January President's Message
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Posted by: Janiele Maffei
Happy New Year! If your holidays were like mine you no doubt went to one or two (or seven) holiday parties where you had the opportunity to describe to at least one friend or relative what a structural engineer does. Even my relatives have had to ask a second or third time to try to understand just exactly what I do. Lately I have steered away from the traditional recitation of what an engineer does to a hopefully more dynamic description of why we do what we do. I got the idea from an online search I did recently related to the SEAOC board’s strategic planning effort. I looked up the definitions of a structural engineer and a physician. The definitions available online for structural engineering describe our profession as a sub-discipline of civil engineering dealing primarily with the “design and construction of structures.” The online definition of a physician was very simple but powerful, a physician was described as “a healer.” I took this lesson and applied it to how I describe what I do.
Now, when I describe what I do I include a brief description of how my work keeps
people safe. It allows me to personalize and humanize the description of my very
technical job. Hopefully it also lets others know how important our work is. No doubt
many SEAONC members travelled by plane, train or automobile to be with family
and friends during the busy holidays. In the course of that travel they would have
passed cities and towns of all sizes, crossed highway overpasses and bridges,
and maybe even waited countless hours in vast airport terminals. We know the
technical expertise that went into the design of the built environment around us and
we are proud of the contributions of our profession. More importantly we know how
important that technical expertise is to the people who live and work in that built
environment. Together, through our SEAONC committees and individual efforts, we
have the opportunity to make that less of a secret.