Getting Involved and Staying Connected in the Industry

This week’s post is courtesy of Annie Tran Kao, Simpson Strong-Tie field engineer for the Southern California region. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie in 2006 as a branch engineer, Annie worked as a project engineer for new and retrofit commercial and residential projects for a structural engineering consulting firm in Orange County, Calif. She also performed seismic evaluations of structures as an intern with a structural engineering firm in San Francisco. Annie is a licensed professional engineer in California and is registered with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and her Master’s degree in Structural Engineering from UC Berkeley. She is an active member of SEAOSC.

I’m excited to share some tips on getting more involved with the structural engineering community. There are many organizations and industry associations related to structural engineering that it can feel daunting to try to meet all of the key players and make a name for yourself.

I have a really unique and fun job at Simpson Strong-Tie as a field engineer for our light-frame construction products, which include connectors, fasteners, and lateral systems.  As a field engineer, I spend most of my time out on the road visiting engineers, architects, building officials, contractors, and others who need technical assistance using our product lines. While this means I spend a good chunk of time in SoCal traffic, I do get to talk to lots of different people working on projects ranging from small home remodels that might be using our new Strong-Frame® special moment frame to huge multi-family housing projects with several thousand units.

I also make sure to attend as many industry association functions as I can, because these are the best places to network and meet other professionals. There are many great organizations, including the Structural Engineers Association, which has chapters all over the United States. The California chapters have very strong participation. I also suggest getting involved in other industry organizations that include people outside of the profession, such as building officials, inspectors, contractors, builders, and architects. These people play an integral part in the construction industry and it’s important to understand their role and importance in supporting structural engineering.

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Code Development: The ASTM Process

I spent a few days last week traveling to attend the Spring ASTM International meetings held in Phoenix, AZ. When I was working as a building designer, I always used ASTM standards in my project specifications or testing and special inspection requirements on a job. But I did not know how these ASTM standards were developed, nor did I know that I could participate in the process.

ASTM standards are voluntary in the sense that ASTM does not require their use. However, since ASTM standards are referenced in building codes and design standards that are adopted by states and local jurisdictions, compliance with those standards is required. So it might be useful for structural engineers to know a little bit about how these standards are created.

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