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The Value of Professional Societies to Young Engineers

November 13, 2017 by Milhouse

Professional associations offer many benefits to engineers, including young engineers who are just entering the field. The benefits include establishing yourself in the profession, networking, mentoring, training, and socializing, to name a few. While there is a cost and time commitment with belonging to an association the benefits far out weight the small drawbacks. Read about Milhouse’s Robert Brzezon’s, PE experience as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Younger Member Groups (YMG) below.

The ASCE is one of the premier engineering organizations, representing over 150,000 members in 177 countries. It is America’s oldest engineering society as well as a leading provider of continuing education, civil engineering technical manuals, and codes and standards. The organization has 75 sections, 158 branches, and 130 YMGs. A younger member is anyone who graduated from college and is 35 or younger.

When I joined ASCE 5 years ago a former co-worker was actively involved with the organization and on the Illinois Section YMG board. They invited me to several YMG events and introduced me to other Younger Members. These events gave me the opportunity to network with peers from diverse backgrounds and companies across the Chicago area. I learned about challenges my peers faced on projects and in the workplace, gained a wider perspective on the industry as a whole, and discovered opportunities to take on a leadership role very early in my career.  These interactions led to my decision to volunteer my time and join the board as Awards Director. While I served on the YMG board I was accountable to the board and membership. I progressed from Awards Director, to Secretary, and finally Chair from October 2015 to September 2016.

The time I spent as Chair of the YMG was a rewarding and challenging experience. The YMG group organized six technical dinner meetings, one technical workshop, multiple community/student outreach events, two large social events, a charity fundraiser, and hosted a regional conference in Chicago. I was fortunate to have a dedicated and motivated board. The teamwork the YMG board exhibited made all of these events possible.

Last year the Illinois YMG organized a technical presentation with Dr. Soliman Khudeira. He spoke on the CDOT Loop Link Transportation System and shared the engineering challenges the project faced. The group also planned a technical workshop using the “ASCE Supercharge Your Career” module on Communication. Over a period of three days, four senior engineers presented the module to 15 young members. Both the technical presentation and workshop were hosted at Milhouse’s office after hours. This was just a small sample of the kinds of events the YMG hosts annually.

During this year’s ASCE Annual Convention the Illinois Section’s YMG Group was recognized for its quality and excellence in engaging its ASCE Younger Members in professional technical events, social activities, and public outreach. I was fortunate to attend with several other YMG board members and accept the award on the group’s behalf. In addition to receiving this prestigious award we were able to attend various technical, professional development and leadership sessions over the course of three days.

Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with volunteers, improve my communication skills, improve my productivity, and learn delegation skills. I’ve also expanded my network with other motivated professionals in my field. These connections are valuable to everyone as we move forward in our careers and our paths continue to cross. As a young engineer I just wasn’t handed opportunities to set myself apart from my peers. Instead, I took control of my professional growth by stepping out of my comfort zone and committing the time and effort to take advantage of these great opportunities. Investing your time in associations and expanding your skills is an investment in yourself and your career. I am glad to be able to share my experience as a way to encourage other young engineers to participate in professional associations as well.

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