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So, what does an internship in the field of structural engineering really look like?

Coffee runs, picking up laundry and sweeping the floors; this is a fallacious and inaccurate picture painted of what an internship looks like today. Over the last three months, I have been an intern at Watry Design, Inc. in San Jose, California. When I accepted the internship, I knew it would be a great opportunity to expose myself to the in’s and out’s of the structural engineering industry, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the “seemingly traditional” intern work I would actually do. It didn’t take long for me to realize the answer to that question.

On my first day, I immediately began working on an active project. In the first few hours of my internship, I had already completed more “real world” assignments than I had in five years of college. The theoretical and scholastic ideology I had become comfortable with was instantly overshadowed by the physical and material realism that is the workforce. From that point on, I have been exposed to numerous projects in different states, all with various design scenarios.

Every day is something different, which creates a dynamic and exciting workplace. By working on various projects, I have been able to use programs such as Risa, Safe, Etabs, RetainPro, Autocad and SPColumn, as well as many in-house programs, to assist in the design process. This experience has not only increased my knowledge of the structural engineering concepts, but also reinforced my confidence in my ability.

Knowing that my designs are going to actually be built and used by thousands of people is a nerve-wracking thought, but it forced me to use my engineering judgment carefully. Working with that knowledge every day helps to develop a mental toughness and poise to work efficiently under pressure. This ability is extremely important and vital to becoming a successful engineer. As I prepare for returning to grad school, I am excited to use my newfound skills to learn and relate structural engineering concepts to the real world. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to experience such a fulfilling internship and I highly recommend Watry Design for young structural engineers looking to get a glimpse into the industry. 

About the Author

Josh Raney is finishing his Master of Science in Architecture with an Architectural Engineering Specialization at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. He was drawn into the field by a fascination for how large structures are built and how they withstand earthquakes. After his internship at Watry Design, Josh looks forward to his future as a licensed San Francisco Bay Area engineer.

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