by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Don’t trust your memory. If you listen to something valuable, write it down. If you come across something important, write it down. And here’s what’s important about your journal. It’s all the ideas you took the meticulous time to gather. It’s one of the greatest proofs that you’re a serious student.”

The above quote by Jim Rohn refers to the importance of documentation – the accumulation of our knowledge and experience. As engineers, practicing good documentation will not only build your own efficiency, but also minimize future errors.

Below are a few tips to document your work:

• After a project deadline – but before clearing your desk of the project – add one more helpful task. Create a new document and summarize the various structural elements you designed (i.e. deep grade beams, seismic loads with R>3, end-plate connections, etc) and include tips to remember next time you design these elements. (you might also want to create this document during the course of the project and add information as you progress through the project.)

• Start a document of lessons learned – Write down the cause of RFIs or field issues that resulted in a good deal of rework. Why repeat?

• Start a library of sample calculations – it can be organized by design element and material.

• Start ‘cheat sheets’ on a variety of design topics (or contribute to already established lists). For example, document software model settings, what to include in Specifications, shop drawing review checklists, takeaways from webinars, etc. It does not need to be comprehensive. It can be one bullet point long until your next lesson learned.

There may come a day when you need to refer to your ‘professional journal’ when a colleague asks a question, or even for a resume. This is an accumulation of your experiences. Consider how valuable this documentation will be after 20+ years.

The checklists recently released as part of our SE University subscription (and part of the SEU Resource Center) is an accumulation of experiences from structural engineers. We invite you to utilize these checklists to build your own ‘professional journal.’ (See the SE University Blog for more information on these checklists.) Feel free to share any of your own lessons learned with us by emailing [email protected].

We hope this will help you and your office grow your accumulation of experiences. Jim Rohn tells us to ‘Be a collector of good ideas for your business, for your relationships, for your future.’

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

We are accustomed to describing work/life balance as the act of balancing time spent at work and time spent away from the office. Perhaps we can also consider a work/life balance as the act of balancing and merging professional and personal goals.

I find it easy in an engineering office to be swept into deadline after deadline without sincerely ‘checking in’ to ensure that one is setting and meeting both personal and professional goals. Professional goals are easier to set as they are tangible – obtaining degrees, licensures, promotions, etc. Personal goals, however, can be overlooked but are as important or perhaps more important than professional goals.

“The real purpose of a goal is what it makes of you as a human being while you pursue it. Who you become as a person is the ultimate reward.” – Anthony Robbins

Is the path you are on and those you are surrounded by align with the person you strive to be? Do you want your goals to have a more positive impact to those around you? It can be as simple as taking time to show more appreciation to others in the office to larger goals of being a mentor or contributing to community or professional organizations.

Jorge Borgoglio states “Do not bury your talents! Set your stakes on great ideals, the ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that make your talents fruitful.”

by Julian Gonsalves and Susan Khalifah, SE, PE

The CHICAGOLAND PROFESSIONAL CHAPTER (CPC), founded in 2005, is one of the largest Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapters in the United States with five active programs in four countries around the world (Honduras, Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Kenya); each program requiring a minimum 5 year commitment with a community. In our nine year history we have completed four programs (in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala) and adopted five additional communities directly impacting approximately 16,000 people and indirectly affecting over 36,000 in the communities’ surrounding areas. Our projects include building community wells, flood mitigation, constructing pedestrian and vehicle bridges, energy management systems, sanitation and latrine systems, water storage and distribution systems and other infrastructure needs that the communities identify.

Here’s a lookback at what EWC-CPC accomplished in 2014:

For a school in Ak’Tenamit, Guatemala: we implemented a new sanitation system complete with 14 flush toilets, 4 waterless urinals, a hand washing system, and a anaerobic baffled reactor for treating the wastewater. We also installed a solar pump for the school’s water supply saving them $5,000 a year in diesel fuel.

For the community of Armenta, Honduras: we constructed a new storage tank, new sedimentation tank and trained and assisted community members on how to install pipelines and pipe bridges; working together with the community, the residents will have access to water everyday instead of once a week.

For the community of Candelaria, Honduras: we constructed a river training structure to help with the local economy, made improvements to their Waste Management site, demonstrated disposal methods for their medical waste, and helped the community with their environmental stewardship.

For the community of Mayanja-Kibuke, Kenya: we worked with community members on building spring boxes to protect their water sources from contamination. The team built 5 spring boxes and they trained the community on how to construct additional spring boxes as well as how to repair damaged ones.

For the community of Napenkara, Burkino Faso: in the village of Napenkara, the NGO Future for Faso Children (FFC) and Evanston Lighthouse Rotary implemented a water well in 2013. We are working with FFC to implement a second water well for the village.

All of these projects happened because of CPC’s hard work and the generosity of our donors. Our Chapter’s success is a direct result of our 120+ members and our 200+ network of volunteers. The CPC 2014 Year-End Campaign continues until January 10, 2015 and with your help we can have an even larger impact in 2015.

To learn more about our work, get involved or donate, please visit:

To contact EWB Chicagoland Professionals, please e-mail [email protected]



by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

With the holidays upon us, and as you hopefully find time to recover from recent project deadlines, it is a good time to rebalance. Is there one area in your life you would like to improve upon? Start small. Perhaps reach out to one old friend once a month, or insert a daily task planning session into your calendar.

“A new discipline immediately alters your life direction. You don’t change destinations immediately, but you can change direction immediately.”

The above quote by Jim Rohn is taken from his book Leading an Inspired Life. He defines discipline as “those unique steps of intelligent thought and activity that put a lid on temper and a faucet on courtesy; that develop the positive and control the negative; that encourage success and deter failure.”

He provides three keys to discipline:

1) Awareness of the need to make necessary changes

2) Willingness and eagerness to maintain your new discipline deliberately, wisely, and consistently

3) Commitment in daily life

So start the process of mastering one small discipline. Then move on to another. This places the focus on building your character, your work ethic, and who you are becoming, slowly through small disciplines. As Mr. Rohn states, “whatever good things we build end up building us.”

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Young engineers have asked me: “How do I take my engineering career to the next level?”

I like to respond to this question with: “When you are given a new task or new problem to solve, imagine you do not have an engineer in the office more senior than you.”

Ask yourself:

  • How would you approach the problem?
  • What are issues a more senior engineer would consider?
  • Do you need to raise any questions to the external team to confirm assumptions?
  • How does your work impact another team member’s work (internal or external)?
  • Think outside of the box to sketch possible solutions.

Next write a quick outline of how you would approach your problem, and briefly sit down with your senior engineer to confirm your approach. Ask him/her to tell you if he/she would have approached the problem differently, and if you had any missing gaps. Finally, perform the task based on your approach as validated by your senior engineer.

This forces you to think independently and take initiative. Discussing your approach with your senior engineer allows you to discover specific gaps you may have in your method of thinking, and also helps to build trust with your senior engineer. Considering how your work impacts other team members or vice versa reminds you to keep the big picture in mind. Lastly, it could save valuable time in ensuring you are not ‘spinning wheels’. The more you do this, the more you will hopefully decrease the number of gaps in your approach, begin to think and perform like a senior engineer… and in time, you will find you are taking your career to that next level.


About the Author: Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE, is now helping us grow our SE University program. She can be reached at [email protected]. For more information on her background, see our blog post under “News.”

Cathleen_JacintoWe are excited to announce that we have hired Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE, to expand the technical content for SE University™. This will include additional information to further enhance the Innovation Hub of the SEU Resource Center™ as well as technical content for web seminars. Cathleen was the author of the Coordination Checklist for Elevator Design.

Cathleen worked as a structural engineer in Chicago for 14 years, including 10 years at Thornton Tomasetti and 4 years at T.Y. Lin International. She has a BSCE from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) and a Master’s in Structural Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). A licensed SE and PE in Illinois, Cathleen lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two daughters.

She can be reached via email at [email protected], or you can also connect with her on LinkedIn at

Most articles I have read on multitasking (trying to do 2 or more things at the same time) say that multitasking reduces your effectiveness. As someone who has tried to multitask, I would have to agree. In addition to becoming less effective, if any of the tasks on which you are working involves interaction with another person, there is the “human” aspect of having that other person feel you are barely paying attention to his or her issue because you are simultaneously trying to work on something else.

I spend quite a bit of time on the phone talking with people and I like to take notes to help me remember the conversation. While it might be more “efficient” for me to take notes on the computer, I don’t, because I do not want the person with whom I’m speaking to think I’m multitasking when they hear the keyboard clicking. Instead, I take handwritten notes and later scan the file into my database.

I will sometimes see on a resume or LinkedIn profile the phrase…”Effective Multitasker.” I think in many cases that portrays the negative image to others that you don’t focus on the particular task at hand. My recommendation would be to NOT put this on your resume or profile. Rather, consider putting something more along the lines of… “able to manage multiple projects effectively.”

For more helpful details on this subject, please see “Exposing the Multitasking Myth: 4 Better Ways to Manage Your Time” from

How much time do you spend in your car each year? Why not take advantage of “windshield time” to improve your skills and knowledge? I learned this idea from Zig Ziglar, who was a well known salesperson and sales trainer, and have found it to be very helpful. (I started implementing this back when cassette tapes were the medium used.)

I must admit that there are times when my 2 children wonder why they get subjected to listening to these presentations, but my hope is that at least some of the ideas will take root in them.

There is an abundance of material available for you to learn from depending on your interests, including technical presentations related to structural engineering.

One of my favorites is “The Art of Exceptional Living” by Jim Rohn. I keep this in my car and listen to it several times a year. Here are a few of my favorite thoughts/quotes from Jim…

– Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.
– Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills.
– You don’t get paid for time, you get paid for the value you bring to the marketplace.

Please email me suggestions of your favorite learning material. For the first person who emails me their personal learning favorite, I will send you a free copy of either Jim Rohn’s CD, “The Art of Exceptional Living,” or Dale Carnegie’s Book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

In a future article, I will include the suggestions I receive from you.

In the meantime, order something educational for your “windshield time” today, and have a great October!

SE Solutions was pleased to recently present scholarships to two Purdue MSCE-Structures students to help defray the cost of their education. Di Chen and Harsh Nisar were the recipients of the award. This is the third year that SE Solutions has offered the scholarships.

Purdue University MSCE Students and Scholarship Winners Harsh Nisar (left) and Di Chen (right), with SE Solutions, LLC President Brian Quinn

Purdue University MSCE Students and Scholarship Winners Harsh Nisar (left) and Di Chen (right), with SE Solutions, LLC President Brian Quinn 

Di and Harsh anticipate graduating this December and are excited to start their careers in structural engineering.

Di Chen received his BSCE from Tongji University in China, and he will be finishing his MSCE this December (2014). He is interested in finding a position in structural engineering and is open to moving anywhere in the US. Di is an international student and would require work sponsorship at some point in the future (after his initial “OPT”).

Just before Di started college, the Wenchuan Earthquake (also called Sichuan Earthquake) hit China in May 2008 causing immense damage and claiming approximately 90,000 lives while injuring over 300,000. This earthquake hit about 75 miles from Di’s home. Luckily, no one from his family was hurt, but this event was why Di chose to become a structural engineer, and he was involved in the recovery events after the earthquake. Di has a perfect 4.0 GPA in the MS Program at Purdue.

For additional background on Di, please see his Linkedin profile at .

Harsh Nisar received his BSCE from the Indian Institute of Technology at Bombay. He is doing a master’s thesis related to developing an axisymmetric finite element for cylindrical tanks with thermal loads. Harsh will be finishing his coursework in December and hopes to have his thesis finished shortly afterwards. He would like to find a structural engineering position anywhere in the US and his passion is Solid Mechanics. Here is what Harsh had to say about Solid Mechanics…

Solid Mechanics drew me towards structural engineering. As a high school student I was fascinated by the simplicity and universality of the principles of classical mechanics. This has only grown as I’ve gained more insight into solid mechanics, especially with respect to structural behavior. As a structural engineer one works in special cases of a far more general framework of solid mechanics. This generality remains spellbinding. The challenge is in isolating favorable behavior for a system through analysis and enforcing conditions, through design, to ensure favorable outcome.”

Harsh is an international student and would require work sponsorship at some point in the future (after his initial “OPT”). Harsh also has a perfect 4.0 GPA in the MS Program at Purdue.

For additional background on Harsh, please see his Linkedin profile at

Technology exists today that is helping improve the process of shop drawing review. Engineers who utilize the Model Review technology are finding they are improving the quality of their review, in addition to saving time and having more fun. Once implemented, most engineers comment how they would not want to go back to the former processes.

This new process is also increasing the level of collaboration between engineers and fabricators/detailers. It is important to reiterate that technology such as this is simply a tool that facilitates a better way of working, but at the core of this must be the desire from both sides to increase collaboration.

The feedback from engineers who have implemented these new workflows has been very positive. Erleen Hatfield, P.E. and Partner at Buro Happold in New York, had this to say about her experience in utilizing this new technology: “When fabricators are willing to send us models as the shop drawings instead of the traditional 2D paper drawings (we call these ‘shop models’ since ‘shop drawings’ doesn’t really fit anymore) we know the review process is going to go much smoother and significantly faster.”

If you would be interested in learning more about how this technology could help your firm, please visit our Model Review Resources page. You can also contact Brian Quinn, P.E., at 616-546-9420 or by email at [email protected].

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