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A Voice For The Rest Of Us [WAS: The failings ... I second the motion!]

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Gary Hodgson & Associates wrote:

I'm self-employed but I think that the professional organizations, e.g.,
PEO, do little for their members and are loaded with employees who are
not accountable to anybody.  A lot of employee engineers do not
participate in their organizations as they feel completely detached
from them.

I wanted to comment separately on this statement of Gary's.

For some time I have been thinking that we need "yet another organization." The seeds of that thought came originally from my good friend Dennis Wish, who I understand gave a good deal of time and effort in building up SEAOSC only to watch it spin out of his reach so to speak, as it was commandeered by officers and employees of larger firms and he became more and more alienated from the direction that organization took.

[N.B. I'm not telling tales out of school here; Dennis has published several accounts of this experience here on the list before, and they can be found in the archives. Also, this is MY take, or my personal interpretation of what I have read from Dennis. If I misrepresent his views here, I apologize in advance and accept the responsibility for giving this analysis].

In my own experience with the local SEA, I found it also quite lacking in fulfilling "what I need" as a small practitioner. It is very difficult for people who work for, or even are part-owners in, larger firms. Their emphasis is quite different; they tend to have more disposable time to spend pursuing things that I personally feel are not relevant to what I'm about.

Again, this is NOT TO KNOCK THOSE who participate in such organizations under these circumstances. They have every right to "pursue happiness," I'm simply saying, as I did with regard to "corporate engineering firms", that I have a much different emphasis. I am after "news I can use," for example. I never attend a lecture or seminar or what-have-you on the subject of strutcural engineering unless I fele confident I will come away better able to serve my clients, save myself some time and make a little more money. It's not a mercenary as it sounds; just understand that I'm looking at this like Maslow's Pyramid: I've got to take care of the basic needs before I can go on to things that aren't so critical.

And sad (or happy) to say, my time spent on "non-critical" things is NOT focused on structural engineering. I spend a LOT of time working--easily as much if not more than I spent when I was otherwise employed. When I allow the whistle to blow, I want to be listening or playing music, reading, attending plays and concerts and in all things spending time with those I love. We all have twenty-four hours in the day; the difference lies solely in how we spend them.

Obviously I spend time "ranting" here on SEAINT. I consider this list to be among the most valuable resources at my disposal, and to the extent that I contribute anything at all to these discussions I'm trying to "give back" with no hope of ever coming out "even." (Only a few do that, I suspect, such as Mr. Sprague).

But in the end, I long for a "new" organization geared to what I do, and with similar interests to my own, a sort of "Society of Really Small Structural Engineering Firms With Little Time To Attend Meetings" (I leave the acronym to others). The only such organization that comes close is our local Foundation Performance Association, which as the name implies is solely for foundation design, notably in the Houston area where we have daily fun with expansive clays. This isn't so much because I simply love foundation design--it's actually not my most favorite pastime--but because it just HAPPENS to be made up of many people like me. The organizers of the association are sort of "out of the mainstream" such that larger firms and especially geotechnical firms (which are nearly all large corporations by now, e.g. PSI) are not interested in participating and few large structural firms have interest in lightly-loaded foundations.

I simply find that I get more "bang for the buck" from that outfit than any other, but they are, as I say, focused only on one narrow topic.

I don't know if anyone else has had these thoughts--or if Mr. Wish has any desire to resurrect his excellent organizational skills to try his hand at something new--but if they did I'd be interested in hearing from them.

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