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Sarah Raddatz

Structural Designer
Fluor Canada Ltd.
Sarah Raddatz
Sarah Raddatz
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

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I use software to create building models in 3D and 2D formats to make plans before the construction of the project.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born and raised in Calgary, AB.

I now live in: I still live in Calgary, AB.

I completed my training/education at: I graduated from SAIT’s Civil Engineering Technology program, majoring in Construction Management.

What I do at work

I edit and create small detail drawings for large scale industrial projects. The design supervisors coordinate with the other engineering disciplines. This includes areas such as mechanical, electrical and piping. They also coordinate with the project’s owner to ensure that our structural requirements work with what they need done. Once the supervisor determines what needs to be done, it is given to me to be created on a drafting software. Structural engineers determine if the materials being used in the structure will be able to support the applied loads. The final draft of my drawings will include the materials they recommend.

A construction drawing has the instructions needed to build the project, but without the steps labeled. Being able to interpret these drawings can be a difficult skill to master. Creating drawings requires engineering and technology skills. Often, we need to use different drafting software for different projects. Digital modelling reminds me a lot of playing life simulation games online. This is because designing involves much of the same creativity, with a bit more critical thinking.

There is a lot of teamwork involved in structural design. Everyone has a job to do.. For example, the engineers on the design team work to design the different components of the building. They then give that information to the drafting team. The drafting team then creates a 3D model of the structure to see if it works. Once it is modelled in 3D, it can then be divided up into sections. These sections are then printed out onto 2D sheets for construction purposes.

At my level, I don’t get to make many executive decisions. At a lead designer level, there is a lot more decision making and design work. The goal is to produce finished drawings for structures that will be able to safely support all of the applied loads while maintaining the given purpose.

As I learn more at work and take on new projects, there are many possibilities for progression within my field. Structural design and using drafting software is a skill that is in high demand in the construction industry.

My career path is

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I knew I wanted to follow a math-oriented career that still let me be creative. I registered for a Civil Engineering Technology program and majored in Construction Management. This 2-year diploma program involved a lot of hands-on training. It also lead me to many different career options because the Civil Engineering industry is so broad and in high demand. I took courses related to structural design, material testing, construction practices, material estimating, surveying, geology, drafting and several others. The program exposed me to many different subjects. This helped me decide what the right path was for me and added knowledge to help me with my current job. Having broad construction knowledge is very useful for specialized tasks because you can understand other things outside of your main job.

Doing a 2-year technical diploma program allowed me to join the work force sooner. It also helped me decide for sure that this was the career path for me. I learned many different skills in school and got to work as a materials tester in the summer between my two years. I enjoyed being able to apply the skills I learned in school to real life projects. A huge part of the appeal to working in construction is that you are working on physical projects. I worked briefly as a carpentry laborer that summer as well.  I can now go to different spots in the city to see staircases and barrier walls that I helped to create.

Even when I am working on the design team stage of the construction process, I still enjoy that this project will have a physical outcome. I have many different professional development and mentoring resources. As a result, the possibilities feel limitless in my field. As previously mentioned, my diploma covered such a broad scope of activities. Because of this, I can explore other career paths such as project coordinating, estimating or materials testing. 

As I am a recent graduate, and I only started my job three months ago, there is still so much to learn. I am currently looking forward to learning more as I progress as a drafter. I’m also looking forward to being able to take on a design lead role. There are also options available to bridge into a university program. This program will allow me to complete a degree in civil engineering. There is a huge benefit to having a technical background and work experience before taking on a degree program. This all helps increase the flexibility of my career path.

I am motivated by

I enjoy the work I do because I always learn something new. Also, I get to apply myself to figure out how to get the job done. It is a rewarding job to have because there is a lot of satisfaction in being a part of a construction project. On both big and small projects, no matter what my contribution is, it is really rewarding to pass by it a few years down the road and say, “I helped make that”.  I also enjoy that I do a lot of new things all the time and work with a lot of different people. There are a lot of networking opportunities to expand the amount of people you know in the industry, and to develop professionally.

How I affect peoples’ lives

A key principle of being an engineering technologist is to protect the public. This is the same as being a professional engineer. When we work as a team to design buildings, we must ensure above all that the final product will be safe to use by others. This is important because taking shortcuts can be very dangerous to others.

Outside of work I

Outside of work, I enjoy skiing in the winter and running in the warmer seasons. I don’t play any sports at the moment, but I am looking at getting into playing slow-pitch in the spring.  I also enjoy lifting weights at the gym.

My advice to others

Take advantage of every possible resource and do not sell yourself short. When entering the construction industry, it is pretty standard to try and just take any job to get your foot in the door. Try not to have that mindset. Do the extra professional development, extracurricular and volunteer work. This will help broaden your horizon and see what options will be available for you.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Foods and Nutrition
  • History
  • Home Economics/Family Studies
  • Industrial Arts
  • Science
  • Math
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Felt at home in the outside, natural environment
  • Was really creative
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best "by doing"
  • Liked to design or build things

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