I didn’t expect having ever difficulties in finding a job while I started studying civil engineering almost 16 years ago. I thought it would be promising profession which gives me possibilities of work and professional development in various sectors: from designing, through execution to administration and management after graduation.
When I took a decision of becoming an engineer my parents didn’t approve it expecting me to keep medical family tradition. I believed that as a woman I would easily find myself in the male reality. I hoped that the title of Master of Civil Engineering guarantees prestige in labor market and obtaining the right to perform independent technical functions in the construction industry will ensure promotion, independence – also financial – and will secure the future of mine and my family.
I realized that the specialization of hydroengineering I chose was the best way for me, standing as a trainee at PANGAEA CONSULTING ENGINEERS LTD. at the foot of the reinforced concrete front wall of new built dam in Sisani (in the northern part of Greece in August 2007), awed by the enormity of construction and excited about the possibility of admiring such “work” in close up. I knew at that moment that I want to design and build such hydro constructions in my life.
I wanted to show my parents what my job exactly is inviting my family to opening the quay in Szczecin (in which designing I participated) in October 2011. I needed to share my joy with them and convince that my choice to study of technical faculty was what I wanted to do in my life but not taking the easy way out to avoid exams at the Pomeranian Medical University as they thought. I wished them to be proud of me and boast to their friends: “ Yes, yes, this construction was designed by my child”. I was happy when my mother cut out articles about investments from local newspapers, which her younger daughter contributed to build.
I was touched with my friend’s words: “Do you know who designed this lake, this pier we are walking on? Aunt Madzia” while common walk with 2-year old kid.
Then I understood my grandmother’s words about being born to do big things. Those great things were future constructions, another difficult project works which required my total involvement, resignation from private life, sitting up till late at night. My efforts, obstinacy, determination in gaining experience, and with them sense of duty as well as responsibility for implementation of assigned tasks, created an explosive mixture which was a cause of my burnout after 3 years of intensive work. Paradoxically, the more I worked, the harder it was to receive salaries for completed projects. The fast pace of work and lack of financial liquidity caused of destabilization of my sense of security and made my future uncertain. My body was harmed by continuous stress, and the joy of life disappeared. I was terrified by the lack of prospectives and the vision that my life would look like this in the future. I stopped believing that what I do makes sense, that what I love would satisfied my basic needs.
Reflection on my life came in 2017.
I was discouraged to search job in construction sector by the situation in labor market and the low rates of salaries. I found out that I have nothing to fight for after 3 attempts to stay in the profession. I accepted a fact that it is impossible to receive amount of money which I earned in my previous company. What is more interesting job offers on position of project coordinator, office assistant or receptionist were more competitive in comparison to those in the construction branch.
Why is it like that? Why do civil engineering companies have less to offer than in other sectors? Does this situation exist only on Szczecin construction market? How much is a designer/executive engineer work worth? How to valuate professional liability of an engineer? Is there a chance to lead a dignified life and stability? Can a female engineer achieve financial independence these days?
The longer I speak with friends of the same profession, the more I don’t belie what I hear. I thought that only I had to face the absurdities in my business life. And here you are, I am not alone.
They more often repeat opinions about: lack of stabilization, life at the level when the ends meet or impossibility of saving money for a rainy day.
We have no chance to go on strike as a form of struggle for better employment conditions.
That is why I got my friend’s support to let my blog become an opportunity to pay attention to difficulties which engineers have to face. You will get a chance to express your feelings about that later on.
I wake up sometimes early morning with thought that everything I had to cope with in my professional life was just a nightmare. Maybe my negative opinion is incorrect despite 10 years of presence in the civil engineering sector and possibility of observing the functioning of companies which I cooperated with.
I would like to encourage you to share your experience with me. I hope for positive comments too. I believe that you will share your opinion. Please prove me I am wrong!