Today, I received the following in an email. The writer asks a number of questions relating to his decision to go into mineral engineering. First I repeat the email, and then I set out my answers to his questions. If you too can help this fellow, please do so by commenting. Thanks.
I was recently accepted into the mineral engineering program at the University of Toronto. I’ve been following your blog for about a year, to get to know more about the industry. It’s about the time of year in Canada when we have to start accepting university offers.
Your post “Should I Become a Mining Engineer” was great! The stats back that up too, seeing as how its one of your more popular postings. But I was wondering if you could flesh it out a bit. Maybe some more concrete information. I’d like to know your opinion:
- Do you think it’s worth it to get a P.Geo (professional geologist) designation as well as the P.Eng?
- What do you think the impact of computers/artificial intelligence/robots/automation will be on the profession? Have you seen the Jeopardy! episode where that supercomputer Watson beats the human competitors?
- What is a typical day like for a engineer-in-training/junior engineer?
- What are the drawbacks of living in a remote mining site? What are the benefits?
- Do you know of any mining engineers that don’t like their jobs? Why?
- Why do you like mining engineering so much? Why is the work interesting to you?
- I’m a bit older than most undergrads (24 years old). Do you think being older is going to be a drawback in the new graduate job market?
Thank you in advance!
Here are some of my comments, thoughts, and answers to the questions posed.
I see no point in getting a P. Geo as well as a P. Eng. Both are honorable professions. But there are many differences. It is hard enough to keep abreast of things in engineering, as it is. It is hard enough to keep abreast of things in geology, as it is. To try to keep abreast of things in both engineering and geology, so that you maintain proficiency in both, is probably beyond most of us. I suggest that when young, it is best to choose one and focus on that. There is plenty of challenge in growing as an engineer or geologist without tying to straddle both. Inevitably life will take you in one direction or another and a broad educational background, while fun and valuable, will ultimately be swamped by the need to do specialist things in the line of work that fate dictates.
I started my career at a time when there were no computers. Now they are everywhere. But they have had no significant impact on what it takes to be a professional. Just like the old engineers from whom I learnt, I still have to get basic information; I still have to visit the site; I still have to think and exercise judgment. Experience is still more valuable than computer screen perusal. Of course computers and robots and artificial intelligence (such as it is) are used. But only to get more data, to undertake faster analyses, and to augment judgment. Personally I do not think they have changed what it takes to be a good engineer, and I do not think they ever will.
There is no such thing as a typical day for an engineer-in-training. It all depends on where you are, what you are asked to do, how you approach it, and what those around you do to teach, exhort, and challenge you. Some EITs are put in front of a computer and told to compute, for it is apparent they cannot and never will be able to do more. Some EITs are run ragged involved in every detail of a project for it is apparent they can do it, they thrive on it, and they produce, adding value at every step.
The drawbacks of living in a remote camp are that you are in a remote camp. You are away from the bright lights, the sports field, the pub, and the infinite variety of friends you find in cities. The benefits, at least to a young engineer, are higher salary, lower living costs, greater challenge and opportunity to learn and shine.
I have never met a mining, civil, or any other type of engineer who does not actually like their job. They have all been content, happy, and productive. I have dealt with some younger engineers wo have left engineering for finance and investment. They did it because they believed they could make more money that way; and they have—at least until the market collapsed and some came back into engineering. I have met many an engineer who has moved around and moved on. Most of us have left behind one or more jobs. Sometimes we were glad to leave that job—but we always moved on to another engineering job and greater job and life satisfaction. Keep in mind there are always somewhere messed up companies and nasty bosses. If you find yourself in such a company or working for such a boss—leave. As an engineer there are plenty of other nicer places and people to go and work with. You are not trapped in an unhappy situation–or at least should not be.
I like engineering and mining engineering because that is what I do, it is what I do well, it is what gives me a good income, it takes me around the world, I work with nice and intelligent people, I face interesting challenges, and I see something for it at the end of each day. How could I want more? I would do it all again given the choice.
I do not think being 24 years old is an issue. I hung around university for eleven years. It was fun and easy and the girlfriend was there. So I was about 27 when I got my first real job as an engineer. At this age (65) the age at which I started is irrelevant. So too it will be for you.
Good luck with your career.