Vacation – Can Engineers Take It?

My blog post is late this week – I’m going to blame it on vacation. According to this article analyzing a study by Expedia, Americans did not use $34 billion worth of vacation time they were entitled to in 2011. This started me thinking about how difficult it can be for structural engineers to take a real vacation.

In the past, I avoided vacation because it’s just too much work. Getting multiple design projects to a point where I could take time off was stressful. In addition to that, there are projects under construction that need shop drawing approvals and responses to contractor requests for information. So the weeks leading up to vacation involved a lot of overtime, and my return meant a lot of catching up to do. Honestly, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Emerald Bay. Lake Tahoe, CA

My solution to the vacation problem was to avoid vacation. And when I did take time off, I would always do short trips. Usually just adding one vacation day to a three-day weekend to go to Lake Tahoe or drive to Disneyland.

Last year I did a real vacation. We went to Cabo San Lucas for eight days with some close friends for Spring Break. We sat by the pool and talked while our kids swam for hours and hours everyday. It was the longest vacation we’d been on since our honeymoon 14 years ago. It was awesome, fun, and relaxing. Other than sending a photo of the Cabo sunrise to a few co-workers, I didn’t think about work all week.

Cabo sunrise

So. . .how well do you use your vacation time every year? Let me know in the comments.

– Paul

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Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day: Q.   What is your mom/dad's job? A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work? A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.

5 thoughts on “Vacation – Can Engineers Take It?”

  1. I agree with your perspective …I too find it difficult to “plan” a vacation … in the past, deadlines seem to arrive around the same time as my vacation … Seems like when you do go, the cell phone and laptop tag along … no fun there either. I have built up so much time I believe I could take a 6-month paid vacation – that won’t be happening anytime soon.

    This year I did like you and went on a 10-day trip to trip to Italy … totally awesome – no cell phone and no laptop. When I returned, I took a 7-day beach and golf trip to Florida. Unfortunely, I paying for it now … so far behind I am working 12 hr days and weekendstrying to catch up – no fun …. can’t wait til I do it again next year!

    Danny

  2. You summed it up well.
    I do take vacations, and always have a geat time.  But I often wonder whether it is worth the pre- and post-vacation stress.
    When you do go, I definitely believe in leaving work (computer/phone/email) at home and concentrating on the vacation while you can!

  3. I fully concur with your post and the other comments.  I seem to always pay for my “time off” before or after with extra long hours.  However, my wife is planning a vacation trip and I’m going regardless of the consequences. 

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