Dylan Dowling

Dylan Dowling, Civil Engineering - Class of 2016

Dylan Dowling

Graduate program

Master of Applied Science (MASc) in Civil Engineering

Graduation year


Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

I’ve always had an interest in how things worked, whether they were computers (still magic), bikes, planes, or buildings and bridges, and I enjoyed and was good at math and physics. I wondered how people could use math to make sure that buildings and bridges could stand up, especially over hundreds of years. I used to run across Blackfriars Bridge in London, ON, built in 1875, and I always kind of questioned how it worked after 130 years. I also took an architectural design class in high school that showed me the world of buildings, 3D modelling, and construction and loved seeing my work coming to life. All of those together pointed towards civil (and structural) engineering!

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

My experience at Waterloo was transformative. I was always somewhat outgoing, but my time at Waterloo improved my confidence, learning, and abilities tremendously. The classrooms were great, but I really found my own by getting involved in Orientation, EngSoc, and student teams. The volunteering and extracurriculars were where I made friends and developed most as a person, and to be honest are where most of my memories are from. Waterloo was never easy, and never relented, but I enjoyed it immensely and still look back fondly.

What were your favourite classes?

My favourite class is hard to pin down. I loved a few classes for different reasons; dynamics for being just plain exciting (pun intended) and requiring different thinking, structural systems for helping me learn how to think in terms of load paths, and the design classes for the practical and directly useful side of them that I use day-to-day now. I think my absolute favourite though was the fourth year design project. Being given an extremely open project with nothing defined was super challenging and fun, and working closely with some of my best friends made it all the better. It also allowed us to showcase our non-engineering sides with our beautiful branding, lovely logo, wonderful website, and a 3D fly through model, even if we didn’t have to.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

I was extremely fortunate to have a lot of friends throughout undergrad, and they inspired me in so many ways. All of my Orientation friends inspired me to keep working hard through the weeks we ran, my classmates kept pushing me through the years, and the steel bridge team members kept me working for the team, but the most important friends I made at UW were my fourth year group. Whether we were working late at night, living together, or sitting in the fourth year room a little too tired to be sane, they always had my back and kept me moving forward (though maybe after a nap). We haven’t been able to see each other much in the last 16 months, but our Facebook chat never slows down, and I still turn to Gordon for spitballing on particularly tough problems!

Co-op work term history

  • McCormick Rankin (part of MMM, now part of WSP) – Bridge Engineering Assistant
  • Regional Municipality of Niagara – Engineering Assistant
  • City of Ottawa – Engineering Assistant
  • Ontario Ministry of Transportation – Bridge Engineering Assistant
  • Blackwell Structural Engineers – Structural Engineering Assistant

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

I think the biggest thing I learned was how projects work in the real world. A lot of it is technical, but so much more of it is based on the people around us. Coworkers being willing to step up and help each other, working and communicating with field and construction teams, project teams collaborating frantically in the last few days before a big deadline, and seeing structures rise and all of the issues that get resolved during construction really highlighted to me that it is people at the center of projects, and we can’t forget that. The relationships we build can determine how problems get solved, how much stress we feel, and I continue working on relationships to this day.

What is your occupation now?

I’ve been lucky to land in a role that suits me perfectly: a structural engineer. I’ve been working at Gray & Fick in London, ON since the start of 2019 and have been responsible for the design of buildings ranging from 1 storey masonry and steel buildings up to an 8 storey concrete long term care facility. Seeing the building rise out of the ground is always a cool feeling, especially when it’s just down the road from my house. I also handle our website and some of our social media; small companies mean you need to wear a few hats!

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

You could say that! I don’t think that I would have the relationships, the skills, or the abilities that I have today without Waterloo pushing me there. Coop taught me so much about actual engineering and showed me 5 cities, school taught me the hard and soft skills I needed to go after the opportunities I came across, and the people around me helped me build the confidence and drive needed to create my own opportunities.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. Ask for help. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut, spinning your wheels, and that is where your support network comes in. Profs, TAs, friends, they are all there for you and love to help.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Opportunities come up constantly, and they can be a great way to get outside your comfort zone and develop much quicker. Academics are great, but I learned WAY more from volunteering and student teams. On that note though…
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no. We all have a million and one commitments, and it’s a hard program. It’s very easy to get caught up in things, and say yes to everything that comes your way (been there, done that, dropped my calc mark a bunch...). It’s ok to look at your schedule and say no if it means taking better care of yourself or keeping up relationships with family or friends.