In our recently launched series we will show the everyday life of civil engineers working in different fields, to help the to-be and present university students see what opportunities does a civil engineer have.
Zsuzsanna Ritter-Kiss had also worked as a civil engineer in Azerbaijan, where people even surprised about seeing a woman in the technical field, and prepares tenders at Market Építő Ltd for years, as a preparatory technical engineer. Sometimes she met people in Hungary also, who do not take her seriously, but she says, you have to be very professional to have them go beyond this.
How did you get to the Faculty of Civil Engineering?
As I have read the previous interviews, I can say that the usual way: I tried the Faculty of Architecture, but my freehand drawing knowledge wasn’t enough. Later, of course I do not regret it at all. I had some advantage over the other to-be civil engineers, because my two years older cousin was also a student there, so I got useful information from him.
It was clear during you university years that what kind of specialization did you interested in?
I became clear to me very soon, that I am interested in structural engineering and in architect-engineer specialization, which is quite rare in the Hungarian engineering practice. The road-railway or pipeline construction fields did not attract me, so I insisted on my first plans. But originally I was interested in designing, finally I chose another way.
What happened after getting your degree?
When I graduated in 2010, the local building construction was at its low point, no one was searching for a junior structural engineer. I got the information of the Market Ltd from an acquaintance, they searched for preparatory technical engineer. I went to the job interview, and since then I am working here.
What do you exactly do as a preparatory technical engineer?
I make tenders. When there is a tender called for any kind of work which matches to our profile, our job starts: after checking thoroughly the tender documents, we find out how can we build it in the most optimum way. After coordinating with the designers, the sub-contractors and the special contractors we make the tender. It has to be realizable, appealing to the customer and competitive (quick and cheap) at the same time.
Regarding what you said, your job has a financial part too. Did you learn about the financials within the construction industry or you get the important information at work?
I think, this is something that you cannot learn at university, you have to learn it from the more experienced colleagues, sub-contractors, customers and conductors, who deal with this for years. This is why in the first two or three years you cannot make a whole tender by yourself. And of course, you always have to ask every question comes into your mind, to learn everything.
How does your usual workdays look like? This is a typical office job from 8 AM to 5 PM?
Basically this is an office job, but there are several outside meetings with the customers for example. The length of my workday depends on the project: where are we standing within it and how well-prepared it is. We have to prepare the tender until the deadline, so if we are in a late, we do not work 8 hours a day. This is the same story as at the other fields of construction industry.
Which is the best part of it?
There are works, which we make with more versions and valuations, because they are realizable in more than one ways. It means, that we have to work more, because it’s not rare to get the needs of the customer in the form of a few colourful rectangle and a few sentences. This is the part, when it comes out that how could you learnt everything at university and the part, where you need your creativity, ingenuity and braveness. But when we win a more difficult tender and see one of our versions materializing, this is a wonderful feeling, what makes proud everyone who took part in it.
Is that ever caused any difficulty that you are working in a field, which is a male-dominated area – according to the stereotypes. (At BME Faculty of Civil Engineering the sex ratio is 50-50%.)
I have took part in a foreign project within the Market Ltd in Azerbaijan. There it was a great surprise that as a woman I can get close to technical stuff, especially at implementation. But sometimes here, in Hungary I find myself called „Honey-bunny”, but I think you have to step over this, do not notice at all, just do your job as a professional and then they also move on fast – as I experienced.
Are you satisfied with your wage?
Yes, I am satisfied, you can thrive in it.
For what kind of person do you recommend being a civil engineer?
I think the most important quality is open-mindedness. Not only to the engineering but to the beautiful things in general, because you can learn many things during travelling of just when you look around in your environment. You just have to notice those things, buildings, milieu, which you have to watch to learn from it. The other part is that for this career, you need decisive acting, a weak-kneed person has no chance in this field. But, of course this is something that you can improve.