Consulting Structural Engineers

Fitting the Pieces Together for a Great Result

September 25, 2020

Imagine you are given a 1,000-piece puzzle and you do not have a picture to reference what you are supposed to be doing. Where do you begin? Once the panic calms a little do you feel you can reasonably complete the task in front of you? Is there anyway you could get a clue as to what you are working towards? Now, imagine the puzzle is one of the three images below. Which would you feel most comfortable trying out?

As a student there have been times in my life where I have felt like the person at the table with a thousand pieces scattered in front of me and no real road map to guide me in the right direction. Whether anyone is willing to admit it or not, we’ve probably all been there at one point in time. The task in front of you might seem overwhelming but soon a few pieces start to come together. Before you know it, you have the border put together and you can start to see what to do next. In some cases, you might get lucky enough to have someone walk past and say “Hey, that looks like The Tetons” or “I have been there! That’s Lake Tahoe!” This could easily help solve your predicament of not seeing the end from the beginning.

I have been with the great people at Dunn Associates, Inc. for a little over a year now. I am fortunate to have plenty of talented, knowledgeable, and innovative people around me everyday to give a little guidance with any part of the puzzle. That is one of the things that makes Dunn such a wonderful place to be creative and learn. I am able to learn how to excel at any task from drafting a project, to engineering related tasks, or even presentation of plans and other design documents.

When I decided I wanted to go back to school to be a structural engineer I knew it would be difficult. I had some schooling behind me and started working as a draftsman because that is something I love to do. It is always fun for me to be a part of designing things that benefit people’s everyday lives. With a passion for architecture and a desire to learn more, I decided to balance full time work with additional schooling. Even though at times I feel that I may be missing some pieces, eventually I can find the piece that I need and press forward.

Teachers and other mentors at school are always there to give you the missing piece. Since we do not live in a world where we can plug ourselves in to some super-computer to learn things in an instant, we must pick it up one piece at a time. I am thankful at every step for the wonderful teachers in my life that have given me the pieces that I need. I have always believed, however, that real world experience helps us gain knowledge more than anything else we can do. Going back to the puzzle, if teachers give us the pieces that we need, we still must put them in place. Putting the pieces where they belong is experience.

By working alongside the awesome people at Dunn while going to school, I get the opportunity to be immersed in knowledge from both sides of the pond. I often learn things through conversations with people around the office that help reinforce the principles that I have only had a small sampling of at school. With the experience of our engineers, I get to see how things apply and how they work – not just how a book shows the principle, but the real-world application of it. This also allows me to move forward at school and apply the things that I learn at work to things that I am learning in my classes. They often walk side by side. Recently, I have even found that there are times that I can help other students in my classes learn through the pieces that I received from the engineers at work.

Collaboration is so important in our office. When multiple engineers get together with all the past experience that each have had, they can collectively come up with the best possible solution to a given situation. It is great to be involved in those moments. Everyone’s opinion is valid and helps the whole group learn. Even a student and drafter like me. I can walk away with a better understanding of how a principle from a class applies to what we do. Sometimes I may even be able to give a few ideas that I learned in a class to fit a few more pieces together.

When we each learn and grow together each person benefits. Imagine the starry night sky puzzle (shown above). What if instead of just being given the puzzle, you were given a handful of pieces and a small cut portion of the overall picture. At that point, you must then find others with a similar picture and combine your pieces. As more pieces are found you can begin to see the whole thing and collectively put the puzzle together. If I took my handful of pieces and tried to do it alone, I probably would not get far.

This is how things often work in the world. When we work together and learn as much as we can, we collectively grow together. By going to school and working this allows me to accelerate the learning process and can help everyone involved with our projects. This can in turn help our clients and eventually trickle down to the general public. By bringing all the pieces to the table we can ‘Enable Great Design’ together.


Written by Chad, one of our talented Drafters

With former experience in piping and a passion for design, specifically architecture, Chad was excited to join a team that could help him grow and progress in learning the field of structures. Outside of work he enjoys getting outdoors for some fishing, camping, mountain biking, recreational kayaking, and disc golf.

If you can’t find me outdoors I hope I can be found sharpening my skills in drafting and design. I enjoy designing new objects and buildings. It is a fun way to solve problems and help myself and others. Outside of that, I will probably be spending time with my wife and dog.