Have you ever heard the comment that one of the ways to constantly improve is to “hang around successful people” who inspire you?  Jeffrey Gitomer, in his book “Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude”, says: “If you want to achieve positive, you have to surround yourself with it and live it.” (page 59)

We would like your feedback to learn what are the characteristics of your best supervisors or colleagues that inspire you to always improve and become better?

We will report the results (anonymously – your name will not be used) in a future article, for all to benefit.  To provide your feedback, simply e-mail Brian.Quinn@FindYourEngineer.com.  We look forward to hearing from you!

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Springtime tends to yield several project deadlines as construction season comes into full swing. In the midst of a busy season, QA/QC and project checking may perhaps fall to a lower priority to meet critical deliverables.

During these times, one of the most basic organizational tools – the simple checklist – can improve the proficiency of teams and individuals performing complex tasks. Effective checklists can form the backbone for a project’s success, a team’s communication, and an engineering office’s QA/QC standards. Checklists establish a higher standard of baseline performance, while protecting against or minimizing failures.

Below are a few tips to implementing engineering design or construction checklists:

  • Prioritize the completion of checklist items by deadlines – Schematic Design, Design Development, Permit, Construction Documents, etc. Add internal dates for completion of tasks
  • Assign team members to address specific checklist items
  • Use checklists as a teaching tool – A way to transfer knowledge from experienced engineers to a junior team of engineers
  • Set a recurring appointment on your calendar to commit perhaps an hour biweekly to review your or your office’s checklists
  • After you experience any ‘lesson learned’ on a project, add this to your checklist to avoid repeating the same mistake
  • Set a good example – If a project manager uses checklists, it is more likely his/her team will practice the habit of using checklists

However, the challenge is committing time to develop and implement checklists within aggressive project schedules. There are checklists available as part of our SE University subscription (and part of the SEU Resource Center) that will hopefully reduce your time in developing standards. We encourage the use of our checklists as a template to fit your office and project priorities. A few checklists released thus far include a Coordination Checklist for Elevator Design, Structural / Architectural Coordination Checklist, and a Steel Shop Drawing Review Checklist. Please see this link to a full summary of SEU Resource Center Documents available when you log into the SEU Resource Center.

The first 25 people to e-mail Brian.Quinn@FindYourEngineer.com will be given a checklist of their choice.  Simply let Brian know which one you would like.

We hope you will find the tips above and the resources we offer helpful for you and your office!

In an effort to “Pay It Forward,” SE University is happy to announce our “SEU Speaker Inspires” program in which our speakers can designate a charity/organization of their choice for SE University to make a donation to help improve our world.

Otto Schwarz, PE, SE Ryan Biggs Clark Davis

Otto Schwarz, PE, SE
Ryan Biggs Clark Davis

In March 2015, Otto Schwarz, PE, SE, from Ryan Biggs Clark Davis, gave a talk on Concrete Slabs on Grade for SE University. He chose his alma mater, Tennessee Technological University, for the donation of the month.

Otto said this about his choice, “Tennessee Tech gave me a firm base of knowledge for all I have done since and I am very grateful for the professors who dedicated their efforts toward the engineering student body.”

Thank you, Otto, for helping structural engineers with your SE University session, and for your designation of Tennessee Technological University as our SEU Speaker Inspires Organization of the Month!


by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

“Always do something that makes you uncomfortable, or puts you in a position to meet new people or do things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. And you’ll be surprised what kind of result comes out of it… that kind of experience is going to create overall growth.”

One might say that these words by Avery Bang, CEO of Bridges to Prosperity, may fall in the ‘easy-to-say, harder-to-do’ category. However, Avery has shown how she has put these words into action through her work in Bridges to Prosperity, a non-profit organization that focuses on building bridges in underdeveloped communities.

On the Bridges to Prosperity website, Avery Bang is described as one of ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers of 2012. Avery was also honored on ENR Mountain Region’s Top 20 Under 40 list in 2013, and was selected as one of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Fresh Faces in 2011, recognizing the top ten Civil Engineers under 30.  Avery is a Distinguished Young Alumni of The University of Iowa, recipient of the Recent Alumni Award from The University of Colorado at Boulder, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Clarkson University in 2014.

I had the opportunity to hear Avery speak at the SEAOI Midwest Bridge Conference in Chicago, IL. A motivating speaker, Avery inspired her structural engineering audience with a fresh perspective of how her decision to study abroad in college as well as her desire to build led her to discover her passion to build bridges and make a positive impact. “I returned a different person. For the first time, I realized the privilege I’d been given. I appreciated the opportunity, and I really wouldn’t settle for anything less than profound.”

We invite you to invest 14 minutes to watch this 2012 inspiring talk by Avery Bang.

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 Cathleen.Jacinto@LearnWithSEU.com.

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: http://ewb-usa-chicago.org/.

To contact EWB Chicagoland Professionals, please e-mail president@ewb-usa-chicago.org



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 Cathleen.Jacinto@LearnWithSEU.com. 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 Cathleen.Jacinto@LearnWithSEU.com, or you can also connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/cathleenjacinto.


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