By KP Bhatia, E.I.T, A.M.ASCE

Man with dark brown hair wearing a dark blue suit with a blue patterned shirt and maroon tie.
KP Bhatia

I wish I’d known the importance of a work-life balance. As a new civil engineer, I spent the first two years right out of college trying to learn everything I could. Work became my life. I had no hobbies and no friends outside work.

As a result, I soon lost touch with things that are equally important, like personal relationships and trying new experiences.

Working at a large engineering consulting firm in downtown Philadelphia, I naively thought that hustling came with the job and that I was expected to be on my toes all day. I pulled many all-nighters, working on as many projects as I could, never saying no to senior engineers.

I spent hours of my personal time solving problems that could’ve easily been solved by senior professionals at work. All I had to do was ask, but I felt that I might come off as weak if I asked someone for help.

My drive to learn was so visible that a fellow engineer thought I was “still living life like I was in college,” and it wasn’t long before I realized there was some truth to it.

Once I noticed the serious impact working nonstop was having on my mental health, I knew it was time to get help. So, I sought mentorship through ASCE’s Mentor Match program. I created a profile and reached out to industry leaders willing to mentor young professionals such as myself.

Within a week, I was matched with an experienced professional engineer in Hawaii. We connected once a month online, and I asked him questions I was afraid to ask colleagues at work. Most importantly, this experience showed me it was possible to have a fulfilling career and a happy personal life at the same time.

Working with an experienced professional — especially someone who could see the bigger picture — made me a better engineer. I now realize that things as simple as taking time off regularly, maintaining frequent check-ins with my supervisor, and being patient will help me maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Learning is a lifelong journey, and the field of civil engineering is so vast and technical, there’s something new to learn every day. There are always new problems to solve — but these problems can only be solved if you’re healthy physically and mentally.

KP Bhatia, E.I.T., A.M.ASCE, is a staff engineer at Olsson in Phoenix.

This article first appeared in the May/June 2023 print issue of Civil Engineering as “Wish I'd Known.”

ASCE values the involvement and ideas of early career professionals and sees its younger members as the future of the Society. Learn more.