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Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

  • 1.  Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-13-2020 09:20 PM

    Welcome to the first Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything! Featuring @David Odeh and @Cherylyn Henry. (Review their bios).

    One of the staple events at SEI's Structures Congress is the Meet the Leaders breakfast where students and young professionals get the chance to sit down with leaders in small groups and pick their brains in an informal mentoring session and gain career insights. Since the Congress was canceled this year we decided to bring it Virtual!

    Both leaders have agreed to answer your questions on this thread. We have asked the leaders to keep their answers concise. This thread will be open for questions until 4:00 p.m EST Friday, April 17. The leaders will reply to all questions by Monday, April 20. Please skim the thread before posting to avoid duplicate questions. Please make sure to direct your question to a specific leader or both if you would like them both to respond.  Moderators reserve the right to remove or consolidate duplicate questions.

    Just a reminder – questions must comply with the ASCE Collaborate Code of Conduct.

    See you in the thread!

    Brittany Boyce Aff.M.ASCE
    Senior Coordinator, SEI Communications & Operations

  • 2.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-14-2020 11:30 AM
    Thank you @Brittany Boyce for starting this thread and giving us this awesome opportunity virtually!

    As a young professional going on 3 years into my career, my question for @David Odeh and @Cherylyn Henry is the following: What is one thing you wish you knew when you were just starting out your career in structural engineering? ​

    I am looking forward to your answers as well as seeing all the other great questions asked throughout this week.

    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA

  • 3.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-14-2020 05:30 PM
    Hello Dani,

    Thanks for partaking in the AMA, and thanks for the question, a great one at that! My answer isn't something that I didn't know when I was just starting my career, but rather something on which I wish I had focused more strongly. And that is, being your own advocate. Really communicate with your boss and colleagues about the kind of projects you would like to work on, and what more you would like to learn. Taking the initiative to learn on your own is great, but ensuring that those who have an influence over your work load should know your goals too. In my early years, it felt like the senior engineers in my office saw the younger engineers as a commodity who were cheap labor to crunch numbers. It was an intimidating setting for someone just starting out and I felt apprehensive about sharing my goals. That was quite some time ago, but the sentiment is still applicable, and something you should continue throughout your career. Thanks again for the question!

    Cherylyn Henry, P.E., F.SEI, M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer | Project Manager
    ZAPATA, Inc.
    Charlotte, NC

  • 4.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-14-2020 06:04 PM
    Welcome Danielle and thanks for getting us started.

    One thing that I wish I knew when I started my career was how important it was to ask questions when I was uncertain about my career path or my work.  I was lucky in my first job to work for a firm with incredible technical training opportunities and many leading structural engineers - but like many I think I became intimidated by my own fear of asking something that might sound like a "dumb question".  I've learned over the years that there is no such thing!

    As an example, I recall struggling with an excel spreadsheet for several hours - it was complex and had been developed by a more senior engineer in my office and I just couldn't make the numbers work.  I assumed that I was missing something and just needed to work harder to figure it out.  Later, I asked that engineer a couple of questions (after wasting most of a day working on it), and we found out that there was a bug in the calculations...if I had just asked early on and had confidence in my work I would have saved alot of time.  Nothing bad happens when you ask questions - sometimes you might be dead wrong in your assumptions, but at least you can learn quickly why that is the case and move on to solve problems more effectively.

    The same goes with your career.  I think it's important to find one or more mentors (I still have them today - and could not do my job as a firm leader without them), and make time to regularly check in with questions about your professional development.  A good mentor will listen, but it's a two-way street - you need to listen and respect advice.  Only you can make the decisions about your career that need to be made, but a good mentor can help you think through and frame your decisions properly.

    Hope this helps!


    David J. Odeh
    SE, PE, F. SEI, F. ASCE
    Principal, Odeh Engineers, Inc.
    Technical Region Director, ASCE

  • 5.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-14-2020 12:14 PM

    Thanks for starting this thread! This is one of my favorite events at the Structures Congress. My questions for @David Odeh and @Cherylyn Henry is - With the current situation and with many college senior looking ahead to start their career in Structural Engineering, what advice you have for them in terms of adjusting to the new norm, entering the profession, and preparing to be successful in the first 90 days of work?​​

    Luis Duque EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Broomfield CO

  • 6.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything

    Posted 04-14-2020 05:38 PM
    Hello Luis,

    Thanks for the question! My advice to newly minted engineering graduates is the same that I give to my team at work, which is communication. While beginning one's career during a pandemic is far from ideal, communicating with your co-workers on a consistent basis will help ease the transition. If the graduate has little to no office experience, he or she may find that starting work remotely isn't far off from being in school - you have assignments and deadlines, and you still need to submit your work for review. If you have questions during the work day, reach out when you feel that you need help. Don't wait. You'll feel (and will be) more productive when you can collaborate with your co-workers. Everyone has to start somewhere, if your questions will be appreciated.

    If there's a slow down in office work, ask your boss what else you can do to help and be productive. You could get your feet wet in proposal writing and putting together cost estimates, start learning about project specifications, or take webinars that cover topics you perhaps didn't learn in school. Overall, your transition into the profession will be far more successful if you communicate well from the beginning. Thanks again for the question!

    Cherylyn Henry, P.E., F.SEI, M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer | Project Manager
    ZAPATA, Inc.
    Charlotte, NC

  • 7.  RE: Meet the Leaders: Ask Me Anything