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News & Press: President's Message

June Presiden'ts Message

Saturday, June 1, 2019  
Posted by: Tim Hart
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“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

I once told a friend of mine who was going through a tough transition that whoever said this phrase should have been taken out and shot for saying it. At the time I didn’t know that it was Alexander Graham Bell, but I am not sure that it would have mattered. While transitions can be good for us, they can also be ugly, messy, and hard, and no cheerful expression of optimism can change that.

Our profession has significantly changed since I became a structural engineer 30 years ago. Our construction drawings gone from pencils on paper to CAD drawings to BIM models. SAP models that used to be created with text editors and run overnight on shared computers are now created with graphic editors and run in minutes on PCs. Sustainable design and seismic retrofit provisions that did not exist back then have now been added to our standards. We have more female engineers in our profession, and the desire for work/life balance is being respected and granted to engineers at all levels of experience. All of these changes, and more, have been good for our profession and good for us.

On the other hand, our numbers are declining as baby boomers are retiring and college graduates are entering other higher paying professions. Engineers at all levels of experience are moving away from California because they and their families cannot afford to live here. The same technology that allows us to work from home and provide high quality designs with greater efficiency is also allowing our work to be outsourced and commodified. It also excludes from our profession students who lack experience with technology because their families cannot afford to buy a computer or send their children to college.

While we often cannot control change, we can control how we react to it. We can deny it, run from it, begrudgingly accept it, or blindly embrace it without considering the consequences of doing so. We can adapt to change, which sounds nice and safe, but can we do more than that? Can we instead adapt change to us? I wish I had some magic answers to that question that I could leave you with in this, my final President’s Message. Like many of you though, I am still searching for those answers.

This past year has been both a fulfilling and humbling experience for me, and in the process I feel that being President has changed me in ways that I didn’t expect when I started this journey two years ago. I have learned more about leadership, diplomacy, finance, delegation of tasks, budgeting, building ratings, government operations, insurance, memorandums of understanding, membership, and more in the last two years than I ever have over any two-year span in my life.

Every time I was faced with a difficult issue, I asked the same two questions to the Board and to myself: What is best for SEAONC? What is best for the community? There was occasionally disagreement on how we answered those questions both within the Board and among the membership, which is fair. I learned that it was not possible to please everyone all of the time. However, by applying these two principles to each action that the Board took (or in some cases did not take); we could focus on our common goals while we worked through the differences on how to achieve them.

Now the time has come for another series of transitions. Janiele Maffei will be taking over as President and will be gracing these pages for the next 12 months. Marko Schotanus, John Silva, and Past President Taryn Williams will be transitioning off of the Board. Bill Tremayne, Megan Stringer, and Randy Collins will be transitioning from rookie first year directors to veteran second year directors. Three new directors will be transitioning on, and Emily Guglielmo will be transitioning from Director to Vice President. I cannot thank them enough for their insights and service to SEAONC and the structural engineering profession.

It's always been a goal of mine to leave a place in better shape than it was when I arrived. Hopefully that will be the case here. I know that I am a better engineer, a better leader, and a better person for having been SEAONC President. Thank you and good luck to you all.

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Mission: To advance the practice of structural engineering, to build community among our members, and to educate the public regarding the structural engineering profession.

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