What is a typical day like at your job? How much of your time is spent in an office as opposed to outside an office?
Working for an engineering firm, there really isn't a typical day. We have so many different projects going on simultaneously that one day I may be doing GIS all day, or one day I may be out in the field. I'd say about 1/4 of my time is spent in the field collecting data about stormwater systems or performing soil testing. I definitely like having the field work every now and then to break up your work-week and time spent in front of the computer!
What skills or personal qualities are good for this job?
A willingness to learn is essential. There's only so much that our great professors can teach us in classes, the rest you're going to have to learn on the job. You've got to be a good communicator and be ready to put in extra hours while you're still learning. Otherwise, soil knowledge is super important (biggest regret I have is not being a soil judger, would've been very helpful!).
What do you like most about your job? What is the most challenging?
I like the variability and being able to go out in the field as much as I do. Field days can be long, but they're a great way to get out of the office and get first-hand experience with the soils, facts, and figures you work with in the office every day. The most challenging aspect of my job is that I can sometimes question my own judgement because I don't have as much experience as others, so it's important to be able to talk to your coworkers/boss and have clear expectations of what they expect from you.
What classes at VT and extracurricular opportunities prepared you the most for your career and life in general?
Being involved as a CALS ambassador and being in the Student Government Association helped with my public speaking and communication skills, which would be important in any job. Really I'd just suggest that you take classes that genuinely interest you, don't go for one that may be an "easy A." Doing so will help you find out what you like, a potential career path, and overall will help you more than a class that you aren't passionate about.
What advice do you have for a current student when it comes to their career (could include anything you would do differently if you were to start college again)?
I would definitely suggest going to career fairs, even as a freshman, to prepare for putting yourself in front of employers, practice interviewing, and to network. Also, pursuing professional certifications (OSHA 40 hour, APSS, etc.) will look good on your resume and potentially open up opportunities for you.