Home President's Corner President’s Corner – October 2020 – Emily McCarthy

President’s Corner – October 2020 – Emily McCarthy


Greetings beautiful Houston! In the past few President’s Corners, notably since the March COVID-19 lockdowns started, I have written in these pages what I hope are words of encouragement to persevere through the unforgettable events of 2020. All our lives have been restricted in ways we could not have imagined when the year started. I keep thinking my next president’s corner to you will focus on announcing a return to in-person meetings and networking events, but that does not seem realistic as we come into the final stretch of 2020. What I thought would be a year of clear “2020 vision” instead seems to be muddier in so many ways. Regardless of your opinion about the COVID-19 lockdowns, wearing masks, opening schools, who should win the White House or any number of other seemingly dichotomous issues we are currently facing as a nation, we are still One Nation and our unity is stronger than our divisions. We will persevere through these times as individual communities aggregated together in our states and then country. Our Houston community is strong. We are not limited by our differences, rather we cheer our ‘Stros with faces of every shade, we maneuver our boats through flooded streets to help neighbors we have maybe never met, we give generously to JJ Watts’ Hurricane Harvey relief fund to help the impoverished and needy. We are one of the most diverse cities in the USA! If we only think of the ways we are different those differences will separate us, but if we focus on all the things we have in common, our love for our “Houston Strong” culture, we will grow in that unified strength that sees each individual as worth helping. Help can come in many forms, sometimes it is just the time you take to talk to someone and give them advice or share experiential wisdom, and sometimes it is getting your hands dirty cleaning up a flooded house. Your circumstances right now are providing you opportunities to help someone uniquely, and you may not see how that kindness will change another life, but you will see how it changes your life. Keep your head up Houston!

Changing tack, work in New Zealand continues apace! The project I am working on here in Auckland is dynamic and keeps me on my toes with a combination of material science, façade, structural, coating, and building services work. I am engaged in meetings and site visits that cover a wide range of project subjects and it is my job to absorb the live feed of information and relay pertinent facts to my colleagues back in the USA and to our client in New Zealand. This means weeding through project drawings, specifications, and other documents, not to mention peripheral conversations, to get a clear picture of something I saw or heard so I provide a correct translation. With this influx of information, it is easy to become focused on a narrow aspect of this project and not tie in other, non-engineering issues. But, engineers do not work in isolation, rather we are in a team sport. When I have occasionally had tunnel vision on this job, I have been brought into the open by purposefully engaging with and listening to colleagues, our client, and other project stakeholders. Being open and listening can be just as valuable as offering an astounding engineering judgement because it can hone the engineering judgment into a sleeker and more exact tool that better achieves its purpose. As much experience as we gain and as many accomplishments as we achieve, we can always learn more and improve. Do not limit yourself, no matter what heights you have already reached.

Tying these two thoughts together, our uncertain and unsteady times and our need to be open and listen in order to be better engineers: it is difficult to be our best engineering self and think clearly when our non-work environment imposes stress and pressure. One of the two tends to dominate our perspective and influence how we act in all circumstances. It is so important to allow ourselves the space and grace for this additional externally imposed pressure. Staying connected to your engineering network and talking to your colleagues can help provide important perspective. Virtually connecting has no social distance restrictions, so stay connected and stay strong Houston!

Be safe and stay well.

Emily McCarthy
SEAoT Houston/Gulf Coast