SEAONC SE3’s 2019-2020 year, led by co-chairs Brenna Marcoux and Rachel Cohen, focused on a few main charges: diversity and inclusion, and mentorship. Following our diversity and inclusion launch event: Building an Inclusive Workplace for ALL in the 21st Century that took place in October, 2019 at AIA East Bay, there was a lot of interest from our committee and our SEAONC community in continuing programming around this topic. SEAONC SE3 views the topic of diversity and inclusion to be central to our mission. Mentorship has been a continued charge for our committee since we started. Each year we’ve hosted one to two speed mentorship events, and in 2018, we launched our Long-Term Mentorship program, which we continued last year.
While we were challenged by the Shelter-In-Place order in the Bay Area due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we adapted to provide virtual events and considered our programming to be crucial to the engagement of individuals in our industry, especially during the work-from-home period we find ourselves in. The protests and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd and many others at the hands of police this summer also refocused our committee’s efforts. We verbalized our commitments to racial justice and started a new subcommittee to carry them out.
Our 2019-2020 committee highlights are:
Member Appreciation Picnic
In November of 2019, we celebrated the end of the SEAONC 2018-2019 year with a picnic in the Presidio in San Francisco. SE3 committee members gathered to enjoy food and drinks and play cornhole and other park games.
A/E/C Roundtable: Inclusive Practices in Recruiting and Management
In February, SEAONC SE3 held what would be our last in-person event of the year - a moderated roundtable discussion entitled A/E/C Roundtable: Inclusive Practices in Recruiting and Management. The event was held at AIA SF, with a sold-out audience of around 90 members of the AEC industry. Our panelists, who included firm leaders in structural engineering, architecture, and general contracting, shared their experiences in implementing company practices that lead to attracting and retaining a more diverse group of talent. Topics of discussion included strategies to expand recruiting to a wider pool, methods for creating a more inclusive interview process, internal DEI training, and practices for a more equitable company culture.
1st Year of Long-Term Mentorship Program Wraps
In March, we wrapped up our first year of the Long-Term Mentorship program, with participation from 29 mentors and 61 mentees from around the Bay Area. Participants enjoyed making new connections with engineers at different firms and learning from mentors’ career experiences. Topics discussed ranged from help with preparing for the PE, to career planning, to involvement in professional societies.
Launched 2nd Year of Long-Term Mentorship Program
In May, we started the second year of the Long-Term Mentorship program, with a new format loosely based on AIA SF’s mentorship program. We have 29 mentors and 81 mentees participating this year, forming groups of three to five people including entry and mid-level engineers along with seasoned professionals. Our mentorship groups are encouraged to meet (virtually) at least once every other month, but many groups have opted to meet monthly.
What Can We Learn from the 2008 Recession?
In response to the Bay Area’s first Shelter in Place order and our adjustment to working from home, SEAONC SE3 held a webinar panel discussion in May titled “What Can We Learn from the 2008 Recession?” Co-chairs Brenna and Rachel moderated a discussion among four structural engineering professionals who had worked through the 2008 recession at different points in their career - Panelist Tim Hart had been laid off and subsequently pivoted in his career, Charlotte Wong had recently graduated and had to find full-time work, Theresa Curtis was a mid-level engineer and had experienced the effects of co-workers getting let go, and Bill Andrews was in leadership position and had to make difficult decisions about how to manage the company through financial hardships. Panelists shared their experiences and lessons learned to provide tips and support to members of our community going through similar hurdles due to the effects of Covid-19.
SEAONC SE3 Releases Commitment to Racial Justice
Following the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans at the hands of the police this spring, SEAONC SE3 shared a message with our committee members affirming our commitment to fight in solidarity with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter Movement, and pledging to take specific actions on the 2020-2021 SEAONC year related to addressing racial inequity in our profession. We also included lists of action items for firms and individuals to encourage our community to take action in both their personal and professional lives. Our statement led directly to the formation of our new Racial Equity subcommittee, which has quickly put into action several of the listed action items, including holding a Firm Leader Roundtable on DEI practices with a professional consultant, and compiling research on racial demographics across California universities with Civil Engineering programs.
Summer Speed Mentorship Event
On August 25th, we held our first virtual Speed Mentoring Event. Our event included 11 Bay Area structural engineers with diverse work experience, and 27 mentees - 18 of which were students from Bay Area schools. Using Zoom breakout rooms (facilitated by the amazing SEAONC office staff), mentees and mentors had dynamic conversations ranging from what to look for when interviewing for your first job, to the current work climate during Covid-19, to the challenges of finding work-life balance.
2019-2020 was a big year for SE3, and the 2020-2021 year already promises to be even more active, despite our adjustment to a new, pandemic-friendly virtual format. Brenna and Rachel were excited to pass on the committee to a new generation of leadership in September - Tiffany Hwang (COWI) is the new SEAONC SE3 Chair, and Hayley Proctor (WJE) is serving as Vice Chair for the 2020-2021 SEAONC year. Since going virtual in March and with the heightened awareness around racial injustice that followed the events of this spring, our committee has seen increased engagement and has gained a number of new members. This has allowed us to form four active subcommittees for the 2020-2021 year, with many of our members taking on leadership positions:
In addition to the subcommittees, Karen Vogt-Wilcox will stay on as our long-time treasurer, and Kaat Ceder will take on a new liaison position to lead efforts to connect SE3 with local chapters of engineering affinity groups, such as NSBE and SHPE.
The Racial Equity Subcommittee recently organized our first event of the 2020-2021 year, which brought 16 CEOs and firm leaders together to discuss DEI strategies, with the guidance of professional DEI consultant Viva Asmelash. The subcommittee plans to expand this programming to a year-long cohort of firm leaders who will meet regularly. Visit our website to view the full event recap and information on the long-term cohort program coming soon.
SEAONC SE3 has a full program of events and projects planned for 2021, and would love to hear from anyone interested in helping to bring the best possible programming to our SEAONC community and beyond. As always, feel free to reach out to the committee with ideas, comments, or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers to 2021!
The SEAONC SE3 Committee