Engineering student turns classroom knowledge into part-time employment

Christopher Guay working at CTDI

Christopher Guay, a senior engineering major at Penn State Brandywine, currently works part time as an outside plant drafter at Communications Test Design Inc.

Credit: courtesy of Christopher Guay

MEDIA, Pa. — Christopher Guay, a senior engineering major at Penn State Brandywine, quickly understood the value of real-world experience and wasted no time actively pursuing part-time job opportunities in his field through employment search engines and networking. His search paid off.

“They actually reached out to me,” Guay said about Communications Test Design Inc. (CTDI), a global engineering, repair and logistics company with over 14,000 employees in more than 90 facilities worldwide. Guay currently works part time as an outside plant drafter for the company.   

“As a drafter, I work in collaboration with CTDI engineers to create engineering work prints,” he said. “I assign task codes to the jobs that I work on and update the live databases, making sure everything is in proper order for each project.”

Guay explained that CTDI does work with telecommunications companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, and many of his prints serve as a “bird’s-eye view” for telephone pole and fiber optic cable placement. He said drafting smaller jobs sometimes takes only an hour to complete, while larger designs can take more than two days.

“We start with our database system, which shows how everything is laid out through various wire centers across eastern Pennsylvania,” he said. “Within the database I’ll perform the job details to reflect how the project should look in the real world. Then everything gets extracted from the database into a work print.”

When Guay isn’t at his desk drafting prints, he’s often collaborating with engineers, communicating about various layout options and suggesting creative solutions to problems that may arise. Once a print is complete and reviewed by his supervisor, the construction process begins.

“My favorite thing about my position at CTDI is that I get to work closely with engineers,” he said. “I can easily approach an engineer and ask them questions about a project I’m working on. Everyone is so helpful. It's nice to get my foot in the door.”

One of the most important skills he has learned as an outside plant drafter is “interpretation and communication.” In his role at CTDI, Guay has worked with approximately 40 different internal and external engineers. Having the ability to understand and explain complex subject matter is a key requirement for success. Another must for success, Guay said, is time management.

“My coursework at Brandywine taught me that I really have to manage my time well, and time management has been critical at CTDI,” he said. “All of our projects have due dates. Some jobs are due in two weeks and others are due in two hours. It’s very dynamic, and you have to prioritize to get projects completed on time.”

Overall, Guay described his experience at CTDI as “powerful,” and said he now “works better within teams and has stronger communication and time management skills.”