DCI welcomed 22 interns this past summer to support 10 different office locations – the largest pool of interns the firm has ever had! Recent applicants discovered DCI through college career fairs or learned about the firm through college professors, friends, or family. Their networking efforts paid off as many found internship opportunities close to home, school, or city of choice. In this post, DCI interns share the knowledge they gained as technical support staff for the structural engineering teams.
Biggest Takeaway: “The most valuable piece of my internship was interacting with the other engineers every day. Getting a feel for how they approach various problems showed me what it takes to be a successful engineer. The engineers thoroughly explained their reasoning for a solution and they never hesitated to answer my questions. Hearing their rationale helped me develop my own engineering judgment.”
Beyond the Classroom: “There are many pieces of working as a professional engineer that are not taught in school. The largest, in my opinion, is being able to compromise and work with architects and clients. Not everything has one solution, like many assignments in the classroom. The art of working with others successfully is something that must be learned on the job.”
What did you learn about the city? “Working at the Seattle office this summer showed me exactly how much DCI participates in the local community. It seems like every street in Seattle has a building that DCI had a huge role in bringing to life. It was a great opportunity to work for a company as integrated as this.”
Beyond the Classroom: “So far, my classwork prepared me for the basic concepts used in the industry, but not fully prepared me for the realities of working as a professional engineer. That’s how this internship has helped me a lot. We always calculated everything in school with a lot of precision, but actually, not everything needs to be.”
Job Site Experience: “I went on multiple site visits. I saw CLT roofing put together; massive steel girders spanning over a future ballroom; and post-tensioned slab preparation for a parking garage. There’s a big difference in seeing the real work compared to relying only on paperwork or what’s on the computer screen. I can visualize designs better for future projects.”
Lasting Impression: “The most important experience during my internship was working on duct support for a water treatment facility. Although it wasn’t the flashiest of projects, I was able to be hands-on from start to finish. I made calculations and designed the supports to withstand potential seismic and wind loads. Being part of the entire process of the project – from the time a request reached our desk, to coming up with a plan, to creating sketches and calculation packages, to submitting the solution to the client – I saw how things worked at DCI.”
What did you learn about the city? “I started to notice more construction happening in Portland. I see all these projects going on that are improving the city that I know and love. Being able to work and interact downtown has been a great experience.
I also rode an electric rent-a scooter to a job site. At first I was skeptical of the scooters, but after riding one I can see why everyone in Portland are crazy over them. It’s super fun and quick when you are in a pinch compared to riding the bus.”
Biggest Takeaway: “The most important experience I encountered while at DCI was seeing how committed the company is to our clients and the public. Each day I saw engineers going above and beyond to get to know our clients and build a lasting relationship with them. I learned to be a successful engineer, you need to develop interpersonal skills to communicate effectively and professionally with others in the construction industry including contractors, architects and engineers of different disciplines.”
Job Site Experience: “I learned that an overall understanding of how a building goes together is imperative on a job site, otherwise you will have no idea what you are looking at. You simply can’t learn this in textbooks or in school, so getting out to more and more job sites is the only way to really grasp how a building is put together. Engineers modify designs to make them more constructible in the field. Constructability improves the timeline of jobs, as well as the relationships between engineers and contractors.”
Community Outreach: “DCI’s commitment to the public by supporting charities across Spokane has really been a great experience. We are not only building up the infrastructure of Spokane, but also the community within it.”
Biggest Takeaway: “The most important experience I encountered while at DCI is being able to ask for help. At school, it’s not encouraged to ask for help – you and your peers are on your own with assignments. Other students usually don’t know the best answers. While at DCI, I felt comfortable asking for help when faced with a challenging problem or new task. They helped me process and learn, but not get bogged down with little project hiccups. That was the most important for me. I wanted to learn and not just repeat tasks.”
Awesome Moment: “I went to one job site that was only a mile or so away from the office. Instead of taking a bus or walking, the project lead and myself decided to take the new motor scooters. That’s the fun part of having the office in the heart of downtown! Nothing was funnier than seeing a grown man with a yellow caution vest and hard hat riding around on a scooter in downtown Portland!”
On-The-Job vs Classroom Experience: “The most important learning experience I have learned so far is how to better communicate with clients and other supporting disciplines for coordination purposes. This is something you can’t learn in school and it has been a truly beneficial experience for me.
My education at Cal Poly prepared me for the realities of working as a professional engineer upon graduation. My major is Architectural Engineering. I had the opportunity to take a year of architecture studios taught by practicing architects. However, the interaction between architect and engineering student in comparison to architect and professional engineer has proven the most surprising part. This is the aspect of the internship that will teach me the most.”
Awesome Moment: “I love how living in Alaska means that Monday office conversations start with how much salmon people caught in the past weekend, or where they have been hiking. It’s so nice being back in my home state, and to be working around people with similar interests!”
On-The-Job Experience: “Having so many engineers to work with, I was given the opportunity to be involved with many projects. I gained design experience with structural materials which I have not had the opportunity to take coursework on yet. I was able to gain much more in-depth experience on the realistic design procedures of all building materials.”
Job Site Experience: “Being on site often allowed me to progress much faster in terms of understanding many requirements of structural design. When going on visits, our engineers always took the time to explain the projects, instruct me on what to look for, clarify why certain design or construction procedures must be carried out, and discuss how specific materials can offer structural strength.
Seeing structural elements called out on paper makes it easy to assign a label to a foundation, column, beam, girder, deck, connection, or any other element. Seeing these elements put together to make the structure gave me a larger realization for what we as structural engineers are designing, and this added a great deal of significance to the design work I do now.”
Biggest Takeaway: “I think the most valuable experience I have retained from my internship is how important both the professional and personal relationships are in our profession. I expected to be learning from engineers in our office, but I was surprised at how much the professional engineers in our office worked together to learn from one another. I witnessed engineers of all levels going out of their way to share their knowledge and experience on topics which others could benefit.”
Job Site Experience: “I learned a great deal during the site visit to the new WSU Research Facilities. I was able to get an aspect of engineering different from what I have experienced in the classroom and office. I saw how design turns into real life structures; how a project is seen from the viewpoint of the construction workers; and some of the challenges that engineers face.”
Awesome Moment: “Winning the company softball championship. It was a great way to get to know my coworkers outside of the office, and it showed that DCI really cares about its employees.”
Job Site Experience: “I went on a site visit to the CENTRL Office in Little Tokyo. I worked on the TI design of non-bearing stud walls, office glazing, and hanging ceiling tiles, but before designing the elements, I went to the site to meet the architect of the project. She walked me and my project manager through the site and showed us where the elements were going to be installed once we designed them. That really was helpful to see the space before working on the designs. It helped me visualize the sizes of the elements and made the design process easier all together!”
Beyond the Classroom: “There was a steep learning curve when applying classroom knowledge in the workplace. I feel like I’ve learned more about structural engineering in the last three months than I have in four years of classwork! Practical experience goes so much further in the field of structural engineering than classroom learning, and all my coworkers in the LA office (and San Francisco and San Diego offices) have been so helpful in teaching me how to design different types of structures.”
Lasting Impression: “Working on Project Cumulus. It’s been really rewarding for me to work on a large-scale project.”
Biggest Takeaway: “While working at DCI this summer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on various projects and podium apartments around San Francisco, and it’s been really eye-opening to be assigned to these projects from the start. I worked closely with a project manager and saw how the project changes over time, and how much coordination with the architects there is throughout the design process.”
Job Site Experience: “I went on two podium apartment site visits at different stages of construction. For one, I saw the connections between the first level concrete floor and the remaining wood framed levels. At the second site, I saw the post tensioned cables laid out on a slab. It was incredibly helpful to not only see how the engineers interacted with the contractors, but also to be on site to solve problems that came up during construction.”
Awesome Moment: “The San Francisco work environment made me realize how working full-time could be so enjoyable! I felt like everyone was willing to provide me a wide range of insight during my short time here, whether it was involvement in internal meetings, visiting sites, or designing shear walls.”
Want to know more about internship opportunities at DCI Engineers? Contact HR Assistant Angela Ansell at email@example.com.
About the Author
Rose Bechtold, Communications Specialist | Rose comes from a journalism and technical writing background. She is in her element while in research mode and naturally immerses herself in expert knowledge by interviewing staff members about new subjects. In her spare time, Rose practices plein-air sketching of buildings and random scenes around town.