of traffic stuff. So anything MUTCD-related, there was some three questions on that. I only looked up to double check myself, but I pretty much was like, "I could answer that without even thinking". I'm like, "I do this every day". But there was a question on there that I'm pretty sure it was one of those ones they kicked out because it was so complicated that had to use four charts in different chapters out of the green book. I took a wild guess. I ran out of time and just marked B. I was like, "Sure".
Isaac Oakeson: That's what you do. What are your thoughts on the theory questions? How do you help somebody that is surprised or isn't prepared for those?
Shannon Beranek: So, depending on the question, they often wouldn't use words that an actual engineer in that field would have called the thing. So breath -- Like, you're going to have to do a little brain work on "What are they actually asking?", because I'm like, "I would've never called it X. I would've called it. Y". And so, they do try to trip you up a little bit on those.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. You gotta put on the thinking cap a little bitYou know, spend some time. Just reread those problems. If you do have a good textbook, you know, sometimes you can pull out those keywords and go brush up on it real quickly. But for the most part, I think -- I mean, on these theory problems, you're expected just read through the problem and use really good engineering judgment and trying to solve that particular problem. But, because time management is such a big deal, it's hard to spend a little bit of time looking through books. But if you can do it, you know, go for it. Cool. What's a common myth about the PE or civil engineering that maybe you want to debunk?
Shannon Beranek: So, you had showed me kind of this question ahead of time. And I was trying to think of this one, and, honestly, the only thing that came into my mind was a joke. It's a dad joke that someone told me back in college. It goes, "What's the difference between a mechanical engineer and a civil engineer?". They build the bombs, we build the targets.
Isaac Oakeson: There you go.
Shannon Beranek: It's such a wide field. So like, you're going to have your structural engineers who, in college, they were always like the hoity toity ones, like, "Oh, I'm smart, everybody". You had the environmental guys who were like the sandalwood hippies who had their own floor in the building. And then you had some trans. Portation who were like, "I just want to graduate and this is pr-obably the most middle-of-the-road thing I can find".
Isaac Oakeson: You're probably right. That's funny. That's a good way to --
Shannon Beranek: My old boss was an environmental engineer, so he knows full well that Imake fun of sandal-wearing hippiness.
Isaac Oakeson: That's funny you say that because when I was looking for jobs as an intern, I had worked at a call center that was paying for my schooling, which is like the big reason why I even worked at a call center is because they were paying for my college. But it got to a point where I needed to find an internship. Well, the internship that I found was from a buddy that worked for utility and it was for an environmental internship. And the only thing I knew is that it paid well. So I was like, "Let's do it". And so I interviewed, they took me as an intern, which was very flexible and it was nice, but I quickly realized that I didn't like to write pages and pages and pages of reports. I don't know, it just didn't fit my personality, my style. It was a great job. And at the time I think environmental was like one of the highest-paying positions in civil engineering. It might still beI haven't looked that up in a while. But anyway, yeah. I kind of agree with you there. I didn't follow that path necessarily. In fact, I remember in college, there was thispresentation in a senior design class and it was on transmission design and nobody ever like gave it a second thought, but for whatever reason, that stuck in my head, which is why I ended up where I was. So I started work in the utility world, starting to do transmission design work. So structures and foundations, andpulling in wires of various sizes. And it's a unique field, andthat's how I ended up where I am today. Anyway, I think that's funny. Yeah. I think you're right on that. How about some good advice? What's some good advice you've received or best advice you've received? Anything along those lines.
Shannon Beranek: Best advice.
Isaac Oakeson: Or advice you'd like to share with others.
Shannon Beranek: Take your time. I mean, this goes for just the test or just even work. Especially work, you're going to find yourself whereyou're short-staffed and you gotta get a project done, but don't rush it. Like, do stop and look at what you're doing. Because it will help with the stress, it will help withknowing what you're doing. And if you do make a mistake own it. My current boss, the new public works director, he's like, "We're all gonna make mistakes. We're going to learn from them. I'm not going to hold it against you". Be confident. You know, life happens. So, don't be afraid.
Isaac Oakeson: I agree. Everyone makes mistakes and actually looks better for you if you can own the mistake. It shows that you are willing to take personal responsibility with stuff. I mean, I work with a lot of people and it frustrates me when I work with contractors or anyone else that doesn't take ownership or willing -- Like, they want to help solve the problem, but it's very difficult to get them to own the problem. Anyway, that's very good advice. Very good advice. Going back to the course, why would you recommend the course, the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, to somebody?
Shannon Beranek: I found it a very well-rounded course. So if you look at the NCEES breakdown of questions, it's weirdly structures-heavy. There's like two transportation questions. I'm like "We exist". So, having the different modules and the different sectionsreally helped take me out of the transportation world and to focus on setting the other aspects that I -- Like, I'm never going to build a truss in my life. Not going to happen. But it may be on the test. I actually did not have a single truss question on my version of the exam. I was way to go. I had that printed out from your examples with like tabsI Didn't need it, but it was good to study.
Isaac Oakeson: You were covered. We had you covered. Yeah. What I like about it is like, you know, I built this to cover the specifications, and now we'll have to redo this when those specs change, obviously. And I try to keep up with that, which is very hard. But if we can keep you up to date with what the specs are doing and not anything extra outside of that, then I feel like that's the best way to prepare you. Plus, we try to give you a lot of practice problems, whether that's in video form or in the lecturesincluding the practice exams. So what do you recommend for people about practice exams and problems?
Shannon Beranek: Once you go through all the modules, get as many practice problems, tests you can get your hands on. But be careful because not all of them are created equal. So, I found the six-minute solution ones and the PPI stuff very hard. Like, I had done the NCEES test, felt really good, and was like, "I need more questions". Did those, and I felt like Patrick, the starfish, with a board nailed in my head. So I was like -- And I actually asked in the group I'm like, "Are these hard?" Like, "What is wrong with me?". And they're like, "No, those are super hard. Save those as a last resort". And that's when John pickles gave me his giant pile of stuff and that really helped.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. Yeah, I agree with you. Not all exams are equal and PPI is kind of notorious for making their problems much harder than the real deal. And maybe that's to prepare you or get you in a mindset that, "Wow! This is going to be really hard". And then you get there and maybe it's a little easier and you're surprised by that. I don't know. But I have always felt like maybe their stuff was more helpful for your depth portion, because the depth stuff can get difficult. But if anybody needs a resource, you can use our link: civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi. You can check out with the code CIVAC and you can get 15% off if you need a resource there. And I agree --
Shannon Beranek: And I do have to say, they had a transportation manual there was like maybe an inch thick. That was very helpful. I did actually use that a lot for studying and on the test.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Yeah. I mean they have great resourcesto help prepare you. A newcomer on the scene is actually School of PE and I'll be doing some reviews of their books here shortly, butthey've produced a breadth manual and also a depth manual recently. The depth stuff is only for their course members right now, but that will change in the future. But if anybody's interested in checking those out you can go to civilengineeringacademy.com/sope and go check that out as well. Yeah, get lots of resources. And even in our course I encourage people, if you run out of problems to do, go get some more, whether that's on Amazon grabbing a bunch of exams or otherwise. Just continue to solve problems. And that applies to people even if you have failed the examYou gotta find more problems, different problems, to keep you going, you know? All right. Any other books you would personally recommend to the CEA community to help them on the PE?
Shannon Beranek: The Goswami's book helped studying. I didn't use it at all during the test, even though I had it with me, but it did -- So I used the CERM as my base book because all your lectures reference that, so, I mean, I was very familiar with it. And there was just a couple things thatGoswami explain differently. I mean, not like your description is wrong or the CERM is wrong, it just, for some reason, his description of a certain thing, and I can't think of an example off the top of my head clicked better in my mind. So, using that during studying helped a lot.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, I agree. In fact, I refer people to that because he's very clear. Goswami says this is for an AM and PM. And sometimes I found that that filled in some gaps on my PM exam where the CERM didn't quite hit it, for whatever reason I do wish the CERM was updated in some categories, butthey haven't done that yet. Maybe one day. But like, for me, I took the geo-tech depth exam and a seismic material wasn't really in the CERM. So I had to rely on Goswami. Goswami had some stuff on that, so I used his for that material. So, yeah. I think that's a good -- Make a good point there. Good book! Go check it out. I think it's called the All-in-Onesomething. All-In-One ciil engineering book.
Shannon Beranek: I sold mine to another member of the group, so I don't have mine anymore.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh. You're like, "I'm done with this".
Shannon Beranek: I kept my CERM and I kept the PPI transportation one, but I got rid of a lot of stuff because I'm like, "I'm not taking this test ever again". So hopefully it'll help somebody else pass the test.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. Well, now that you've passed and you're working on getting your license, have you noticed it's a challenge to actually get the license? Or what are you running up to now?
Shannon Beranek: I had to nail down my old professor to get some experience. Otherwise I'd have to wait until June to get the full four yearsA master's degree counts as one year, which is great. But in Illinois, at least, I don't know about other States, your PhD coursework does not count unless you actually get a degree. So, I spent years doing it, doesn't count for anything. But I did do some work for the same professor that was not PhD-related and a member of the Illinois board used to work for the city and I contacted him and he said, "We can work a year of that". Like, it wasn't education-related, so it should count. I had to get his paperwork in the mail that literally showed up yesterday. And so, I'm going to get my ducks in a row, figure out the most convoluted application I've ever experienced in my life, and then mail that off to the Illinois board.
Isaac Oakeson: Did you have to take an ethics exam at your Dopl, your Division of Professional Licensing?
Shannon Beranek: Nope. Don't have one in Illinois, at least. I think maybe if you mess up, you might have to take one. And I do know you have to take one if you try for cross-state licensing. So, if I wanted Indiana, I'd have to take one.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I don't think people realize this sometimes, because your mind is so focused on taking the PE exam. You kind of forget that you really need to check in your division of professional licensing because as part of the application process, you have to have the experience and having the experience doesn't just count with anybody. It has to be with someone that has a PE license and can write off on your experience. And so, I think sometimes that also catches people off guard when they're applying for these things. So keep a good record of what you've been doing, keep the contacts of people that have licenses that know what you've been doing too because that's going to help you a lot in the long run, because you're going to move jobs, you're going to go somewhere else. And you have to reach out to some of these guys that you worked with in the past to figure that out. So, good points. Anything else on that you want to hit?
Shannon Beranek: Definitely the mixture you're working under a PE. So like, my last year at the city of Urbana, I thought was going to count because I was working under the guy appointed interim city engineer. He's a licensed PE. He refused to sign my paperwork. And it wasn't because he thought I was a bad engineer or didn't do the work, it's because of some political BS. And he insisted that he was never my supervisor and he didn't actually oversee any of my work. And I was like, "That's a terrible thing to admit to somebody". So that's when I had to go dig up my old professor and get him to sign for a year.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! Yeah, there's that too. You're going to run up to people that you might think you could get a signature from to sign off on your experience, and then they say no to you. That does happen. I've seen it at my own workplace. And so things like this happenYou know, make good relationships and make sure you can get that experience.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. And with that one, unfortunately, we didn't have a public works director who was a licensed engineer. Because I actually asked the Illinois board, "What do I do when someone says no?". And they asked if there's anyone in the chain of command [inaudible] PEM. Like, "We're a small city. No".
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. We're not going to find anybody. Well, you got it. So you're going to be the PE now. And people are probably going to look to you for that same thing in the future.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. And even though I've just passed the test, haven't got my actual license number, I've actually gotten a lot more people like, "Hey, you know what you're doing now." I'm like, "I knew what I was doing before".
Isaac Oakeson: It changes a lot, doesn't it? Once you get that,
Shannon Beranek: It does come with a nice pay raise too, which will be nice.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, good. Yeah. That's awesome. Some people don't experience that pay raise immediately. But it sounds like you were able to move up quickly in the company you're in.
Shannon Beranek: Well, yes. I mean, when everybody quits, it's kind of --
Isaac Oakeson: Take your shoe in. Awesome. Well, congratulations on that! You'll bestamping stuff and that's great.
Shannon Beranek: Yep. My tech, he says I need to get us a stamp that's like a big wood handled metal thing. Like a judge's gavels. I'm like, "I don't know if I can, but I'll look into it".
Isaac Oakeson: Gotta start a stamp company and make some fun ones, I guess. That's good stuff. Well, is there any other advice you want to share with people either taking this course or taking the PE that you wanted to touch on?
Shannon Beranek: Right now, if you're going to take it -- Well, the January just happene. If you're gonna take it in the spring, there's probably still going to be COVID precautions, practice your exams with your mask on. It wasnot bad during the exam because actually the air conditioner down. So you didn't get hot. But having a mask on for eight hours, I took the full time. It does get old. Like my nose got raw from just looking up and down to the books from the mask rubbing on it. So, get used to wearing that mask. That was actually something I had posted about in the group was like, "I don't know if I couldwear a mask for eight hours". I'm an engineer, not a doctor.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. It's a lot of moisture going on there too. I know a lot of people were worried about that, and it sounded like, at least in our support group, thatat the end of the day, people found it to be a little more quiet or something. Like, it wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be and could focus on the exam. So I would say, hopefully, don't let that scare you from taking it, but you know, be safe. And I think the NCEES tries to do everything they can to make this safe, which is why they opened up a whole another exam period, which was in January, which is an odd ball time for people. And even in our group, some people are taking it January and it's like, "What is this about?" It's because they opened up a few places for it. So, yeah. Good advice.
Shannon Beranek: It also, for the love of Pete, do not bring your cell phone into the exam. Our proctors were nice and let the five people who had their cell phone leave it up at the table. But it could get you kicked out depending on your proctor. So leave it in your car.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. You had a nice one. I specifically remember people getting kicked out because they brought in their stuff. That sucks. Waste of money. Don't do that.
Shannon Beranek: And no Fitbits. My Fitbit's my watch, and like right before the exam, NCEES was like, "You can't have any fitbits". And I was like, "I gotta go to Walmart and buy a watch then".
Isaac Oakeson: They ban Fitbits? I didn't even know that.
Shannon Beranek: Yep. No Fitbits. No any kind of exercise tracker. Nothing.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. You're not tracking your steps in this exam. Are you displaying an equation? I don't know. Get rid of those. Well, good deal. Did you bring any snacks with you into the exam?
Shannon Beranek: I did not. I'm a gum mature. So I actually had like two little sticks of gum laid out on my table and they didn't have any objection to that.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, good. I found there's no time to really eat or snack on stuff. Like, you are so into this exam. I felt like there wasn't time to break out a five-minute break and start pounding a Snickers bar or something. I didn't find that was necessary. I mean, maybe for lunch you could pound something.
Shannon Beranek: Yeah. I had a bottle of water. I took maybe two sips out of it in the morning and two sips out of it in the afternoon. And it was like a two-liter bottle of water. I'm like, "This is pointless".
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. So, you're not going to use a lot of food probably on the exam. But, you know, you can. If you need it. Get a little sugar rush.
Shannon Beranek: We did have one guy who, from his books I think was taking water resources, and I don't know if he was the smartest person in the world or just trying to see what the exam was like, because he left probably halfway through the morning and then an hour before the evening ended.
Isaac Oakeson: Maybe he just guessed B and that was it. 25% chance passing. Anyway. This is a fun question I ask, but if you had all the resources and knowledge in the world, is there something you'd like to be a part of in the world of civil engineering or to help other people in some way?
Shannon Beranek: I don't know. Like, I really liked doing transportation. So, thinking about doing something else, it's kind of weird. I also like building stuff where I can see it. So like, I build stuff at the town that I live in. I mean, my hands have been in the concrete of the road I just built, and I can be like, "I built this" and pointed it. Much to my husband's [inaudible], he's like, 'You point that out every single time we drive past it".
Isaac Oakeson: Is your name, you know, written in the concrete?
Shannon Beranek: No, because we actually have a city ordinance where, if names or any kind of defacement goes in the concrete, the contractor has to rip it out and replace it.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. There you go. Well, that's still good advice. If you like to get your hands and see what you're building, civil engineering is a great place to be. And you're automatically helping the world just by being a civil engineer because we help the world with a lot of things, and a lot of people don't notice it. But it goes from the water you drink all the way to the roads you drive on and everything in between.
Shannon Beranek: Stoplights, streetlights. Yeah. Sidewalks. All your fun multi-use paths are in. I'm listing of all the projects I'm currently working on.
Isaac Oakeson: Diving into that transportation. Well, Shannon, this has been fun. Is there any last piece of guidance that you could share and how can people get ahold of you if they have questions or want to dive into transportation, engineering or questions on the PE?
Shannon Beranek: So, take your time. Enjoy life. Like, studying is awesome. Study hard, do your problems, but also take time to go outside pet your dog, and just don't stress so hard that you get in your own head and basically screw yourself over. Do take time for life. That really helps. I built a road project while I was studying. And so being outside all day gave me a great time to not study. And then, if you're in the group you can tag me, Shannon Beranek or you cansend me a Facebook message. If you want, you can even email me at my city address. It's really long. It's [email protected], and Illinois is spelled out because we can't do anything short at the city. I mean, I can help you on transportation stuff, but if you come to me with like an environmental water pump question, sorry. I'm terrible at those.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Well, you've given plenty of ways to contact you. That's awesome. And for those that aren't part of the group, go join up. Go to civilpereviewcourse.com. You can go check out the course that we createdIt's called the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, and it comes with lots of fun stuff: lectures, problems, exams private support. So go check it out. Anyway. Thanks Shannon for being on. Really do appreciate it. I think a lot of people are goign to love this one. Thank you.
Shannon Beranek: Yep. Thank you too. I'll look forward to seeing people in the group again.
Isaac Oakeson: Right. See you later.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.