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Comment Re: Generic engineers? Really? (Score 1) 197

I wish the engineering world worked as you described. And yes, I am an engineer (Master's in geological engineering, and my PE/P.Eng thank you very much).

The sad truth is that there is a hell of lot of engineering time spent on mundane work that can and should be automated away --most of my life was spent pushing around columns in excel, hunting down typos, and debugging god awful analyses written in excel. I jokingly refer to heavy infrastructure engineering (I did landslides, soils, mines, tunnels, rail, etc.) as the place where technology goes to die.

Most of the clients demand cost-reimbursable billed hour contracts, so it's also where efficiency goes to die. Better to have a junior engineer spend 4 weeks pushing data around and billing it out than optimizing that task so the engineer can spend their 'guru time' thinking about concrete loadings, failure modes, gaps in the design. I picked up a lot of fortran, R, python, and even lisp on the job working on automating the garbage tasks that took up 75% of my time so I could spend more time/budget on actual important design implementation issues (so I could sleep easy at night when I stamped designs). Saving 5-10% budget was appreciated (we can win more contracts!) but figuring out how to do something 2x, 3x, 4x as fast was not ("We won't make any money because we aren't billing enough hours!").

This is why I'm back at school doing a Master's in statistics/machine learning --couldn't handle the amount of BS tasks that should have been automated away keeping me away from the interesting and challenging parts of my job, with no improvements in sight. I do not miss nightmares analyses (for an earthquake soils design of an LNG plant) spread across _3,000_ excel sheets and 60+ directories, combining the output of multiple different versions of garbage software run by different teams in different countries. Oh god. Doing the quality control on that? Nope. Nope. Nope. That was two months of my life I'm not getting back. And this was with a well known, highly reputable design firm!

Comment Re:More proof there is a STEM shortage! (Score 1) 401

There is more to engineering than electrical engineering.

I'm a geological engineer up in Canada. Lots of demand and we have our finger in a lot of different projects/industries. I deal mostly with rock mechanics, and the world outsources to us basically. I work on projects all over the world. I don't see myself getting the axe any time soon. When shit hits the fan and things are collapsing, you kind of need someone on the ground who knows what to do before your 5 billion dollar open pit mine floods (for example).

Quite a lovely field. When mining booms, there is a lot of work. When infrastructure projects boom, there is a lot of work. When hydropower projects boom, there is a lot of work. You need a few major industries to collapse (mining is tanking a bit right now) for it to unravel completely. Lots of opportunities to turn into a manger, jump ship to a client / operator, etc. And North America is still very much a major player in this industry. Lots of niche markets and employee-owned firms. Decent pay.

Downside: lots of travel in the early days, hard on family/relationship/life.


Comment Oh please eff off (and I am an engineer) (Score 1) 564

Here is how it works folks:

In schools in Canada you already have to do this. This was true at my school (Queen's) from 2002 - 2006. The problem is they give you the least interesting course list to choose from. There were lots of great courses I wanted to take, such as an english course in science fiction. Not allowed --did not have the pre-req. Instead you pull from the driest of 100 level courses. On top of that, you are taking 6 to 9 STEM courses and dying under the workload. Then you have to find a dry, introduction course that fits into your schedule. This pretty much cuts down the majority of the list. If there was anything interesting, chances are it doesn't fit your schedule. So you treat it like the joke it is --find the easiest one that fits into your schedule because no one gives a shit. Preferably one that you can skip class and still get an A. My favourite quote from the macroeconomics (it was an evening course, so even though I had class from 8 am - 5 pm with no break, I was blessed with an hour off for dinner before returning to campus) professor was right before we wrote the final exam "Most of you don't know this, but I'm your professor!".

I would love to see the humanities take courses in things like basic geology, math, physics, logic, infrastructure, costing, or logic. Most of my humanities friends are woefully ignorant of how the world works, where everything comes from, and the real cost (monetarily, environmentally, etc.) of our society.

Comment Re:welcome to the real world (Score 1) 426

I would love to get paid by the hour. My charge out rate runs around $160 USD/hour. I'm always over 100% billable. 40% of my time is spent in the field working 12-16 hour days for 21-28 days straight, sometimes longer. My take home pay is around $75k/year on salary. Last year I billed out over $350,000 in work.

I wish I worked an hour and got paid an hour. Frankly, my employer has me by the balls and squeezes hard every day. This is for a highly specialized job requiring a master's degree and 7+ years of experience. Just the nature of the business. The grass is not greener anywhere else in my field (trust me, I've looked).

Comment Re:The problem is solvable (Score 1) 709

I use public transportation to get to and from work (it's actually quicker than driving due to a handy 15 minute foot passenger ferry to short cut two congested bridges) and I would be pissed if my phone company decided that I was 'in motion' while on the bus and thus can't phone/text/etc.

How about some people take some personal responsibility and maybe just don't text and drive like idiots?

Comment Re:Just like conflict diamonds? (Score 3, Informative) 198

You make it sound like all the diamond mines in Canada are a sham. What is with the quotations? I find that to be a very odd stance as I've worked in one of those aforementioned "mines" and it's not a bunch of people blowing rainbows out of their ass waiting for the next plane full of conflict diamonds to land on the ice road.

Comment Re:Subsidies, accountability, running like a busin (Score 1) 272

It depends on the school.

Up here in Canada where I went to there were regulated and unregulated programs, defined by some government board. Regulated meant that they could only raise tuition a certain amount per year (2% or something like that) and unregulated meant they could pretty much charge whatever they want. I used to go to tuition forecasting that the Dean put on every year as it was a fascinating look at how the university operated. It turns out that they run a lot of the humanities / arts programs in the red because they are not allowed to raise the tuition to an amount that keeps them out of it. The solution was to charge business / engineering / law / medicine more, not just because they are more expensive, but also to subsidize the humanities / arts programs that were not able to break even due to government controls. Even within engineering, there was a huge difference between the amount of money various programs costed. Mech and electrical engineering were actually quite cheap due to the amount of students in them. Over in geological engineering (mine) it costed a lot more per student due to classes with less than 20 students in the program per year, expensive road trips (can't learn that much geology sitting inside), and a high number of faculty.

It's annoying to hear some film major bitch about his a $100 increase to his $1800 tuition when you are busy paying $8-9k/year (on the expensive side for Canada).

Comment Re:Landlording (Score 2, Interesting) 451

as a renter, I view this situation with a measure of caution.

I suspect my unit suffers from leaky-condo-syndrome, with likely a good chunk of the rest of the building. The windows let in quite a lot of water during winter storms here (west coast, so mostly rain). This pools on the windowsill and causes all sorts of water damage plus lets nasty things grow. It's extremely hard to keep on top of (aka: I don't have time to sit there and mop every crevice of every window every time it rains, which is often daily during the wintertime). I also travel for work and am away for weeks at a time. Funny how it never seems to happen when, you know, it's not raining outside.

The landlords solution? Blame me for not using the shower fan while I shower. Seriously. This isn't a cheap place either --it's a $1600/mo apartment. Meanwhile, I have a rather long email trail as well as photographs of it (often) in case he tries to stiff me for damages later (which he probably will).

Can't wait until my lease is up so I can get the hell out of there.

Comment Re:Oh come on. (Score 1) 794

You come across a bit arrogant here that the plebs shouldn't be allowed to write code because they aren't trained to do it. These are undergrads in physics, chemistry, engineering --the majority of whom are not going to end up as programmers. They need enough to get by and anything beyond that is probably a bonus for their employer.

I am an engineer and I certainly don't use the language I learned in school (java in my first year, fortran in my third) because they aren't applicable to my problems. The majority of work I do is on commercial available packages (CAD, specialized 3D CAD, and problem/industry specific modelling software). I'm not out there writing my own finite-element tunnel stability software. I need to be able to parse a variety of different files and do something useful with the output --translate them into various scripts for different projects, drive various programs through COM, etc. Basically ugly little hack scripts or project-specific programs that deal with any of a number of odd file formats or input data the client gives us --and in mining, every client is different and it is a mess.

One piece of in-house software is written in vbscript. It's ugly as sin and I could care less --it works. It cuts out a disgusting amount of hours of work I would have to do if I had to do it by hand. At the end of the day, as an engineer and not a software developer, I need to get my work done. If I need to write programs and occasionally cobble together some in-house tools to assist me then I will, in whatever language I have on hand, regardless of the fact I've had only a "few" months training. Get off your high horse --not everyone is a software developer.


Comment Re:Work Experience (Score 1) 834

In canada there is another option through the NSERC (natural sciences and engineering research council) scholarship.

There are two kinds, one of which I'm talking about here: The industrial partnership scholarship.

You get a company to sponsor you (and a project) for at least $6k/year, and the government more or less chips in $18k/year. You have to spend 20% of your time with the company working on things related to your thesis (there are some rules about billable time and not taking advantage of you because you (e.g. they can't charge out your time to your clients)). There are no strings attached either (nothing saying you have to work for them when you finish your degree). So you end up with a very focused, industry-relevant thesis , your foot in the door with a company, and a good chunk of change to do research with.

They are easy to get if you have a brain as they seem to be rubber stamped by the government --if you can agree to get a company to give you $12k over 2 years for research then probably aren't a tool. This is how I did my Masters and the topic I focused on and real world problem I was working on gave me very marketable skills.

Comment Re:Work Experience (Score 1) 834

Masters vary by country. I have found a Masters in North America is a very different beast than a Masters in Europe or Australia. Some places it means just a year or two of pure coursework. Some degrees are like that. Some places it means few classes, but a hell of a lot of research (thesis). It is not a well-defined term

Personally, for me, my masters got me a pay raise (compared to when I shopped for a job before I did my masters) and the pick of the litter for jobs from the companies where I live. Then again, I did a thesis and very few classes, which got me some skills that very few people with an undergrad would be able to get (some of the advanced modelling software I learned is a) expensive b) time intensive --so no job is really going to pay the money to handhold you the 6 months it takes to learn how to use it on even a basic level).

The other part of the masters is the life experience. The school and learning was fine, but the real great part was putting my life on hold for 2 years, starting over in a new city, and finding myself with a shocking amount of free time. Sometimes the masters was way more work than a regular job, sometimes there were lulls where hey, why don't I just piss off and go skiing for 2 weeks straight. Lots of fun times, lots of great people. Don't discount the social part of a masters. You're poor (science research doesn't pay well) but it was a lot of fun.

Comment Offset higher rent (Score 1) 1137

I live downtown in Vancouver, which is notorious for high prices (to own). Rent seems comparable to other major cities. No car. Decent transit system ($1200 / year for me, if work was a few blocks closer it would be $600, stupid 2 zone).

I figure the money I save by not having a car more than makes up for the amount I pay for increased rent (living downtown close to work) with the added benefit of living downtown in a major city. It's not a setup for life, but isn't a bad place to be in your twenties. Walking distance to great shops, restaurants, beach. Transit to local mountains / whistler is pretty cheap (easy to hitch a ride off of someone you know going as well).

It's actually cheaper for me to live in Vancouver, than to live in some other major cities in Canada due to placement of offices for my line work --I would need to own a car and the amount of money I save in rent is nothing compared to the price of a car + insurance + gas.

It all depends where you live though.

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