I recently received an email from Anthony Fasano (Institute for Engineering Career Development) that had a link to Darren Hardy’s presentation titled “Productivity Strategies of Superachievers.” This is an incredible presentation and I highly recommend you carve out 90 minutes to watch it asap. There is no cost and I’m confident you will get immediate benefits. Click below to watch the YouTube presentation and enjoy a more productive and fulfilling life!

During the April 2013 SE University session, Otto Schwarz from Ryan Biggs Associates, PC discussed how engineers can manage the process of special inspections for their projects. One of the key items discussed was the type of paperwork that is required, and how to create the necessary documents.

Otto pointed to a few SEA groups that have made documents available for download. One of these was the Structural Engineers Association of Georgia (SEAOG). SEAOG has created a Program of Special Inspections, working together with building officials. Part of the Program of Special Inspections is a Special Inspections package that is based on IBC 2006. The listing of forms is available at http://www.seaog.org/SIP.html.

While there may be modifications needed to these forms to bring them up to date for the latest codes, they provide a good starting point for creating a library of special inspections documents that can be used by your firm.

We hope you find this information helpful. If you have other sources you have used to create special inspection documents, please let us know in the comments.


Have you ever sent out an email, then realized a word is missing in the subject line? Have you written a report, and realized after the report was sent that words were misplaced or used incorrectly? Could these errors have been caught with better proofreading procedures?

During the October 2013 SE University continuing education session “Improving Your Writing as a Structural Engineer”, Janel Miller presented information on the process of proofreading. She explained that while one function of proofreading is to catch spelling mistakes, it is also critical to address issues such as missing or extra words, inconsistent formatting, and incorrect labeling of tables or graphics.

Janel Miller is an Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Janel also consults privately in writing instruction, business process improvement, failure modes and effects analyses (FMEA), and meeting facilitation.

Janel can be reached at (412) 404-8159, or by email.

In this two minute, 40 second clip, Janel suggests steps that you can use when proofreading documents, and outlines four key areas to review to ensure the documents you present are error free.


Watch the Video Now!


As a continuation of my discussion last month on Dale Carnegie’s famed “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book, I wanted to focus this month on the chapter titled “You Can’t Win an Argument.” In this chapter Dale notes that “nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right.” Therefore, you can’t really “win” an argument because if you are correct you lose and if you are not correct, you lose.

This reminds me of great advice I learned from listening to recordings from Zig Ziglar. Zig talks about how once someone tells you “no”, you won’t get them to change their minds. Do people change their minds – YES, but only because they “make a new decision based upon new information.” So, to get people to see/understand your point of view better, you will need to provide additional information so they can make a new decision based upon new information.

Here are some suggestions from Dale’s book that come from an article in “Bits and Pieces” about how to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument:

  • Welcome the disagreement
  • Distrust your first instinctive impression
  • Control your temper
  • Listen first
  • Look for areas of agreement
  • Be honest
  • Promise to think over the opponents’ ideas and study them carefully
  • Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest
  • Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem

Happy Reading!

During February I read two great blog posts from Anthony Fasano, PE, who founded “Powerful Purpose Associates,” a company dedicated to helping engineers improve their careers and lives. I wanted to share these with you in the hope that they will help you also.


The first post is from Feb. 7th and is titled “Consistency is a Critical Component to a Successful Engineering Career and Overall Happiness.” I highly recommend you read the entire article, but I wanted to reiterate the 4 items he lists for introducing more consistency into your work routine:

  1. Spend some time at the end of EACH day reviewing your to-do items for the following day and list them in the order of importance.
  2. Pick a time of the day (the same time every day) to walk away from the computer and possibly even exercise for as long as you can.
  3. Check e-mail at certain times during the day, NOT all day.
  4. Wake up earlier each day and use the time to accomplish the same tasks each day. (Anthony discusses how he now gets up 1 hour earlier – at 5am, and is accomplishing a lot more. He also gets to bed earlier by eliminating some TV)


The second post is from Feb. 20th and is titled “Setting Big Picture Engineering Career Goals is the Most Important Thing You Can Do in Your Career and Life.” You can read the entire article by clicking on the title.

In the article Anthony describes “three steps for setting big picture goals that will ensure you stay engaged and fulfilled, both at your engineering job and at home.” These 3 steps are:

  1. Describe Your Ultimate Engineering Career Goal
  2. Describe Your Ultimate Personal Goal (Not Related to Your Engineering Career)
  3. Describe Your Ultimate Goal

I hope you find both of these blogs helpful. Anthony has multiple other insightful articles from which you may also benefit. You will see a list of categories for topics in the upper right corner when you visit the site.

During the February 2014 SE University Session, Kim Olson discussed gapped and overlapped truss connections. She talked about the “Hidden Toe” partial overlap condition, and welding requirements for the hidden toe. Kim noted that welding of the hidden toe is not required if the components normal to the chord differ by 20% or less, and a question was posed by an attendee wanting to know what comparison should be made to evaluate the 20% difference.

Kim explained that the comparison is between the components of the branch forces normal to the chord member. This is also explained in two Modern Steel Construction articles linked below.

Overlapped connections were discussed in the “shop and field issues” column Special Treatment, written by Tom Schlafly, Director of Research at AISC, in the March 2008 issue of Modern Steel Construction (MSC). In the June 2010 issue of MSC, a question about whether the hidden toe should always be fully welded was posed as part of the Steel Quiz (see Question 4). In the answer, it states “[full] welding is only required if the normal components of the two branch forces differ by more than 20%.”

We hope that you find this information helpful. If you have any questions you would like to see answered, please leave us a comment below.


SE Solutions is excited to be assisting AISC with its event for structural engineering students at the North American Steel Construction Conference (NASCC) for the 4th year in a row. The Students Connecting with Industry Sessions (SCIS) begins with several speakers in the morning talking about student specific issues, followed by lunch and an exhibit hall tour. The afternoon features an opportunity for students to meet one-on-one with 40 great companies involved in all different aspects of structural engineering as part of the Direct Connect networking session.

With this year’s event being in Toronto, students from both the US and Canada will be attending. Student members of AISC and CISC can attend NASCC and SCIS for no charge, and in addition, the education foundations of both AISC and CISC are offering travel reimbursements up to $175 per student. For more information on the event, please see www.aisc.org/scis.

Brian Quinn and Lisa Willard from SE Solutions will be attending NASCC April 26 – 28. If you will be attending, we hope to see you there!


“So what is it that people need and want? People need and want a satisfying experience of life. Over the past three years I have asked more than ten thousand respondents, ‘If you had to choose between balance and satisfaction, which would you choose?’ Not a single respondent chose balance over satisfaction. People want to live deeply satisfying lives both personally and professionally.”

The above quote is taken from Matthew Kelly’s book, “Off Balance, Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction.” I re-read this book on a recent trip and found it to have multiple thought-provoking ideas and suggestions. In the book, Matthew takes a closer look at the “Work-Life Balance” discussion, and relates it back to specific steps you can take to explore this balance in your own life.

In my experience, structural engineering is a very challenging profession on multiple fronts. There is the stress of knowing that designs for structures must keep people safe, and that any mistakes could have life safety impacts. In addition, the ever present threat of lawsuits always lingers, along with constant pressures to work faster and meet compressed schedules. Therefore, having a good system to deal with the pressures of work while creating a fulfilling life is critical.

In his book, Matthew Kelly outlines a helpful “process” for increasing your personal and professional satisfaction level (as engineers, we tend to like “processes”). There are five facets to this process:

  1. Assessment
  2. Priorities
  3. Core Habits
  4. Weekly Strategy Session
  5. Quarterly Review

I definitely recommend this book, and have incorporated many of its suggestions into my own life. The book is only 137 pages and is an “easy read” to fit into a hectic schedule. It’s available on Amazon for about $17, or $15 for the Kindle edition. Why not invest less than $20 to help improve your life?

Have a Magnificent March!

If you are designing a building with concrete beams and columns, how do you determine a starting member size, or the amount of reinforcement required? While many engineers will use a spreadsheet or computer program for the final design, what simplified methods can be used to arrive at a preliminary design for a beam or column?

In an article in the April 2013 issue of Structure Magazine, Jerod Johnson, PhD, SE, from Reaveley Engineers + Associates in Salt Lake City, Utah, writes about Simplified Methods in Reinforced Concrete Design, and discusses not only what these simplified methods are, but also shows how these approximate methods relate to a more rigorous analysis.

Included in this article are tips for determining initial sizes for beams based on span-to-depth ratios, calculating an initial required area of steel for beams, and developing an interaction curve for columns based on two points.

Do you use other simplified methods or “rules of thumb” for concrete design? Share your favorite tip in the comments below!


“Think about what really makes you smile… Ask yourself what you would do if you didn’t need the money. Ask yourself what really excites you. And what would inspire you to keep going long after most people would quit. Find those answers and therein lies your dream. We all have our own personal Everest, and if we follow its calling, that is when life truly becomes an adventure.”

This quote is taken from Chapter 1 of Bear Grylls’ book “A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character.” My 13 year old daughter loves reading survival books and has built a multitude of forts in the woods across from our house, and now she has me watching Bear Gryll’s shows and reading his books. I highly recommend this book. I think one of the biggest challenges in life is finding how to make a living out of doing something associated with your passion. Bear Grylls’ book is great reading and will help you pick up many tips for improving your life.

As a niche recruiting company focusing on the structural engineering industry, one of our primary goals is to help people find career opportunities that will allow them to be passionate about their work and improve their lives. Check out the Hot Jobs portion of our website for some of the opportunities we currently have available. We will also be unveiling a new website soon to better serve you.

Have a great February!

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