The Civil Engineering Podcast

The Civil Engineering Podcast

TCEP 184: Transitioning From Private to Public Sector: Being Thrown Into the Fire

September 22, 2021

In this episode, which is part of our Women in Civil Engineering series, I talk with Elia Twigg, PE, who is the local agency manager and Senior Project engineer for CONSOR Engineers about her career work in the public AND private sectors, and how she had to manage more than 20 people at the age of 25 with no prior experience.
Engineering Quotes:

Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Elia:

Why would you say that public works, in general, is important in engineering?
How do politics affect top-level management, both in the public and private sectors?
What are some management skills you learned in the public sector, and how have they helped you while working in the private sector?
Why do you think it is important for engineers to get involved in professional organizations?
How did understanding how budgeting works help you in the work you do in the local government?
What is one final piece of advice that you would like to give our listeners out there?

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Managing Private Sector Relationships While Working in the Public Sector:

To transition from the private sector to the public sector, you must look for any opportunities that come your way. Do some research on the positions available and apply to those that are best suited to you and your experience level. Be prepared to work hard and earn your credibility in your new position.
To build your confidence in a public sector role, you must be open to guidance from your supervisor and be a person that wants to get things done. Get input from the staff and use this input to come up with ideas. Do not be afraid to make changes to your plans if you see that something is not working out. Be fearless and take action.
Management and leadership are part of your personality. Be open to learning new things every day. Do not be afraid to ask for help from anyone in the company. If you run into some trouble, find a solution, and move on to the next thing.
Once you are more comfortable and have gained experience in your role, start looking for opportunities for promotion. If you have done your job well and showcased your capabilities, senior management will have already noticed you and know if you are the correct person for the job.
Politics is always going to influence the public sector. Things like a change in the city council will almost always bring about staff changes in the higher management levels. It can cause you to feel that the work environment is no longer suitable for you. It would be a good time for you to look for employment elsewhere. Politics can play ugly games; sometimes it is not performance-based, and great staff members are lost.
There are many differences in working in the private and public sectors. The work environment is different because private sector companies are a lot smaller than the public sector. In the public sector, the workload is a lot more than the private sector because of the many aspects that need to be considered. In the private sector, you focus mainly on the construction-side of the projects.
You learn many new skills working in the public sector that you continue to use in the private sector. One of the big skills is working with people. Every person communicates in their own way and must know how to communicate with others. The public sector has many processes that must be followed, whereas the private sector can be a lot more lenient.
Working in the private sector will teach you how to work with project budgets. It is good to know where the funding is coming from. You can have multiple budgets because the different funding sources will be funding individual parts of the projects. You will have budget meetings where the expenses and profits are discussed. If budget cuts arise,