From Term Papers to Spread Sheets: Graduate reminisces on his time in...

From Term Papers to Spread Sheets: Graduate reminisces on his time in school, challenges of ‘real life’

Colin McHattie was flabbergasted at the tower of spreadsheets on his desk.

He said he began to notice how often he was tugging on his white collar as the top button of his shirt constricted his neck.

These were merely minor changes in his life that he said he had to adjust to after graduating from college.

He was out in the real world now and, armed with an education; he was ready for the new challenges.

Change is difficult for most people, but for McHattie it turned out change was nothing but an adventure.

It felt like only yesterday when McHattie walked the stage at Texas A&M University-Kingsville with his master’s degree in civil engineering.

Today, he is working at an engineering firm as an assistant project manager.

After getting acquainted with others at the office, he said he began the long process of learning the city and county rules the engineers had to abide by.

McHattie grinned as he reflected on the days where he lived by no rules.

“I went down to Mexico with my buddy Abel in fall of 2007 and had the craziest night of my life,” he began excitedly.”That night, we avoided being arrested by two trucks of cops, and lost our friends, who say they were trying to run to the border the whole night.”

He smirked as he shamefully continued to count.

“We avoided a fight with the father of a girl who owned the bar and brought all his bouncers to confront my friend until he apologized, and then we barely had enough money to get back across the border,” McHattie said.

Now working and living in Houston, McHattie no longer spends his nights in foreign countries and is usually in bed by 10 p.m.

Growing up in Victoria, TX, he said engineering had an impact on his life.

“I chose to become an engineer because almost everyone on my dad’s side of the family is an engineer, and it got me interested,” he said. “Modern Marvels and the History Channel did the rest.”

His Minnesota-native father and South African mother have always supported McHattie.

“Since I graduated in the fall, a majority of my friends took off before the graduation, so I spent a lot of time with my parents,” he rolled his eyes jokingly and laughed.

“Nah, but it was nice. The first time I graduated, I was really excited about it, but I didn’t want to leave school, because I was still having too much fun.”

McHattie said he struggled just as much as other students after they graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but he did not give up hope.

In his case, the best solution to the problem was to continue his education.

“Furthering my education was basically due to not getting a job a year after initial graduation,” he said. “It seemed like the best idea at the time and it all worked out.”

Not only did it all work out, he said it also gave him a perspective of reality.

“Graduating the second time wasn’t as exciting as the first time, but now I was ready to leave the crazy partying behind,” he said.

As part of his master’s requirement, McHattie had to complete and present a research project in front of his professors and fellow students in order to walk the stage for a second time.

“My research project consisted of corrosion on circular steel pieces and buckling them to find the affect the corrosion had on their capacity,” he explained as easy as possible.

He said it was a crucial and difficult task, McHattie was victorious.

“I propose that there be other times in life where it is not only acceptable, but encouraged to celebrate like a touchdown dance or a soccer celebration,” he said. “It felt so good to have it done with, because that’s when I knew for sure I would be graduating again.”

About a month after graduation, McHattie was interviewed for the Assistant Project Manager position and began working right away.

“I don’t think they trust me with anything too big yet,” he laughed. “They have been slowly working me into things.”

As he is learning the basics of his position as an engineer, McHattie said he had his foot in the door that could lead to a long and successful career in civil engineering.

“I currently have about ten projects in different stages,” he said. “A lot of it is waiting to hear back from someone or getting plans back, so the biggest challenge is really being organized enough to not forget anything.”

McHattie may have a new and busy schedule, but said he still finds time to let loose and hang out with his friends.

When the clock strikes 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, he said he springs out of his office chair and loosens his new tie for a fun-filled weekend.

“I usually head up to the Woodlands on Friday with friends to play some music and then go out Saturday nights,” McHattie said. “We do something a little different each weekend because there is a lot going on in Houston.”

When Monday morning comes back around, McHattie looks forward to going back to work.

He will someday adjust to his tight shirt collar, and his workload will grow easier to juggle.

Whether he is running away from the police in Mexico, or handling a new city project on his own, he said he will never give up and continue to succeed.


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Carlos Bazaldua">