Before and After

It’s hard to believe that over SIX months ago I started working at Olsson Associates. The months have sped by as I was busy with school and on-site at projects. This milestone in my internship happens to line up with the beginning of the end of my career at Kansas State; with just one semester left I’m starting to focus on the after, not just getting to the end. With this brings some new insights and goals so I’d thought I’d share what I’ve learned and how I’m changing my mindset to focus on the after.

 

Things I’ve learned the last six months:

 

1.       There is something to be gained from every project. Even if what you are working on (work or otherwise) seems monotonous, unsolvable, or not worth your while (for a lot of us, homework often falls into this category), you can benefit from anything as long as you take the time to figure out what you’ve gained. This will help you find out what you like and what you would rather avoid for when you have to make big decisions after graduation.

2.       Use the resources given to you. Whether these are online, in a reference book, or the person sitting next to you, there is only so much you can do on your own. If you get too wrapped up in a project or problem it’s easy to forget that there are often easier ways to do things. Teamwork makes the dream work, and you don’t want to get left behind so close to the end.

What I’m doing to prepare myself for the next six months:

 

1.       Never stop asking questions. I’ve improved my AutoCAD and design skills by being given a wide variety of projects to work on.  I’m really starting to solidify what I want to do as a professional engineer. The more of anything I’m offered, such as technical skills, factual knowledge, and first-hand experience the better prepared I will be for all of the important, upcoming decisions in my future.

2.       Keeping my eyes on the prize. I have no illusions that these next six months will be stress free and relaxing 100 percent of the time. With big decisions come a lot of thinking and personal responsibilities. By using what I’ve already learned and keeping my mind on my goals – graduation and starting my career – I can avoid a lot of the stress and maintain my passion for what I love doing while still enjoying my last semester of college.

This final transition is an exciting one; I’m already excited for what all the after will entail. I can say that I’m ready to take these last six months head on and can’t wait to see what challenges and opportunities the future has in store.

Field Work: A Day (or Two) in the Life of a Surveyor

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the chance to work on one of the most exciting projects I’ve been a part of so far here at Olsson: the Phase IV expansion for Kansas State University’s Engineering Complex. As a student, it is really exciting to be able to work on projects on your campus, but to be able to work on the building that you spend 90% of your time in as an undergrad is taking it a step further.

For my part of the project I helped verify the design of the “auger cast piles” which are part of the foundation and civil design. I began by verifying the locations and dimensions given to us by the architect and then creating a spreadsheet with pile types, locations, and elevations. After that I was able to go on site to see what our surveyors do for projects like these and learn how to do it myself. I was surprised to find out that after two days I would be the one to continue working on site for the next few weeks doing the monitoring and measurements along with helping the construction crew any way that I could. It was fairly straightforward work, but being the engineer on site was still a little nerve-wracking and challenging at times.

Being out in the field was a great learning opportunity, even if it meant spending a lot of time under a hot and humid Kansas sun and more often than not ending the day covered in concrete. Some of the most important things I learned were:

-          What to expect and how to be prepared when working on a job site;

-          How to work with the contractors and construction crews: getting to know everyone on the worksite and their duties as well as being informed enough to answer questions when they came up;

-          How to use new survey equipment as well as brushing up on my own surveying skills (which were a little rusty);

-          How what we design/work on in the office correlates with the measurements/survey we take in the field and how it’s important to have good communication between the two groups.

It was a lengthy process but also a very valuable experience. I was lucky to be able to work on site and see firsthand what I was working on as opposed to a more limited view from the office. Creating connections between the various aspects of the design and construction process, as well as the engineering concepts behind everything, was very helpful, and I’m sure I will benefit from them in the future.

School to Summer

While most students look forward to the end of the spring semester with vacation plans and relaxation time in mind, I have a little bit different mindset. With one semester left, I am really starting to think about what I want to accomplish in my remaining time at K-State and here in Manhattan. Being a senior, a lot of my friends and peers graduated and moved on to the working world. The reality is quickly hitting me, that in eight short months that will be me, so I have a different set of plans going into this summer. My goals for the summer are pretty simple: get involved with everything I can and learn something from everything I do. Even though I’m a senior I still sometimes feel overwhelmed with all that civil engineering has to offer. However, after working at Olsson this past semester, I am looking forward to what a full-time internship has to offer and what I can learn from this experience.

 

Starting the Monday after finals week I started full-time for the summer here at Olsson. With this transition from full-time student to full-time intern come some exciting new opportunities. Since I’m now here every day, it will be easier to consistently work on projects and work with the other engineers on a more regular basis. We just started working on some big projects at K-State and I am really looking forward to being able to help with those. Whether it’s out working on site with our surveyors or in the office working on the design, I’m excited to experience everything. After working with all of the engineers in the office during the semester, I am confident that I will really be able to delve into all kinds of projects and get valuable on-site experience. I’m looking forward to transitioning some of the things I’ve learned during the semester to my job and then transitioning what I’ve learned from my job back to the classroom! It’s definitely going to be a busy summer, but I’m looking forward to working on the wide variety of projects that I was hoping for, here at Olsson, along with learning from everything I do…and of course I’ll build in some pool time and Royals games along the way.

Olsson Values

Starting as an intern at Olsson Associates, I was aware of the values that make Olsson such a great place to work. I had heard from other interns about what makes Olsson such a great place and after being here for just a few short months, I can really see how these values are incorporated into everything Olsson does. Positivity, collaboration, and high achievement are just some of the values that I immediately noticed, right away at Olsson.

 

The most noticeable value that I saw upon starting here at Olsson, was teamwork. Even though everyone in the office has their own tasks and projects that they are working on, it is common to see groups working together. Seeing everyone collaborating on projects creates a positive atmosphere and really gets people motivated. As an intern, it gives me the opportunity to work closely with professional engineers and develop the technical and interpersonal skills I need to succeed. I’m not afraid to ask questions and I know that I’m able to work as part of the team, even as an intern.

 

I’m aware that I’ve only had limited exposure to the kinds of projects that we work on here at Olsson, but so far I’ve seen some really exciting (and some very large) projects! As a student, it is a unique experience to be able to say you are helping design projects that are taking place on your campus! Working on exciting projects motivates the people who work at Olsson, to achieve excellence in not only the project but everything that they do. The values that I’ve described here are a large part of why working at Olsson is so great.

New Perspectives

The transition from school to work can be tough, especially when trying to manage them both at the same time. As a senior, I am more than ready to start applying what I’ve learned in the classroom to a job. Although I’ve had previous work experience – since starting as an intern at Olsson Associates I’ve had a few unanticipated opportunities.

 

The first day I walked in I was given two small projects to work on, one of which was a tennis court design. After being introduced to the project, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I would be creating the design largely by myself. This was a new experience for me and a challenge that I was looking forward to. In past experiences I had designed bits and pieces of projects, but hadn’t seen them from beginning to end. I created the design and cost analysis and even got to sit in on a discussion with the school board representative and city council to review the project. By being given this opportunity and diving right into this project, I’ve developed a whole new set of skills and experiences that I was missing before.

 

The second project was to redesign the sewer system for one of our local high schools. Again, I did the design largely by myself, working with CAD to create the sewer system analysis. This was something I hadn’t done before, but after some help from one of the other engineers in the office I can say I mastered the program. Much to my surprise, I used the same program in my hydraulics lab in the following weeks! I had always known that what I learn in class would transition to my job, but I had never imagined it would work the other way as well. Needless to say, that lab was pretty easy.

 

In just the few short months that I’ve been here, I’ve already been given the opportunity to try new things and challenge myself in new ways. From day one, I feel like I’ve jumped in and been able to put my skills to good use (and sometimes to the test!). I’ve also learned that the “classroom-to-work” idea isn’t as straightforward as I imagined; school and work can be mutually beneficial and coincide well to accelerate what I’m learning. I’m excited to continue with these opportunities here and learn about things in new ways and perspectives.

Amazing Opportunities from Amazing People

What is it that allows any company to excel? Ask anyone and you'll likely get the answer "the people who work there." Nowhere is that more true than here at Olsson Associates. from the time I started working here as a naïve beginner intern, I was given all the tools I needed to succeed, and most importantly, I was given the patience to figure out what I needed to do. Plenty of times during my first summer working out of the Grand Junction office (in the old Cordillera building, mind you) I had no idea what I was doing and frankly made more than my share of mistakes. I was extremely lucky to have supervisors who gave me tasks that both challenged me and educated me as to how engineering firms worked.

One of the best examples of this was in AutoCAD. I had taken a course in which we used this program a few times, and when it came to actually using CAD at Olsson, I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, my first supervisor over in Grand Junction taught me everything I know about computer aided drafting, although I imagine is was much less painless for him than it was for me. But it is safe to say that after all that teaching and all those hours of me learning CAD from the people I worked with, I am able to teach someone else the same skills that I was fortunate enough to learn.

Now, having been moved to the Environmental Assessment team, I have been learning a whole new skill set. Where before my main focus was CAD and drafting, I have become much better versed in SPCC (spill prevention, control, countermeasures) plans and have been figuring out the nuances of them, all with the help of the people who know it best. It is really amazing the amount of help I have gotten from everyone here, and I've been extremely grateful to everyone who has made it happen.

Top 5 Things My Internship at Olsson Associates has Taught Me

As I am about a month away from working at Olsson Associates for one year (crazy), I thought I would make a list of the top things my internship in Human Resources has taught me. I am sure there are many valuable things that have slipped my mind, but nonetheless here are the ones that came to mind:

1.       Always, always, always make sure you are very nice to the recruiter you are working with when you apply for a job. Their first impression will most likely be passed down to the hiring manager, so you want to make sure it is a good one.

 

2.       Along the same lines, calling to ask questions about a job is a great way to form a relationship with a recruiter and could help your chances of getting the job.

 

3.       When you walk into work in the morning, never plan for your day to go a certain way. With an internship or job in HR, you will always be asked random questions or be assigned tasks you were not prepared for. This is what has made my work fulfilling and enjoyable, however.

 

4.       Some day you will be in a position of managing other people. When that time comes, really try to be involved in your employees’ career development and act as a mentor. I have been very fortunate because my coworkers have helped me develop many skills and took an active interest in giving me new experiences. They really are great mentors.

 

5.        Finally, always be open to do whatever (reasonable) task someone asks of you and make sure you do quality work. Even if you have no clue where to get started, find someone who can help show you what to do. This attitude has opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to develop working relationships I might not have had otherwise.

And as always…have a little fun in between work and school. You only get to be this young once!

Semester Four!

Another semester brings more opportunity at Olsson for this full-time student at the Colorado School of Mines! Having been moved from the Denver Water Resources team to the Denver Environmental Assessment team, I am focusing on research for an environmental impact study for a proposed pipeline project for a client. Throughout my time here at Olsson, I've done more environmental compliance and remediation work than anything else, so this change is a very welcomed change. I find it great how the team leadership at Olsson matches people to their skills and interests. I've definitely enjoyed the changes; while it's always a disappointment not getting to work with the people on water resources as much, but the new team allows many great relationships to build and a new realm of skills to learn (in this case, pipeline environmental impact study skills).

On a different topic, since I've been here at Olsson working during the semesters, I've picked up a few tips of how to plan work days and figured I'd share. My first two semesters I took the mentality that I'd schedule my classes as I wanted . Oftentimes class schedules are dictated by section availability, as is common at a smaller university studying an uncommon field. Anyways, I'd schedule school normally and fit work in between the cracks, which usually meant working 2-3 hours, three or so times per week. This was all well and good, but I began thinking: since most wasted time is wasted when arriving or leaving the office, why not cut down on those and try to consolidate time?

 So this year, I started scheduling the semester and my days of work at Olsson on the same plane, if you will. Instead of scheduling classes first and letting Olsson fill in the cracks, I decided to make my main effort a schedule which gives balance to both Olsson and Mines. Instead of working for a few hours per day, three days per week, I now have an entire day which is devoted to the office. and I can tell you, 9 hours in a row and then another 3 hours the next day is much more efficient than that time spread out over the week and unconsolidated.

So, to get off that soap box, I figured I'd put my two cents in and update how my fourth semester with Olsson is going, and as a final consensus, I must say it is going very well.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Happy New Year, everyone! Like many others, as the new year has begun I have spent a little time reminiscing about 2013 and looking forward to 2014. Last year was filled with many new adventures and I hope to have many more this year. Speaking of new adventures, my internship at Olsson Associates has given me the opportunity to learn so much more about engineering than I ever thought I would. Recently, Olsson has also been looking at different trends for the coming year. As one of the many random tasks I have been assigned as HR intern, I was asked to do some research on market trends for the various engineering groups in our company.

 

I have to admit, when I was asked to take on this task I felt a tad overwhelmed. How could I, a Psychology and Business student, figure out anything that was going on in the engineering world? To my surprise, however, I was able to figure out quite a bit once I learned to become best friends with government and special interest group websites. They turned out to be a jackpot of data and information. In turn, I am finding myself thinking about the civil engineering of everything around me. As I am writing this blog, I am suspended thousands of feet in the air in a metal and plastic box. This box is filled with anxious toddlers and even more anxious adults. A normal (aka non-engineering) student/intern might feel such a feat was the ultimate human accomplishment. After being at Olsson for almost a year, however, I find the fact that I can take a cab to the airport on safe roads and have drinkable water once I get to there to be just as amazing. If I learned anything in 2013 it would be to not take for granted and be grateful for all the comforts engineers bring to our world.

Wayne America

Well, it’s December. I don’t know how it came up so quick when it feels like I just started the semester two weeks ago. Now with the temperature dropping below freezing at almost all the time, it has been moral victory just to get to class. Having finished up my last week of classes, finals week lies dauntingly ahead. It almost feels like April 15th is just around the corner. With everyone scrambling and trying to get their notes, old tests and homework together to study from, stress is higher than when the Huskers lost to Minnesota this year. Olsson has become somewhat of an escape for me lately where I can leave the stress of school at the door. Recently I have been working on my first trail project in Wayne Nebraska.

It is astonishing how much thought and design goes into the bike paths and trails around our cities. For this project I have had a hand in three distinct parts.

1. Phasing. With our trail intersecting a road in downtown Wayne, we have had to come up with our own phasing designs for construction of the path so as to not interrupt traffic flow.

2. Quantities. I have got to work closely with the quantities for this project. From removals to the three different depths of concrete paths used, the quantity of quantities gives you a real appreciation for the amount of construction that goes into a simple trail.

3. Detailing. This is the first project I have got to do multiple details for structures on a project. Having some of our plan sheets at a 1 inch = 100 feet scale, it can be tough for the contractor to see what must be built. I have got to create several detailing sheets showing irregular curbs and retaining walls for this project.

If you have been out to Wayne Nebraska, there is no doubt you have seen the famed water tower entitled “Wayne America.” The subtle humor and the blatant patriotism of the water tower really leaves an impression on you when you visit, and it is my hope to return to Wayne America someday to maybe take a walk on the trail I helped work on.

(Photo taken from cityofwayne.org)

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How to be Lost and Found at the Same Time

A friend of mine was recently perusing Reddit and forwarded me a thread titled, “If your life is a book, what’s the title of the chapter you’re in now?” As you might imagine, the responses to this question from the redditors were all over the map. Some examples were “How I Dug Myself into a Quarter Life Crisis” and “Still Not Studying for Finals”. While I was reading through the assortment of comments, I could not help but think about how I would title my chapter; hence, the title of my blog, “How to Be Lost and Found at the Same Time”.

As I look at my life at the moment, I feel like sometimes I really have confidence in my future and am content with my body of schoolwork. On the other hand, I often see my schoolwork piling up during the week and feel like I will never get through it. Also, when you are surrounded by successful people such as those at Olsson Associates, it can become easy to compare how little you think you have done with your life to the accomplishments of the people you work with every day. Every college student seems to go through varying degrees of these feelings, so I know I am not alone with this conundrum.  Just as I am wrapping up my college career next semester, I think I have finally accepted the fact that things are not always going to go perfectly. Part of the reason for this acceptance has been some advice that I recently received: don’t compare yourself to your parents or other mentors that are much older than you are. They did not get to where they are overnight and neither will you. Everyone goes through setbacks and stages when they are unsure if they are on the right track. It is whether you can accept being lost and figure out where you’ve found your way that makes all the difference.  

Where Did All the Time Go?

I'm not one to use cliché blog titles, but this one is quite fitting. One of my few blog posts for the semester happens to be my last for the semester (there are more to be coming in the spring, don't despair). As the semester winds down I find myself wondering how this semester could go even faster than all the rest. Either way, it's been another wonderful few months here in the Denver office. I've been keeping very busy with both the Denver Water Resources and Environmental Compliance teams (as is probably evident from the number of blog posts lately). A small sampler of the projects I've been working on are as follows:

  • Follow up work on produced water holding ponds that I started during the summer
  • Background research for an environmental impact study for a proposed pipeline in Utah
  • As-Constructed documents for numerous near-completion projects
  • Continued development of spill prevention, control and countermeasures (SPCC) plans

And of course, the occasional organizing of the garage area. As I think I've mentioned before, moving between offices during the summer and school year presents its own unique dynamic. There are projects I worked on during the summer, making site visits and submitting CAD drawings to engineers, thinking they're done, and then see them again in a design change. There is that very satisfying feeling when you see someone using your drawing to make design decisions and seeing those drawings go out as deliverables to a client. This semester has presented its challenges, having taken a full course load while working here, and as it's coming to a close, it has been a great opportunity.

In between classes such as drilling engineering, well log analysis and formation evaluation, dashing to and from the office must be difficult for the teams I work with to know exactly when I'm in the office, but everyone here is great and flexible with scheduling and the work load I get. Learning at school and the office, and working hard at both is quite fulfilling.

When Class and Work Collide

In my opinion, I would say one of the most overused phrases in the classroom, regardless of grade, would have to be “when am I ever going to need this?” For years we studied Presidents, memorized vexing vocabulary words, and did long division by hand only to ask “what’s the point?” Well after 16 years of being a student, I can finally claim that there is a point. I cannot say I have needed an in-depth knowledge of past U.S Presidents for my job here at Olsson, but I can say I have used skills from many of my college and high school classes. Working with the Transportation design team here in Lincoln, I can assure you I would be lost without geometry. As tedious as it was to learn all those types of angles and proofs, angles can be crucial when it comes to drainage off a roadway. My sophomore year of college I took a surveying class where we learned to read plan and profile sheets of roadways. The skills and practice I learned from that class have helped me every day at work. Even the AutoCAD class I took three years ago helped me pick up MicroStation much easier. I never thought while I was drawing concentric circles on a screen that the simple shapes I was creating would help me down the road… literally! What has been most exciting this past semester however is seeing how the work I have done at Olsson has helped me in class. Recently, in my highway design class we began creating horizontal and vertical alignments for the rehabilitation of an existing highway. It just so happened that I did this for three roadways in Lincoln right before this class started. At work I set up horizontal and vertical alignments, designed superstructures for trains to pass underneath the roadway, and even relocated major water and sewer pipes. After all was said and done I even got to calculate theoretical costs by summing up the quantities of the project myself. To hear at the beginning of the semester that I would be doing a similar thing was too coincidental. I always knew, even though I sometimes doubted, that school was preparing me for my career, but I never thought I would take what I learned at my job and apply it in school. The constant cooperation that has been going on between work and school this last semester has been awesome to see. It even motivates me to work harder in school because I know for a fact that what I will be doing in class that day could very well end up on my desk the following day at work.

On the Horizon

“What do I want to be when I grow up?” It’s the most clichéd question students ask themselves when they first go off to college. After I picked a major I figured I would not have to ask myself this question anymore. Sadly, with only six months until graduation, I’m still unsure what I want to be when I grow up. While this does freak me out on occasion, I have decided to embrace the fact that my college experiences have given me the flexibility to go after any fulfilling career I may choose. I now know you do not have to find the “perfect” job right out of college; in fact having this goal would only prove disappointing. I know many people, including some at Olsson, who have completely changed career tracks multiple times. Each change took some courageous action on their behalf, but in hindsight, I am sure all of these individuals were glad for every step along the way. No job is perfect, but I am confident I will eventually find my niche.

Speaking of the future, the Lincoln office has something exciting to look forward to…a new office!  If you’ve found yourself down in the new West Haymarket development lately, you’ve seen the skeleton of our new office evolving daily.  I have found myself comparing the new office to my current debacle of finding my career path.  It is almost as if the office and I will be going through similar stages in the coming months. Right now I cannot see what my career will be like, but I can see the strong foundation I have built. In the coming months (and years) I hope to continue to develop until the overall picture comes into focus.

Many employees in our current Lincoln office have been extensively involved with designing the new space and excitement is increasing. I’ve had several opportunities through my internship to learn more about the behind the scenes actions that are necessary to make such a move possible.  While all the cleaning and organizing of our current space and scanning of documents from the beginning of time may not be the most exciting, it will all be worth it in August when Olsson is ready to move in (fingers crossed). Who knows, maybe by the time the office is finished I will have found my perfectly imperfect job, too!

One foot in, One foot out

Senior year. It has flown by faster than I had anticipated, and the fall semester is almost over. This year I have kept up my involvement in previous clubs while working and taking 16 credit hours. On top of that I recently took the Fundaments of Engineering Exam (FE). As much as I enjoy taking eight hour exams, I am glad to be finished with it. I have done a lot this semester, and we still haven’t hit finals week. However, even with involvement in two clubs, a fraternity, and a job, I still find time to relax and enjoy the ride. Looking back at it now college has truly been four of the best years of my life and I am thankful that it’s not over yet. As an overwhelmed freshman coming into college, I had trouble balancing everything that I wanted to put on my plate. I had a really stressful first semester trying to get involved in any club that I could, playing in every intramural sport, and trying to start off with a 4.0. The amount of sleep I lost was not worth it, and it took me a year or so to figure out what I was doing wrong. Now as a senior, I’ve learned how to balance school, work, involvement, and fun without wanting to rip my hair out at the same time. I can best summarize how I do that in three easy ways.

1.       Reserve free time in your schedule. With everything college has to offer, sometimes it is easy to forget that we are here for an education first. Blocking out hours in your schedule every night to get your homework done seems like a no brainer, but I cannot tell you how many of my senior friends are in meetings until 9 or 10 at night almost every night.

2.       Don’t just get involved to get involved. At one point my freshman year I was attending meetings for five different organizations. As much as I liked each of them, I was spread so thin between all of them that I never actually got involved in the clubs. Now I have three that I can give my time to without feeling overwhelmed. My fraternity, Dance Marathon, and the Navigators Christian organization are the places where I feel like I can truly invest my time and feel like I am involved.

3.       Find friends for a lifetime. On a campus of 20,000 plus, it is not hard to meet people. However finding friends who will be there after your commencement day can be tough. To quote the late actress Ethel Barrymore, “The best time to make friends is before you need them.” If there is one thing that college has taught me about life, it is that there will be ups and downs. When those times come, having close friends to walk through those good and bad times with you can make it so much better. For me, I have found some of my best friends in the Navigators Christian group that I am involved in. I am beyond blessed to have guys in my life who invest in me and want to see me grow in life and in my faith. The friends who will be selfless are the ones who will be with you for a lifetime.

I hope this advice can help any underclassmen feeling overwhelmed by the endless opportunities in college, but the same principles can be applied for those who are long past their college years. I can tell you that even when college is over for me in May that I will continue to schedule free time, get involved, and make friends for a lifetime.

-Pat Lusk

Balancing Work, School, & Life

As I’m heading into the hardest part of my school semester, I can’t help but wish I could slow down time. With classes, work, studying, and research, my weeks tend to fly by. It seems like the first week of school was just a couple days ago, but in reality I am midway through my second to last semester of college. While this is quite exciting, I need to take time to enjoy these last months of my college career. I do not want to look back on my last days of college and wish I had spent more time with people I care about.

I am fortunate because I enjoy every aspect of what I have been involved in this semester and every responsibility I have is fulfilling. That being said, I would not survive my hectic weeks without some very important people to relax with. Sometimes when I think I can’t handle every assignment or task for the week, I just need to take an hour or two and watch some Netflix with a friend. I have also found my work is much higher quality when I have had time to decompress during the week.  Basically, balancing all of my duties this semester has been challenging, but I have found that balance through much needed “fun” time.

Back At It

Here we are again, the semester is in full swing and the folks in the Denver, Colorado office are wonderful as usual. For the past two summers I have worked in the Grand Junction, Colorado office providing compliance and engineering support to numerous clients throughout the Piceance Basin, one of the largest natural gas producing regions in the country. The school years, when I'm confined to wonderful Golden, Colorado (home of the one and only Colorado School of Mines) I work in the Denver office, which is a convenient 4 mile drive from school. 

This has provided a huge amount of wonderful opportunities, allowing me to network and connect with more people throughout the company. Once again, I hit the ground running as soon as I started back here, working with the Telecom, Water Resources, and Water-Wastewater teams, as well as providing some CAD support for the Grand Junction office. It's very exciting to be learning engineering practices in the classroom during school and come straight from class to the office and see them and participate in them! Of course, every engineering student gets the "What Not to do as and Engineer" runaround often enough, and I can say that I've seen nothing but the best out of everyone at Olsson. To sum it all up, the transition has been quite enjoyable and I things are settling back into their normal, busy-but-very-rewarding pace, and I'm back at it here in the Denver office. Oh, and I have a window at my desk :)

It's the Little Things

My first six months working at Olsson Associates have really flown by, and it is hard to believe how much I have learned about Human Resources and other aspects of Business Operations since March. I have been really fortunate to be surrounded by many different people who have trusted me with various tasks. For example, I have been helping with a Wellness fitness challenge this past month. Brainstorming ideas for the challenge to increase the health of our employees has been exciting and rewarding.

 

I am currently a Senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and I have been taking many business classes that have helped me to gain a theoretical perspective of the business world. I have to say, though, coming to work each week has been far more educational. As we all know, things do not usually work out like the textbooks say they should. But, that’s part of the excitement of working at Olsson. Every day I walk through the office doors, I never know what to expect—bats in the office, 400 koozies to bundle into sets of 20, or many exciting office announcements.

 

I also have to say, one aspect of careers you do not usually hear about is culture fit. Career counselors will come into class to talk about maximizing your strengths and looking at job descriptions, but the counselor may not talk about how you have to be comfortable in the company’s atmosphere. Applying for several jobs/internships and going through the interviewing process puts students in a vulnerable place. We sometimes may lose sight of how we feel about how we may fit in the company’s culture. I feel very fortunate for the opportunity Olsson has given me to be a part of their culture. Everyone treats the student interns with respect—in some cases because they were interns here themselves! Most of all, I have met some amazing coworkers who make coming to work on Monday morning a more enjoyable prospect. Even on days where I am mostly scanning and filing, I can count on them for a good laugh to break through the monotony. Those moments of hysterical laughter are what we college students forget to think about in our crazy pursuit of a career, but they have made all the difference in my time at Olsson Associates. As they say, it’s the little things in life.

 

Olsson Undergound

Work vs. School. In the past couple weeks I’ve begun to think more about which side is more appealing with the impending approach of classes starting. Depending on who you are, along with your affinity for education or love of your job, a choice between the two may or may not be easy. For me, I used to dread summer because it meant working all day, every day at a monotonous job which made for an extremely boring life. It also was a time when I didn’t think I needed to do much studying for school, so going to classes and working 15-20 hours a week seemed like a much more appealing choice. Nowadays however, I’m actually, for a rare point in my life finding myself not wanting school to start. I’m aware I’m probably in the majority on this, but for me school has usually been enjoyable and work has not. Where I’m going with this is that working at Olsson has been an extremely enjoyable experience, one I don’t want to end (full-time, note that I am continuing part-time in the fall).

Where I used to think a 40 hour workweek, or normal 8 hour workday was far too long, I now have weeks were I work 45+ hours or 11 hour days that go by and leave my wondering how it was possible the day moved so fast. A big reason for this is the people and general culture at Olsson, as well as the tasks and assignments given to students. I’ve already touched on the variety of work I do in the Land Development department, so I’ll talk a bit more about the people and culture here, and then finish my final post highlighting recent things I’ve done towards the end of summer.

People:

·         Familiar. It may have been mentioned already, and you’ll hear it here, but many current employees started as interns, including the current company president! If that doesn’t give the internship program some legitimacy I don’t know what would.

·         Helpful. There are many extremely proficient CAD users who are always willing to help out, and you can always learn more about the civil engineering, and in my case land development, field by the short conversations you have every day with the people around you.

·         Interesting. Aside from the normal everyday work conversation, I’ve gotten to learn more about the people I work with through our everyday chit chat to break up the day. It’s hard to describe to someone not experiencing it firsthand, but I find myself laughing quite a bit on a daily basis!

Culture:

·         Supportive. Through seminars just for interns, to paying for interns to be part of a city-wide internship program, and providing wellness and other activities for full-time employees, you couldn’t ask for a better work environment.

Work

·         Taking a site visit to see underground detention chambers being installed below a future parking lot

·         Permits, permits, permits. Learning more about the behind-the-scenes things that need done for a project to work

·         Conceptual plans. For a Walmart project, before they approve a store there are many basically prototype plans they look at. I was able to play around with a site layout without it being too technical, but still being seen by Walmart execs, which was very fun.

I have to cut myself off so I don't go on forever, but I feel it’s a good summary of my summer. And by now, I'm sure you've realized my title didn't have much to do with anything (it did contain 2 relevant words), but I hope it got you hooked enough to read this. To end, I can’t think of a better or more cliché way of describing my experience so far than:

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Below - the detention chamber being installed

2013-08-01 13.49.23.jpg

 

Birdemic

I have now been with Olsson for two months, and it is really starting to feel like home. Nothing will bring an office together quite like the spectacle of watching a small robin fly around the office and try to escape. It was truly entertaining getting to observe two co-workers strategically move about the second floor with their nets attempting to trap the bird. I felt bad for the little guy, but I couldn’t help but laugh when the bird would try and make a dash for it and end up smacking straight into a window. Please try not to think less of me for this. It's funny, trust me. In hindsight though, I have taken on even more responsibility since I have been a part of the transportation team here, and I have really enjoyed the challenge. Recently I have started some of the drainage work on an interchange project in Nebraska City.

I have been tasked with:

·         Cutting and displaying profiles of retaining walls to be placed

·         Cutting cross sections where culverts need to be placed

·         Designing and placing said culverts

·         Running hydraulic measurements on the culverts to make sure they are within standard

Having the opportunity to dive into multiple phases of a project has really given me an appreciation for the amount of work and planning that must be done before any construction begins. From truck turning templates, to right-of-way plans, to now drainage design, I have really only scratched the surface of what needs to be evaluated during each project.

As for the bird… it took about five engineers to finally corner it. We managed to direct it into a back corner office where two people held up poster boards to block the exit while three people inside tried to catch it. Finally, after being stuck in our office for 18 hours, one of the bird wranglers managed to grab it barehanded and returned it safely outside. The only thing that would have made that day better would be if someone had been playing ‘Free Bird’ on their stereo in the background.

 

-Pat Lusk