In our Summer 2021 series, we're asking alumni and current students to tell us about their career interests, experiences, and reflections.
Are you a May 2021 grad? Take 5 minutes to tell the career center about your current post-grad plans (including if you’re currently searching for opportunities)! Just complete the annual First Destinations Survey – no matter where you are in the decision-making process.
My name is Aleyna Bedir and I graduated in May 2020 with a B.S in Civil Engineering! As a first generation college student, I gravitated toward shared spaces at UVA that valued peer support and community. My favorite times at UVA were spent at the Center for Diversity in Engineering and also with the QuestBridge Scholars at UVA! After graduation, I started at Bohler as a Staff Engineer.
Describe your current role and tell us how your undergraduate experience prepared you for it.
As an engineer at Bohler, I do site design for various commercial, residential, and industrial developments. Which basically means we design all the components that prepares an area of land to support the use of a proposed development. Before I started at Bohler, I took the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam which tested me on entire base technical knowledge new engineers are expected to fundamentally know as a practicing engineer. The test covered material from every single class I took as a part of the Civil Engineering curriculum and therefore once I had passed the FE test and also graduated, I further established myself as an engineer that was prepared to grow as a professional in my current role. Although passing the FE is a great start to my career, I believe that my internship experiences best prepared me for my current role. I went into both of my internships (City of Charlottesville - Traffic Engineering, and Staff Engineer Intern at Bohler) with just the pure motivation to learn and grow - an open perspective to any opportunity, which prepared me best to embrace that I still have so much more to learn, but to also effectively apply and contribute to all that I was able to.
Walk us through a typical day at work.
I generally have a set workload throughout the day that can consist of due diligence research, site visits, and design tasks usually utilizing Civil3D that can range from concept design, grading, erosion and sediment control, and utility plans. I can be working on multiple projects at once throughout the day, or be on a singular project for a whole week. It all really just depends on the workload of the office, the project(s) itself, and how I can best contribute to the progress of the plan to submission. Therefore, this requires a lot of internal coordination and communication between me and my direct supervisors through daily project kickoffs, milestones, and closeouts. My workday usually ranges from 8am to about 6pm and I currently have a hybrid work schedule where I work from home two days of the week and go into the office for three.
In what way(s) did you feel most and least prepared for your job?
Unfortunately, I was unable to take the land development course that UVA offered, so I didn’t come into my internships or job with much prior knowledge of the development process or anything beyond basic lifework with Civil3D. However, I believe my internship with Bohler was an amazing introduction to the daily tasks that I do now, so I started my job with the intention of leaning into all opportunities with an open perspective and embracing the growth and learning curve expected post-grad. At UVA, alongside building technical skills, I got to explore and discover the strength behind teamwork and effective communication, and also the importance of applying your personal values and perspective towards challenging situations. This is a mindset I act on daily while at work!
How do you stay up to date with your skills and industry knowledge?
Since I grew up near Cville, attended UVA, and am now working on projects in the area, I like staying up to date with future developments in Charlottesville just by dropping in on any public meetings regarding a project or growth area. Most jurisdictions are still doing virtual meetings that can be watched online, even through Facebook, so if you’re interested in how local development decisions are being made, its easy to stay informed and get involved! I also like checking out 99% Invisible, Curbed, and The Urban Activist to learn more and engage in conversations about the built environment and our interactions with it.
Think back to your job search. Share some of the challenges/successes in your search.
As a first generation college student and someone that didn’t know anyone personally in any engineering or technical field, especially Civil engineering, I remember not even knowing where to start in my career search. I was just blindly searching for “Civil Engineering” internships and jobs without realizing the amount of different paths within various industries my skills could actually be applied to. When working at the CDE, I saw the gap in opportunity for career exploration and the benefits of having various industry representatives reach out and make connections with me and my peers. One of the best things I did was really dive into the CDE’s relationship with UVA Engineering’s amazing Center for Engineering Career Development and actually take advantage of the resources offered that better prepared me to progress in starting my career.
If you could go back to college and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Having a mentor, or someone you can discuss creating goals for yourself and then having a plan to achieve them is so important in establishing a motivation for progression! Reach out to a recent grad, or any alum that is in the field that you are interested in, or better yet, currently at the job you want. If you do not know anyone, then go to Career Services and ask them for help! I wish I fully understood that there is always someone willing to help, you just have to ask, and that it’s okay! You don’t have to figure out everything on your own.
For current students hoping to go into your field, what are some of the most effective things they can do right now to prepare themselves for future success?
Being familiar with Civil3D would be a huge advantage going into any land development design position. Most companies have a training program for new hires, but the learning curve can be challenging, as it was for me only coming in with a basic overall understanding. Also, research and reach out about the various avenues that can be taken in the public and private sectors of civil engineering. Land development is a solid (and growing!) field to be considering right now, but there’s also so many different positions that exist within it (site design, traffic engineering, planning, etc.) - take time to explore them!
Learn more about organizations and resources mentioned by Aleyna: