By Rasheed Ahmad, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE

I wish I’d known earlier in my career the importance of and the benefits to being involved in professional societies such as ASCE. When I studied environmental engineering at Georgia Tech in the early 1990s, I was not a student member of ASCE. I didn’t join the Society until 2000, which was four years after I graduated.

Even then I was not very involved. While at my first two jobs, with consulting engineering firms, my “involvement” was limited to reading Civil Engineering magazine and attending lunches with the local ASCE chapter in Atlanta.

A man in a blue suit smiles at the camera.
Rasheed Ahmad

It wasn’t until I was hired by the city of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management in 2006 that I started to get active. It happened when my office director, who was very involved with the local chapter’s Environmental and Water Resources Group, asked his staff to attend a chapter meeting where he would be giving a presentation.

I was greatly impressed by the number of engineering professionals there, including some of my former professors. So when the chapter leaders asked for speakers for upcoming meetings, I signed up.

Public speaking did not come easily to me, but I pushed myself and discovered that I could do it. It helped that the audience was quite friendly and engaged in a constructive discussion of my topic: membrane technology and its application in drinking water.

That initial experience encouraged me to volunteer with the chapter by helping plan future meetings and finding new speakers, among other roles.

By 2014, I was chair of the Atlanta chapter’s EWRG, helping plan technical seminars and workshops, volunteering at school career fairs, and collaborating with student chapters, among other activities. I also started attending national ASCE meetings.

Fortunately, my employers — from the city of Atlanta to WSP USA, WK Dickson, and now Black & Veatch — supported all these efforts, which I feel enhanced my professional and personal growth tremendously. Not only did they boost my confidence in myself and what I could accomplish, but these activities also provided a service to the profession and the community.

So to younger engineers, I say: Get involved as soon as you can! You’ll learn new things, find new opportunities, and gain a broader view of the world and the state of the industry. 

Rasheed Ahmad, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, is a technical leader with Black & Veatch in Atlanta.

This article first appeared in the November/December 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. Not a member? Now is your time to connect, get inspired, and advance.