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Re: QUERY: What Are The Practical Benefits of Joining An "S.E.A.xx."?

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Bill,

I think that both Roger and Nels have mentioned the main reasons, but I
will chime in to "reinforce" some of those thoughts.

Personally, I can see many reasons for being a member of an SEA (and other
professional organizations).

Certainly, one of the reasons most people think of is the "social benefit"
(what you affectionately referred to as "hob-nob"ing).  You seem to attach
a "negative" (that is too strong of a phrase but it is the best that I can
come up with at the moment) connotation to that idea.  You seem to look at
it a purely socializing just for socializing which then takes time away
from thing that you consider more important.  But as Roger pointed out,
the hob-nobbing (or socializing with other professionals) can also be
called "networking".  It allows you to get to know and talk with other
professionals in the area.  As Roger pointed out, this can lead to
referrals from others in the field.  This could occur because they are too
busy or don't do that kind of work.  It could also lead to situations when
another professional may hire you to do some speciality work (for example,
maybe they have a job that includes some minor work in an area that they
aren't confortable in and want to "sub" it out to someone).  It could also
lead to the possibility of contract work for a larger firm, if you are
interested in that.

Another reason that comes to mind is the ability to gain valuable
information, both technical and business related.  As Roger pointed out,
you are able to talk with other people that do the same thing as you.  You
will find that they have many of the same problems that you encounter and
potentially have already come across the solution that they then may share
with you.  In otherwords, as Roger pointed out, it serves a very similar
function that this list serves...allows you to gain from the knowledge and
experience of others (and hopefully add your knowledge and experience).
The only difference is that the SEA would typically be "live and in
person".  This can all come from just hob-nobbing, but also from technical
dinner/lunch meetings and seminars that the SEA may offer (as in the
technical content of the meeting itself...ie what the speaker talked
about).

Nels certainly hit on another good reason.  If you become TRUELY involved,
then that means committee work.  And that is were you can gain some real
insight into our wonderful world of structural engineering.  Granted, I
did include the word "work" in there, so that means some effort on your
part.  But the benefit can be worth it.  If your SEA is well established
(and SEAoT is pretty well established from what I recall), then it likely
has some strong, and worthwhile committees.  The committee work, as Nels
pointed out, can potentially let you work with some of the brightest
people in our professional and it will likely be that you can't help but
learn some valuable things.  In addition to your SEA's committees, you
could also become involve in some NCSEA committee's, if you chose.

However, I look at all those reasons as the "selfish" reasons why I joined
an SEA.  I also have some more charitable reasons.

I personally feel that I should give back to my profession.  One way is to
be involved in professional societies.  Typically, these societies create
that tools that we use and influence the perception of our profession.  I
feel that I should help in that effort.  This feeling is both selfless and
selfish at the same time.  Ultimately, if I help the profession, I help
myself (selfish) and others in the profession (selfless).

I also take the approach that if I am not involved (ie "sitting on the
sidelines"), then I have less of a right to complain about the way things
are.  "Why not get involved and see if things can be changed?" is my
philosophy.  Sure, you will encounter may road-blocks and fustrations, but
just maybe I can make a small difference.  There are a lot of things that
are out there that can affect the way I make my living, and this is the
chance that I have to attempt to influence them.  For example, there are
things like the First Professional degree debate (Stan and I have debated
this one a couple of times), continuing education,
certification/licensure, code issues, etc.  Ultimately, a person in the
profession can just sit on the sidelines and watch what happens to see
what the impact on their life will be OR can get involved and attempt to
influence the direction of these issues.

Having said all that, I believe that it is a personal decision.  While I
will attempt to persuade someone to join an SEA, I certainly won't condemn
them if they do not.  You are correct to find a reason to join that fits
your "agenda" rather than just joining because someone else told you to.

Just my thoughts,

Scott

Member of several organizations but mainly active in SEAMi and ASCE (at
this time), which is more than enough to keep me (somewhat <grin>) out of
trouble.      


On Tue, 23 Jan 2001, Nels Roselund wrote:

> Bill,
> 
> The greatest benefit that I have gained from SEA membership has been
> participation in committee work.  You don't get continuing education credit
> for it, but I've found it much more beneficial than attending seminars.
> 
> Choose a committee that is working on matters closest to your area of
> structural interest or niche.  You get to work with structural engineers who
> are among the best in your field, and find out what they know and how they
> think; you work on and become familiar with cutting edge information in your
> area of interest well ahead of your peers, and there's a lot of satisfaction
> in making a contribution to the practice of your profession.
> 
> Spend the first year just attending meetings and listening while you learn
> what's going on.  Take on a subcommittee task if asked, but kind of lie low
> for the first year or so.  That will also let you gage the importance of
> what the committee is doing -- if you find you value it, you'll figure out
> how to fit heavier participation it into your busy schedule.
> 
> One of my associates said, "Why should I work with my competitors?"  I think
> he's missing the point by a mile.
> 
> I've had to drop out of committee work the past few years because of an
> important family commitment, and I really miss not being involved in the new
> work.
> 
> Nels Roselund
> Structural Engineer
>