Your first year of working in the engineering industry
The Industry and Your Clients
Entering the workforce as an engineer for the first time is an intimidating endeavour. You don’t know what to expect from your first role and the last thing you want is to fail.
If this is you, I have good news. As a new grad, I was immediately impressed with the industry's reception to working with new grads. Although I shouldn’t be surprised as every year, first year engineers who are in need of support and guidance, join the industry.
You aren’t expected to know everything that directly applies to your first engineering role and it is understood that many topics aren’t taught in-depth in university. Because of this, the industry provides an abundance of resources (webinars, conferences, and more) to help young professionals develop their skills and knowledge.
Interaction with clients also helps to encourage learning on the job and quickly get an understanding of the challenges we are trying to help with. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from feedback I receive from clients while growing into my first role. They make an effort to teach you about industry-related topics that you likely haven’t had exposure to during the process of becoming an engineer.
Working at Process Ecology
New grads are used to standardized expectations and grades, so it’s important to work with a company that helps you transition from that to receiving constructive evaluations. As an engineer in your first year of working in the industry, getting clear and consistent feedback on your workflows and performance is crucial to your success.
Process Ecology consistently communicates where I am successful and the areas in which I needed to improve. They are willing to invest both time and resources to teach me how to use many industry-related software: Petrinex, ProTrend, SWIM, OneStop, Target, ProMontior, etc. Process Ecology also provided resources to help me learn the necessary regulations. (NPRI, MSAPR, Methane/Benzene (Directive 060), Federal GHGRP, BCGHG, TIER, etc.)
The team provided the support and guidance that was much needed for me to complete my first emissions reporting season. They also had the confidence to trust my ability to work with and manage my own projects.
Transitioning From Academics to Industry
As an engineering student, your process is to complete a task once, get a grade and then move on to the next thing. As an entry-level engineer, you have to adjust your approach to the continuous improvement mentality of the work place.
At times, while working, it can be more important to prioritize completing a task to the best of your ability and then returning to it to improve it through iterations. Working in the industry is about making the switch from receiving a grade or comments for submitted work in school, to seeking your own feedback while on the job.
There is a big learning curve when you go from a university engineering grad to the emissions management industry. This is because we only take a few environmental-specific courses where you primarily use broad, literature-based emissions factors to estimate the impacts of our energy systems, on a macro scale. This makes the transition overwhelming at first, but in time you adjust with exposure to the regulations, calculations and language. In industry, both “bottom-up” and “top-down” estimates are used to develop detailed emissions inventories. Bottom-up estimation is a detailed calculation of individual emission sources using first-principles engineering models, operating condition details and published emission factors to determine various types of emissions for equipment and processes. The top-down method uses direct measurement technology to evaluate the emissions of individual equipment, a facility, or a geographical region.
In school, it can often feel like you are competing with your peers because of the grading system and limited internship and career opportunities. When you enter the workforce it’s important to transition away from that to then learn and understand the importance of working with people who support and promote your success. This approach has given me the opportunity to drastically grow my network and have others I can rely on for support while I continue to develop professionally and work towards my PEng designation.
I am grateful to now be working in the emissions industry where we help clients track, report, and mitigate emissions. It was important for me to be in a role that allowed me to help industry transitioning Canada’s energy system to Net-Zero. Seeing the majority of industry taking drastic steps to mitigate their environmental impacts by improving processes, replacing equipment and investing in low-emissions technologies is also encouraging. It feels rewarding to be working with industry to provide affordable, reliable, and most importantly sustainable energy to consumers.