Where can a degree from CEEatGT take you? 10 questions with Michael Wong

One of the most frequently asked questions our School's Student Services Group receives from students interested in our programs is, "What can I do with a degree from CEEatGT?".

Alumnus Michael Wong has a few ideas. Wong completed a structures-track BSCE degree with CEEatGT in 2012 before earning his MSCE from our Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials Program last year. As a student at Georgia Tech, he served as President of ASCE and Vice President of Chi Epsilon, as a member of Tech's Student Advisory Board, and also worked as a graduate teaching assistant.

Where is he now? Wong works as a structural engineer in the energy technology company in one of the largest corporations in the world - a top-twenty Fortune 500 Global company that is active in more than 180 countries around the globe. You may think of them next time your vehicle's "empty" light appears: Chevron. Wong shared more about his work in a quick Q&A session:

What does a typical day at work include for you?

A typical day usually includes using the structural analysis concepts I learned in school, primarily earthquake engineering.  Most days are in the office, but there have been a few field visits to some of our facilities, too.

How could other students achieve a similar career path to yours?

Oil and energy companies are always looking for civil engineers - not just students with a structural engineering background - so the jobs are out there. Most students just don’t know that this industry exists for civil engineers, but this degree focuses on big projects. Right now there is nothing bigger than oil and energy - there couldn’t be a better match!  I would encourage students to research the opportunities in the oil and gas industry just so they know that they exist.  Most oil companies are global, so they have opportunities to work abroad, as well.

What structural engineering applications do you use in your career with Chevron?

I use most of the tools that we used at CEEatGT such as the AISC Steel Manual, ACI 318, and ASCE 7.  Regarding analysis software, it is up to the engineer I’m working with to decide.

How did a degree from CEEatGT prepare you for your career?

A degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech helped prepare me for my career by exposing me to many of the resources that are used in structural engineering.  The School also instilled a work ethic that has helped me to continue to learn and grow as a student and as a professional.  I was floored that so many of my classes in CEEatGT are relevant to my everyday work. 

How important is an advanced degree in your career?

I feel that as a structural engineer, an advanced degree is important if you want to work on solving complex structural analysis problems.  The majority of work that I do today utilizes material that I learned from courses in graduate school. 

Where has been the most interesting location you’ve work?

An offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico in deep water has been the most interesting work locations I’ve visited.  I worked there on a “14 day on, 14 day off” schedule for two months.  During the assignment, I took a helicopter to the platform and lived on the platform for two weeks at a time.  This is the type of unique experience I would not have been exposed to, had I chosen to work outside the oil and gas industry.

What are three things you wish you knew as a student?

1) Network and gain connections.  You never know who will be able to help you find a job or other opportunity later in life.

2) Get involved in leadership and service opportunities while you’re in school.  It is work experience that doesn’t involve competing against hundreds of other students for a position.  Having this experience gives you an advantage once the career fair comes around.

3) When you find a job that you really want, don’t be shy.  Take the initiative to show them that you want it.

What is the most fun aspect of your job?

To me, the oil and gas industry offers very interesting, and unique problems compared to other industries.  The structures that we look at aren’t buildings and bridges, but we use the same resources that we learned in school.  I am able to learn something new each day. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy playing on a few of Chevron’s intramural sports teams.  I even play on the same team as Audrey Shaak, a fellow Georgia Tech civil engineer at Chevron. 

Why did you choose CEEatGT?

I chose civil engineering because I wanted to work on big projects, and right now, the largest projects in the world are within the oil and gas industry.  I chose to study civil engineering at Georgia Tech because I saw that the CEEatGT program and rankings were on the rise, and that the School was working diligently to enrich the student experience. Dr. DesRoches has served as a great School Chair, and I look forward for the future of CEEatGT and its students.


If you'd like to learn more about where a civil engineering degree from our School can take you, check out this video.