Meet Mika, from Full-time Student to Full-time Professional

Meet Mika, from Full-time Student to Full-time Professional

Earlier this year, Mikaela (“Mika”) Stutts began preparing to enter the job market before graduating in May from the civil engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin. Now an Entry Level Project Engineer at K Friese + Associates (KFA), she shares what it was like to transition from a full time student to a full time professional.

As a student, Mika was heavily involved in ASCE on campus and was the Chapter President her senior year. When asked what skills she learned from that experience that are helping her today, Mika said she was grateful for the opportunity to practice managing both time and competing responsibilities that went beyond the technical learning of her campus experience. “What you learn in class is important, but for me, there was also real value in developing soft skills including communication and program management.” These experiences also helped shape her approach to finding an employer. Mika prioritized getting to know firms that weren’t too large to avoid getting lost in the crowd. “I knew that there was still a lot for me to learn and that I wanted to work with people who could support my growth through mentorship and exposure to diverse work.”

As a new employee, Mika focused on absorbing everything around her and asking questions. “I had no idea how much judgement and software proficiency was involved in the career I was approaching. I learned quickly to utilize those with even a day more experience than me.” Starting a new career, at a new company, with new people can be intimidating for anyone. However, it was a comfort for Mika to know that there were fellow Longhorn alumni ready to welcome her. That included classmate Dan Chilarescu who became a full time employee at KFA after interning with the company the previous year. “Having resources, people, is invaluable when starting your career. I am so happy that KFA is full of people willing to share their time and experience with me.”

When asked what she would tell future graduates about finding the right employer, Mika suggested that they prioritize people before projects. “I know it is tempting to jump right into a big firm with big projects. However, what I’ve learned is that to be ready for those projects, which exist in smaller firms as well, you need great clients and a great employer first.

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