Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Top 5 most popular programming languages in 2013

Programming language is a formal language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Sometimes when someone said programming language, they are also referring to scripting language, which are separate kind of languages. In layman’s term, a programming language doesn’t need another language for it to run properly, wherein a scripting language does need another language for it to run properly.

         The following are the most popular programming languages in 2013:
Java - most popular programming language
Source: gradleware
Java is a general-purpose, concurrent, class-based, object-oriented computer programming language that is specifically designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. It is intended to let application developers "write once, run anywhere" (WORA), meaning that code that runs on one platform does not need to be recompiled to run on another. Java applications are typically compiled to bytecode (class file) that can run on any Java virtual machine (JVM) regardless of computer architecture.

Strengths: WORA, popularity
Weaknesses: Slower than natively compiled languages

Sample syntax:

class HelloWorldApp {   
public static void main(String[] args) {           
     System.out.println("Hello World!");

C++ is a programming language that is general purpose, statically typed, free form, multi-paradigm and compiled. It is regarded as an intermediate-level language, as it comprises both high-level and low-level language features. Developed by Bjarne Stroustrup starting in 1979 at Bell Labs, C++ was originally named C with Classes, adding object oriented features, such as classes, and other enhancements to the C programming language. The language was renamed C++ in 1983, as a pun involving the increment operator.

Strengths: Speed
Weaknesses: Older and considered clumsy if compared to Java

Sample syntax:

using namespace std;
void main(){
  cout << "Hello World!";  

C# is a multi-paradigm programming language encompassing strong typing, imperative, declarative, functional, procedural, generic, object-oriented (class-based), and component-oriented programming disciplines. It was developed by Microsoft within its .NET initiative and later approved as a standard by Ecma (ECMA-334) and ISO (ISO/IEC 23270:2006). C# is one of the programming languages designed for the Common Language Infrastructure.
Strengths: Powerful and fast
Weaknesses: Only really suitable for Windows

Sample syntax:

public class Hello1 {   
public static void Main() {           
     System.Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!");   

Python is a widely used general-purpose, high-level programming language. Its design philosophy emphasizes code readability, and its syntax allows programmers to express concepts in fewer lines of code than would be possible in languages such as C. The language provides constructs intended to enable clear programs on both a small and large scale.

Strengths: Excellent readability and overall philosophy
Weaknesses: No explicit return types

Sample syntax:

def main():
    print("Hello World!")

if __name__ == "__main__":

C is a general-purpose programming language initially developed by Dennis Ritchie between 1969 and 1973 at AT&T Bell Labs. Like most imperative languages in the ALGOL tradition, C has facilities for structured programming and allows lexical variable scope and recursion, while astatic type system prevents many unintended operations. Its design provides constructs that map efficiently to typical machine instructions, and therefore it has found lasting use in applications that had formerly been coded in assembly language, most notably system software like the Unix computer operating system.

Strengths: Speed
Weaknesses: Memory Management, difficult to master

Sample syntax:

    printf("Hello World");


Monday, September 9, 2013

Civil Engineering Failures

The St. Francis Dam Flooding

     Amongst the history of civil engineering disasters, one of the least known is the collapse of the St. Francis Dam and subsequent flooding. Although this disaster claimed more than 500 lives and destroyed millions of dollars of property, very little is heard about it. Even so, it had a major impact on the history of civil engineering and civil engineering regulations today.

     The St. Francis Dam was designed by William Mulholland, the self-taught chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He was an experienced dam engineer, having completed several smaller dams before this one. He was also responsible for the design and construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was the longest aqueduct in the world when it was built in 1913. Without this aqueduct, Los Angeles probably would not have grown to the size and prominence it has today.

     The St. Frances Dam was a curved concrete gravity dam. By definition, a gravity dam is one where that depends upon the force of gravity to prevent it from being pushed aside by the water it contains. Essentially, the force of the water behind the dam is pushing the dam to tip forward upon it’s toe (the most downstream point of the dam). The weight of the dam is acting against that, causing it to rotate downward into the earth from the same point. As long as the weight of the dam structure itself is greater than the weight of the water behind the dam, it will not move.

     Gravity dams are very common due to their high reliability and relative lower construction cost. They can be either solid or hollow, and can be made of only concrete or a combination of concrete and dirt. Other than the weight of the dam, the other major design criterion is to ensure that the toe of the dam is sunk deep enough into the earth to prevent it from sliding forward.

     What caused the St. Francis Dam to fail wasn’t the design of the dam or its construction, but rather a limited understanding of the geological foundation of the dam. In the 1920s, when the dam was built, the technology wasn’t available to properly determine the strength of the paleo-mega-landslide rock formations that the left abutment rested upon. Two of the most famous geologists of the day examined the site and determined that it was suitable for the dam’s construction.

     This was the major contributing factor to the failure of this dam. However, it was not the only factor. Twice during the construction of the dam, Mulholland added an additional ten feet to its height. While he compensated for this additional height in his design, those compensations didn’t bring the dam up to the standards practiced by other dam engineers of his day. According to modern standards, the design of this dam was subpar for a concrete dam of its size.

     Although there was almost no warning of the impending disaster, earlier in the day of the failure, Mulholland examined a leak in the dam. Leaks in concrete dams are not uncommon, and this one was found to be inconsequential. Since the failure of the dam was mostly caused by the subterranean rock, the only way that that leak could have been an indicator, would be if it was large enough to demonstrate that the dam’s foundation was shifting.

     The disaster of the St. Francis Dam’s failure resulted in a number of changes to civil engineering, specifically to the area of dam design and construction, but also affecting all areas of civil engineering: 
New federal standards for the construction of dams. 
Increased inspections of all dams across the United States were mandated. In the initial inspection after this disaster, a full third of the dams were found to need of alterations, repairs or reinforcement. Today, all dams are inspected on a regular basis. 

      Civil engineering examinations and registration traces its roots to this tragedy, which brought to public light the lack of sufficient standards for civil engineers. 

     An increased awareness of the geological factors in civil engineering came to light from the failure of the dam’s foundation. Geotechnical engineering can trace its roots to this disaster. Today, geologic input on dam design and construction is commonplace. 
The importance of peer review of designs was brought to light. Since this time, a project of this size has never been designed and overseen by only one engineer. 

     So, although the collapse of the St. Francis Dam was a disaster that cost many lives, it ultimately became a major part of defining the civil engineering we practice today. The lessons learned from this tragedy have helped ensure that later projects are much less prone to failure.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

     The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, completed in 1940, probably stands as the greatest civil engineering failure in history. When constructed, it was to be the third longest suspension bridge in the world. Narrow and graceful, the bridge would connect the Kitsap Peninsula to Tacoma, Washington.

     Even before opening, it was clear that the bridge had problems. Workers had noticed undulations in the bridge and named it Galloping Gertie. Since suspension bridges are designed to be flexible, the problem was determined to be inconsequential, as the wave-like undulations would not cause any structural damage to the bridge. However, because of concern for the comfort of commuters on the bridge, a number of measures were designed by civil engineering consultants and implemented to try and reduce these undulations.

     The bridge failed on November 7th of 1940, a mere four months after opening. Fortunately, the only life lost in its spectacular failure was that of a cocker spaniel named Tubby. Structural engineers were left with the question of analyzing how the bridge failed. As with any civil engineering failure, a thorough analysis is a necessary part of avoiding similar catastrophes in the future.

     This bridge was a revolutionary design in suspension bridges, intended to reduce cost, while providing an aesthetically pleasing structure to grace the Tacoma Narrows. Two basic designs for the bridge deck had been proposed, a 25 foot tall traditional lattice-style truss, and 8 foot tall plate girders (which are essentially tall I-beams). Since the girders produced a slimmer, more elegant design at a much lower cost, they were the design decided upon.

     In addition to this design innovation, there was another critical design feature which contributed to the ultimate demise of Girtie. Since traffic was expected to be fairly low, the bridge was only to be two lanes wide, resulting in an incredibly narrow 25 feet width. Between the narrow width and the low profile, it was the smallest cross section ever conceived for any lengthy suspension bridge.

     As with any structure, reducing dimensions also reduces rigidity. This, along with the large sail area provided by the eight foot tall girders, gave even the lightest wind the ability to easily push the 2,800 foot long main span. It was not uncommon for the center of Girtie to be deflected as much as several feet to the side, in addition to the wave-like motion that she was well known for. However, neither of these problems created any structural risk, as the bridge and its roadbed had been designed with some flexibility.

     On November 7th, 1940, amidst a 42 mile-per-hour wind, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge’s movement changed drastically. Instead of the well-known undulating motion, the roadbed of the bridge started twisting, with the opposite ends of the center span twisting out of sync with each other. This put the structure at risk, as the connection of the girders and roadbed had not been designed to withstand this sort of motion.

     A famous film, taken by the owner of a photography shop near the Tacoma end of the bridge provides ample documentation of the bridge’s torsional twisting and ultimate self-destruction. The first failures the film shows are not the roadbed or supporting girders, but rather the suspender cables. These are the vertical cables running from the main cable across the top of the towers, down to the roadbed.

     To understand the importance of these cables, one must understand the theory behind how a suspension bridge works. The roadbed is not intended to be self-supporting, merely to have enough stiffness to prevent winds and the load passing across it to cause excessive movement. The entire weight of the bridge is supported by the towers, which are firmly anchored in concrete piers. Two main cables are draped over the towers, and are attached to massive, heavy anchorages on both shores. From these main cables, suspender cables drop down to attach to the roadbed and support it. All these cables transfer the weight of the bridge roadbed and load to the towers.

     What happened to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is that as the wind torsionally twisted the bridge as much as 45 degrees, the weight of the bridge needed up being supported by the suspender cables on only one side. That proved to be too much for the cables, which snapped. The resulting transfer of weight to adjacent cables overloaded them, snapping additional cables in a domino effect. Without the cable system to support the roadbed, joints in the roadbed failed, causing it to collapse.

     All of this started because of the natural resonance which is in any object. As the bridge was being designed, this resonance was not properly accounted for. When the wind hit 42 miles per hour, it caused the motion which ultimately led to failure.

     One long-term result of the lessons which were learned from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster is that modern structural engineers now use computer simulations of wind flow programs to better understand and design for the natural resonance of bridges, buildings and other structures. This helps reduce greatly the possibility of another disaster like this in the future.

The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse

     While the spectacular demise of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge can be considered the largest civil engineering disaster in terms of physical size, it doesn’t hold a candle to the cost in human lives of the collapse of the Walkway in the Hyatt Regency. The total lives lost through that disaster were 114, with over 200 more hospitalized due to injuries. This collapse wasn’t an error in the design or calculations to back up that design, but rather in the execution of the design by the fabrication company who built the walkway and lack of project management by the civil engineers on the project.

     As originally designed, there were three walkways, spanning the atrium and connecting the two halves of the second, third and fourth floors. The walkways for the second and fourth floors were stacked one over the other, while the one for the third floor was offset to one side. These walkways were suspended from the ceiling on metal rods, which attached to box beams that crossed underneath the walkways.

     In the original engineering drawings, the same threaded rod ran from the ceiling, down through the fourth floor walkway and continues down to the second floor walkway. Large nuts, backed by washers were to connect the threaded rods to the box beams. The box beams themselves were two steel “C” channels, which were welded together.

     Due to the difficulty of manufacturing a threaded rod that long, and the risk of it becoming damaged in shipment and installation, the steel fabricator who was building the walkway decided to change the design, using two rods in each location, rather than one. The first rod would run from the ceiling down through the upper walkway and attach there. The second rod would run from the upper walkway, down to the lower one, hanging it from the upper walkway’s beams.

     On the surface, this seems like an acceptable solution to the problem, making the design easier to fabricate and install. Since the same size steel rods were being installed for both the upper and lower sections, it would seem that the rods should be able to carry the weight. However, this did not take into account the amount of weight placed upon the nuts on the bottom side of the upper walkway’s beams.

     In the original design, those nuts only had to support the weight of the upper walkway. None of the weight of the lower walkway would be transferred to those nuts, but rather directly to the hanger rod by the nuts on the bottom of the lower walkway’s beams. Although there was an error in the calculations, the nuts on the upper walkway could marginally accomplish their task if you eliminated any safety factor.

     In the modified design, those critical nuts no longer had to carry the load for only the upper walkway, but the entire weight of the lower walkway as well. That added weight meant that the nuts could only carry 40 percent of the dead load. Add the weight of the people jumping and swaying as they watched the dance contest in the lobby, and the nuts didn’t stand a chance.

     To envision the effect of this, think of a rope handing from a tree, with two people handing from that rope. Each person is holding onto the rope, supporting their own weight. However, if the lower person grabs hold of the upper person’s leg and releases the rope, the upper person now has to support the weight of the two of them. The possibility of that person’s arms failing and the two falling is greatly increased.

     In addition to the overload, the holes for the box beams had been drilled through the welds holding the two “C” channels together, the weakest point in the box beam. When the wreckage was examined, it was found that the pressure on the nuts not only caused the nuts to fail, but the holes in the box beams to deform, allowing the nut to pass through.

     Forensic engineering discovered that this failure was actually a series of four failures on the part of the engineering team. The first failure, which may have been survivable, was the miscalculation of the weight of the walkways, and the ability of the nuts to support them. The second failure was a failure of communications between the engineering firm and the fabricator who made the design. Thirdly, nobody ever calculated the difference in loads and stresses made by the design change. Finally, the engineering team never checked the final work by the fabricators, to ensure that they had followed the design in all details.

     The civil engineer’s responsibility doesn’t end when the drawings are completed. Engineering involvement throughout the construction process is essential to avoid similar disasters. Contractors often make design changes, whether it is the replacement of welds with bolts or changing the materials used. These changes are made by non-engineering professionals, based upon their experience, but without the benefit of knowing how to calculate the effects of their change. In some cases, those changes can cause disaster.

     Had the civil engineers who had responsibility for this design completed their responsibilities, this disaster could easily have been avoided.

Injaka Bridge Collapse (South Africa)

     Incorrect positioning of temporary bearings during incremental launching have been identified as the primary cause of the fatal 1998 Injaka Bridge collapse in South Africa.

     But the official investigation report into the collapse, which killed 14 people and injured 19, concludes that bearing problems were made worse by a catalogue of design, monitoring, construction and organisational errors.

     Inexperienced design and construction staff, poor construction quality control and a failure to react to a 'clear warning that all was not well' with the structure, led to the disaster.

     The conclusions are contained in a report to South Africa's director of public prosecution by presiding inspector Larry Kloppenborg and made public last month.

     The report recommends that criminal charges under the Occupational Health & Safety Act be brought against the bosses of designer VKE Consulting Engineers' Pretoria office, contractor Concor Holdings and client the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry.

     Kloppenborg also recommends that similar criminal charges be brought against Johan Bisschoff, who directly supervised VKE's permanent design and against Rolf Heese of Concor who was in charge of the temporary works design.

     The report recommends that any charges brought should also consider the fact that 'the extent of the catastrophic failure of the bridge equally could have caused the deaths of any of the 19 injured persons.'

     The collapse of the bridge on 6 July 1998 was one of the worst construction accidents ever seen in South Africa.

     At 300m long, 14m wide and up to 37m above the river bed, Injaka Bridge was a major structure and the consultant and contractor had extensive experience with such incrementally launched post-tensioned structures.

     The collapse occurred after the contractor had slid out five of the 20, 15m long sections of the 3m deep box section deck.

     The sixth segment was being jacked as the structure collapsed. At that point the concrete deck extended 24.4m beyond pier 2 with the leading edge of the 27m long launching nose projecting 7.1m beyond pier 3.

     Among those killed was Maria Gouws, the VKE engineer responsible for designing the structure. She was on the deck with several guests celebrating progress on the structure.

     The primary cause of the collapse was found to have been the positioning of temporary bearings on which the deck structure slid out during construction.

     These were located inside the permanent bearing positions which were to be under the box section webs. As a result the temporary bearings punched through the structure and caused the collapse.

     Kloppenborg concludes that Gouws and Heese lacked sufficient experience to have been left in charge of the permanent and temporary work for such a complex, incrementally launched structure. Gouws had only around two years' bridge design experience.

     The report highlights the lack of calculation checks carried out on the permanent and temporary works designs, as well as lack of construction and production monitoring. It criticises the designer and contractor for allowing inexperienced staff to have such operational freedom.



source: www.nce
Photos by:

Koror–Babeldaob Bridge Collapse



     The original Koror–Babeldaob Bridge was a balanced cantilever prestressed concrete box girder bridge with a main span of 240.8 m and total length of 385.6 m (1265 ft). It was designed by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG and Alfred A. Yee and Associates. It was constructed by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG, contractor was Palau based Korean company, Socio Construction Co. It was the world's largest bridge of its type, until its record was broken by the 260 m span of the Gateway Bridge in Brisbane, Australia, finished in 1985.

     This led to two studies carried out by Louis Berger International and the Japan international Co-operation Agency. They concluded that the bridge was "safe" and the large deflections were due to creep and the modulus of elasticity of the concrete in place being lower than anticipated.

     On September 26, 1996, the bridge suddenly collapsed and shut off fresh water and electricity between the islands. In addition, the collapse killed two people and injured four more. This caused the government to declare a state of emergency. By request of Kuniwo Nakamura, then the country's Presidentand foreign minister, Japan provided emergency aid as well as a temporary bridge.

Reasons of Collapse

     The 18-year old, Koror-Babeldaob bridge (KB bridge) collapsed abruptly and catastrophically. The failure occurred during benign weather and loading conditions, less than three years after two independent teams (Louis Berger International and the Japan international Co-operation Agency) of bridge engineers had evaluated the bridge and declared it safe, and less than three months after completion of a strengthening programme to correct a significant midspan sag that was continuing to worsen.

     By 1990, a physical phenomenon called creep had caused the midline of the bridge to sag 1.2 meters, causing discomfort to drivers and concern for officials. The Palau government commissioned two studies by Louis Berger International and Japan International Co-operation Agency. They both concluded that the bridge was structurally safe though 1m more of creep would occur in the future. Based on the studies, the Palau government decided to counteract the cosmetic damage caused by creep with resurfacing and reinforcement of the bridge.

     According to British civil engineers Chris Burgoyne and Richard Scantlebury, the reinforcement operation had 4 main components.
The bridge midspan was modified, changing the originally non-weight-bearing hinged joint to a continuous block of concrete.
Eight prestress cables were added to straighten the span.
Eight flat-jacks were added to the center of the structure to add additional prestress, loading the center of the bridge.
The bridge was resurfaced to smooth out the sagging road.

     The most probable progression of the collapse began with a weakening of the Babeldaob side. This caused a shear failure, resulting in all of the weight of the continuous main span coming to rest on the Koror side. This unbalanced moment caused the backspan of the Koror side to fail and tipped the bridge into the channel. The new design of the bridge hastened the bridge's collapse, but did not actually cause the fatal weakening of the Babeldoab flange. The ultimate cause of collapse remains unknown.[9] The repair and resurfacing operation may have contributed to the bridge failure, but since the lawsuit over the collapse was settled out of court, no final cause has ever been definitively published.

photos by:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Civil Engineer: Success Stories

Engineering legacy: Civil engineering’s first black graduate

     Clarence Mabin, a 1961 graduate of civil engineering from the University of Missouri, recently semi-retired from his position as president of Custom Engineering, Inc., a mechanical and electrical engineering firm with annual revenue of $1.5 to $2 million. After a rewarding career, the octogenarian is enjoying leisure time with his family. He said he is especially getting a kick out of his two small great-grandchildren who love to play basketball.

     Mabin’s happy end-of-career story is not unlike that of many successful MU engineering alumni, but as an early African-American student in engineering and the first black graduate in civil engineering, the story of his path to success isn’t quite as typical.

     “If the railroad passenger business would have held up, I probably never would have gone to school,” Mabin said. “Like my father, I was a dining car waiter and I didn’t have much of a desire to do anything else. Back then, working as a waiter on the railroad or a job at the Post Office were about the best two best jobs an African-American man could get.”

     After graduating from high school in 1949, Mabin worked for the Burlington Railroad as a waiter in a private dining car. The railroad’s chief engineer noticed the young man’s keen interest in building plans that three bridge inspectors were examining in the dining car and asked him if he’d ever considered training to become an engineer.

     Mabin had never dreamed of anything like an engineering career, but the casual remark sparked his curiosity, and two things happened to push him toward engineering. First, schools were integrated in 1954. Then, one of Mabin’s friends who worked as a construction engineer at Lincoln University told Mabin he could get him a job as a draftsman with the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) if he went to junior college.

     Mabin enrolled in Missouri Western State College — now MWSU — in St. Joseph, Mo., where he did very well. When he went to work for NDOT, his boss asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and get an engineering degree.

     “I had a lot of ambition,” said Mabin, adding that he initially made plans to attend the University of Nebraska. But when he went to his meeting with the college’s dean, he had second thoughts.

     “He offered me no encouragement, and when he found that I’d have to work, he said I’d never make it,” Mabin said.

     So in 1958, the ambitious young man enrolled in civil engineering at the University of Missouri.

     By then, Mabin and his wife, Forestine, had three children. Forestine was operating a successful beauty salon in St. Joseph, so she stayed behind. Mabin had no car, but tried to get a ride back at least a couple times a month.

     “My high school homeroom teacher from Dalton High School [a black high school that served students from a wide area] had been a teacher in Columbia early in her career,” said Mabin. “All of our teachers had a great concern about us, and she knew a fellow who lived there. She wrote to him about my [financial] difficulties and he invited me to stay with him. That man, Dorsey Russell, was like a father to me.”

     Mabin remembers three MU Engineering faculty members who went out of their way to help him: Karl Evans, William Sangster and Mark Harris.

     “Dr. Harris caught me on my way out of class one day and told me that if I had any difficulties to come and see him and he’d help me out,” Mabin said. “But I didn’t experience any difficulties. It was a pleasant experience. My main goal was to get to class and get it done.”

     As a student, he worked at the Tiger Hotel and also for an architect in Columbia. He spent summers in a variety of jobs in St. Joe — including work as a waiter — and worked one summer with MoDOT.

     When Mabin graduated in 1961, he took a job as a member of of NDOT’s bridge design team. He went on to work for the O.K. Electric Co., Inc., and eventually moved into the steel tubular products business for Valmont Industries — a company that designed highway lighting, traffic, signing and transmission structure — and then Ameron Pole Products.

     Along the way, Mabin became a nationally-recognized expert in the design of pole structures for street, outdoor lighting, traffic lights and highway signage. Even in retirement, he serves as a consultant, reviewing plans for design companies who need an engineering stamp of approval on their plans.

     In 1993, Mabin purchased Custom Engineering and turned the faltering company into an award-winning, minority-owned success story.

     Mabin said his life experiences have motivated him to point more blacks toward the field of engineering, just as others influenced him.

     “It wasn’t always easy,” he said, “but it’s been a good ride.”

From Manchester to Vancouver: a Consulting Engineer Rises to the Top
Career Story by Chris Newcomb, P.Eng.

     Let me start by saying that when I was an engineering student, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much fun I would have as a consulting engineer, the places it's taken me, the people I've met, and the things I've been able to accomplish that I'm so proud of.

     Today I'm President of McElhanney Consulting Services, a consulting engineering firm of about 400 people based in Vancouver. I'm also a Past-Chair of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC).

     "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much fun I would have as a consulting engineer, the places it's taken me, the people I've met, and the things I've been able to accomplish that I'm so proud of."

     I studied civil engineering at the University of Manchester, in England. My first taste of consulting engineering was as a summer student in 1968, when I worked as an inspector on a highway construction project in the south of France. I had the good fortune that my mother was French, and she'd made a few phone calls to get me the job. So my first advice for you is don't knock the job your Mom gets for you – it might be the best job you ever get. Fourty years later, I still go back to look at that highway when I visit France, and I'm proud of what I did, even though I played such a small part in it.

     On that job I learned that you can make a difference. It was the first commercial project in the world to use reinforced-earth retaining structures, invented by a Frenchman, Henri Vidal. I used my student text book to do some slope stability analysis, and suggested that, at a particular location, instead of a single 10 metre high wall we build two 5 metre high walls with a terrace in between and my idea was accepted.So my second piece of advice to you is: don't be afraid to question the status quo, and to suggest changes. Even if your ideas are off the mark, people will notice that you have a questioning and creative attitude.

     I also learned on that project in France that as a consulting engineer, your skills are transferable to different countries. So as soon as I graduated I headed over to Canada, where I spent the summer exploring North America, then found a job with a consulting engineering firm in Vancouver, met the woman who became my lifelong partner, and I've been based in Vancouver ever since.

     "Don't be afraid to question the status quo, and to suggest changes. Even if your ideas are off the mark, people will notice that you have a questioning and creative attitude."

     I was the bottom person on the totem pole, and in those days, before computers, before even electronic calculators, I had to do a lot of the menial tasks. But I found that no matter how menial the work, there was always a way to improve on how it was done, by creating a template or a short-cut or a graph. My third piece of advice: no matter how menial the task, find the better way to do it. Remember, the Greek root word for engineer is the same as for ingenuity, and engineers are by nature ingenious.My first job was with Associated Engineering, a western Canadian civil engineering consulting firm. I spent 5 years there and got a great all round introduction to consulting, learning how to design sewers, water mains, roads, earthworks and drainage. I went out on construction sites all over British Columbia, and learned how to do construction survey layout and inspection, and solve construction problems. Through this I learned another lesson: if you want to be a great designer, you need to understand how things get laid out and built, which means spending time on the construction sites.

     In 1973,  I bought my first electronic calculator. It cost $110, which was about a week's pay after tax. I thought I was in heaven. Just imagine, in the space of my career we've gone from doing calculations with slide rules and logarithmic tables, to using powerful laptop computers and Blackberries. It boggles my mind to imagine what tools you'll all be using by the end of your careers!

     "Living and working in a different culture is an amazing experience, and it stays with you forever."

     In my job at Associated Engineering I met a variety of interesting people – other consulting engineers, architects, clients, construction contractors, and materials suppliers, and my social life grew up around these people. I learned to design large diameter water mains, and one of the manufacturers for this kind of pipe in those days was Canron. I became friendly with the people at Canron, so when they won a project to build a 60 km, 1200 mm diameter pipeline in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I volunteered to go. They needed an engineer with a variety of design expertise, and my experience as a consulting engineer was a perfect fit. I spent the next 3 years in East Africa, and the next 2 years after that on a similar project in Ecuador, South America.

     Living and working in a different culture is an amazing experience, and it stays with you forever. During my work abroad, I learned to speak Spanish and some Swahili and I learned a lot about different cultures.  I also became more self-sufficient as an engineer, because there was no one else to turn to for advice, and these were the days before internet, and even telephones were almost non-existent. And I spent my spare time visiting the game parks of East Africa, exploring the Inca ruins of the Andean Mountains, and sailing and snorkeling in tropical waters in both places. Another piece of advice:, when opportunities come along, take them. You'll have to make certain sacrifices but the rewards are immeasurable, and you'll come back with experiences that will set you apart from your peers.

     Following my work abroad, in 1981, I returned to Vancouver, and since then I've worked for McElhanney Consulting Services. I started as a Project Manager, moved on to Branch Manager, then Vice President, and eventually in 1997 I became President.

     As a Project Manager I became involved in large land development projects. These are exciting, not because the engineering is particularly challenging, but because the land developer is investing tens of millions of dollars, and the consulting engineer is an important part of the team that helps that investment to yield a return for the client.

     After a few years working in land development, British Columbia entered a highway construction boom, and my company became one of the leading highway design firms, so I had the good fortune to become involved in benchmark projects such as the Coquihalla Highway, the Vancouver Island Highway, the Annacis Highway, the Trans Canada Highway High Occupancy Vehicle project, and the Sea to Sky Highway connecting Vancouver to Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

     As I took on increasing levels of responsibility at McElhanney I gradually became aware of serious shortcomings in my skill set. Consulting Engineering, like most other careers, is mostly about dealing with people, so I started learning to develop my people skills such as courses on human behaviour in organizations, public speaking, project management and leadership. The following are some suggestions for developing your soft-skills, which will ultimately lead you to becoming a successful Consulting Engineer:
  1. Read "Winning Friends and Influencing People" by Dale Carnegie if you read nothing else in your entire life. When he wrote the book seventy-five years ago he said "I wrote the book because I noticed that 15 percent of an engineer's success in business is the result of his or her technical capability, and 85 percent is due to his or her ability in dealing with people." That statement is just as accurate today as it was then. This book reminded me to take an interest in other people, treat them with respect, try to see things from their point of view, and dozens of other valuable pieces of advice.
  1. Join Toastmasters. It's scary the first few times you go, but you get over it, and there's no better way to learn how to run meetings, think on your feet, and speak confidently to groups of people.
  1. Attend PSMJ Bootcamps. PSMJ teaches project management, business development and corporate management. They specialize in consulting engineering firms and their 2-day workshops are attended heavily by those in consulting engineering.  Many firms consider PSMJ Bootcamps as professional development, so ask your employer about these opportunities for your own development.
  1. Learn to write well. You can be the smartest engineer on the planet, but if you can't express your ideas eloquently and powerfully in an email, a letter or a report, then much of your talent will go to waste.
  1. Learn to network. Now networking does not mean going to conferences and hanging out with your buddies. Networking means going up to someone that you've never met before, that is standing alone, and asking them about themselves. You'll be amazed at what you learn and who you meet. Look for commonality between what you do and what they do. Even if you only succeed in linking them up with someone else for an idea or a project, you've earned yourself a favor that might get returned someday.
  1. Become involved in associations and attend conferences.
     The biggest regret in my career is that I waited until I was in my 40's before I started doing any of these things. Twenty years ago I wouldn't have stood up in front of an audience to make a presentation, not even to save my own life. So these things can be learned, and the sooner you learn them the more fulfilling your career will be.

     As I took on increasing responsibility at McElhanney, I became less involved in the day to day management of projects. This gave me the opportunity to turn my attention back to the international scene. I played an important role in establishing McElhanney's international office in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I still travel there twice a year to provide management overview to our office.

     "Why do I look forward to going to work each day? Same reason I turn the page in a good book. I want to know what happens next."

     I also can't resist taking on a project over there from time to time. When the tsunami of December, 2004, killed over 150,000 people in Aceh, Indonesia, I was part of our company's team that went to work for the Canadian Red Cross to map, survey, plan and design some 25 villages that had literally been wiped off the face of the earth. When East Timor achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002, I was part of our team that went in to help rebuild their infrastructure that had been destroyed by civil war. Since year 2000, I've been part of our company's team that's been developing a system to create property titles and establish property ownership in rural areas of Cambodia that were contaminated by land mines and had suffered decades of warfare and population dislocation.

      Over the past 15 years I've also become very involved as a volunteer in association business. I started as a member of various committees at the Consulting Engineers of British Columbia (CEBC), which is the provincial counterpart of ACEC. I went on to join the Board, and eventually became President of the provincial association for a 1 year term. After that I was invited to join the Board of the national association, and eventually became its Chair.

     Why do I look forward to going to work each day? Same reason I turn the page in a good book. I want to know what happens next. I've no idea what's coming next for me, except that in the consulting business I know it's going to be surprising, fascinating and challenging.


Success Story: Arnel Baquero

Arnel Baquero
     Arnel Baquero is a Civil Engineer from the Philippines. He arrived in BC in September 2007. Arnel has a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering, 12 years experience as a Civil Engineer and 10 years as a Civil Structural Technician. He worked in his profession in several countries including the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

     Arnel was introduced to Klein and Associations by his advisor at Vancouver Central College. At the time he met with a counsellor on December 11th, 2007 he was employed part time on a contractual basis with a company in the United Kingdom. Arnel's positive attitude, warm-heartedness, knowledge and work ethic made him an ideal candidate for ASPECT's IMMPowerBC Skills Connect Program. With some general upgrading of his technical skills and knowledge of BC standards, practices and workplace culture, the counsellor was confident that Arnel would soon be highly employable.
     Together, Arnel and his counsellor drafted several revisions to his resume and cover letter until it was perfected in both their eyes. His counsellor also advised Arnel on how to develop a leads list, a portfolio, references, and how to make cold calls, leave English answering machine messages, as well as the follow up procedure.
     Arnel's biggest challenge was the interview practice which he jokingly referred to as "like a course". Arnel and his counsellor shared many humorous moments from his crushing handshake to Arnel's belief that one must wear the color light blue to a Canadian job interview. Arnel's challenge was to overcome his hesitancy with using the English language so as to elaborate on his brief answers and be able to truly express his educational and vast employment experience. During the interview practice sessions, Arnel followed the counsellor's suggestions with patience and much effort and quickly developed a sense of a Canadian style job interview.
     The Skills Connect Program also provided funding for him to complete an 8 week Certificate Program in Advanced AutoCAD, BC Building Code and Surveying which Arnel finished on March 18th, 2009.
     "The Skills Connect Program is a very useful tool for immigrants who find it difficult to join the profession that they are accustomed to from their country of origin" Arnel says. "The upgrading is very helpful and the rigorous interview training are very effective, from the first handshake, the way and the timing you answer interview questions and up to the closing period of the interview proper - it's very amazing."
     Arnel's successful result was achieved on May 15th, 2008 when he was employed as a Structural Drafter by AEROTEK at a starting salary of $40,000 per year. The day before the interview, Arnel emailed the news of his upcoming interview writing that he "would surely use the interview techniques that we had practised".
     The next day, Arnel informed his counsellor that he had been offered the job and expressed his thanks for all the interview training. Moreover, a recent email from Arnel happily reported that he had received very positive feedback on his job performance from his senior Engineer. Arnel was confident that this would continue to help him develop a stable career in Canada in his chosen field.
     Arnel has consistently expressed his sincere appreciation for the assistance from the Skills Connect Program. On June 14th, 2008 following the recommendation from his counsellor, he attended the seminar for Internationally Trained Engineers. After the seminar, Arnel expressed his delight not only with the valuable information that he received there but for the pleasure of being in the company of others like himself.
     Arnel's final employment destination is to regain his position as a Civil Engineer here in Canada: based on his current employment status as a Structural Drafter as well as his increasing knowledge of the Canadian workplace culture, Arnel has the confidence that he will need to achieve his greatest employment goal.
source: www.aspect

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