2019 is the 90th Anniversary year of the founding of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC), and we celebrated that legacy at our annual Awards Presentation and Presidents Luncheon in June. More importantly, we celebrated the future of Structural engineering by ensuring young members and students were on hand to hear a message on the importance of Engagement. Previous SEAOSC presidents laid important foundations for this next generation to build upon and have shared visions of better impacting our communities and profession. Past-President Mehran Pourzanjani’s term focused on maintaining the relevancy of SEAOSC and the structural engineering profession during a year of strategic change and modernization. In receiving the baton for the new year, I accepted it with an enthusiastic promise to build upon the momentum and successes we enjoyed in 2019, as we achieved a more strategic purpose and direction for investment planning, disaster and resiliency planning, and legislature activity at the state level.

The vision for 2020 involves several key ideas: we must engage our clients to achieve “Safety and Functionality”, we seek to “Empower” our members and “Advance” our profession, and critically, we must be engaged to “Serve the Community”. In bringing the underlying theme “Engagement” to life, our focus as an Association must be member-centric. Increasing member engagement between SEAOSC’s 1,100 members will make more individual goals reachable, and through our committees, members will be better able to combine forces to accomplish larger goals. Ongoing efforts and results will spark enhanced community engagement and awareness of what structural engineers do on a daily basis to make our communities safer.

A primary goal will be to empower fellow structural engineers to see that their role is greater than designing bridges and buildings. At the end of the day, it is not about the structure. It is not that we design and build bridges or buildings; instead, we enable people “to get from here to there” and “provide for their wellbeing and ability to live in great spaces”. It’s all about what structural engineers make possible…the results they bring to our communities. Structural engineers create structures that allow life to happen and communities to thrive!

Ali Sahabi and Kenneth O’Dell, S.E.

To accomplish our mission, it must be recognized that no individual or small group will make it happen alone. Whether our volunteer committee or gracious sponsors, SEAOSC itself thrives on the contributions of our members. For example, SEAOSC member Ali Sahabi, Chief Operating Officer of Optimum Seismic, Inc., stepped forward to advance the future of our structural engineering profession. His company contributed to the success of our major annual events by hosting the next generation of structural engineers – students and young professionals in structural engineering – at our recent awards luncheon and technical summit. For each new student, Optimum Seismic ensured they would remain connected through one-year SEAOSC memberships. This generous contribution by Optimum Seismic enabled over 30 young professionals to network with experienced professionals and learn about award-winning work.

As we look to the future of structural engineering, it is critical to engage younger SEAOSC members within our participating firms. Continued support and participation of this kind by members of SEAOSC is very important to the growth and vibrancy of the next generation of structural engineers, our organization and profession. Member involvement, contributions, and support make good things happen. As Ali Sahabi notes, “The students and young professionals who attended the SEAOSC event have bright futures and are enthusiastic about their future professions. Their talent and energy will make our profession stronger.”

Shinhee Chang, P.E.

These young professionals and students include Shinhee Chang, P.E., a graduate of Cal Poly, and who is currently employed as a Senior Engineer at Nabih Youssef Associates. She says she is living her dream right now. As a child, she had an interest in “building” inspired by her father’s desire to become a carpenter and fueled by a desire to help him build a house. Today, she engineers on large high-rise buildings, including the recently completed LGBTQ campus in Hollywood. She would like SEAOSC to find more ways to introduce the structural engineering profession to young people as she says, “not enough young people know about the structural engineer profession” and all that it offers. She appreciated being hosted for the event and welcomes this type of contribution continuing to bring more young professionals together. She values all the up to date engineering knowledge and news that SEAOSC provides and is actively serving on the educational committee.

Siddarth Awasthi

Siddharth Awasthi, PE., another young professional hosted by Optimum Seismic, is a graduate of Stanford and came to the United States from India. As a child, he was also attracted to “building”. What caught his eye was the grandeur of large buildings. As a child, he wondered “How do they do that?” Today, he is employed as an associate at Englekirk Structural Engineers and works on designs for both new and retrofitted commercial and institutional buildings. He dreams of improving structural engineering as a career and making it more impactful within community discussions and being involved in legislation that takes codes beyond keeping buildings from collapsing and sets standards to enable buildings and what happens inside them to remain functional. He would like SEAOSC to continue sponsoring students and young professionals, sharing that he was able to bring four associates to the event because of the sponsorship.

SEAOSC board member Tom Harris, President of California Code Check, says it best. “Networking, connectivity and the knowledge shared at SEAOSC seminars, meetings, and the yearly convention have enabled me to achieve business opportunities I would not have otherwise been able to obtain.” He encourages all members to “show up and volunteer”, and adds, “You will not regret it.” Becoming engaged is the key to maximizing value from your membership in any professional organization. I encourage my colleagues to make it their goal for the coming year.

By Kenneth O’Dell, S.E., President, Structural Engineers Association of Southern California