June President's Message: The Freedom of Not Knowing

Reflecting on my year as President, what surprised me most is the liberation that has come from not always knowing something.  Explanation below, but first, updates:

  • Get out the vote! Elections are open for the 2016-2017 Board of Directors.  You should have received an email with an electronic ballot.  If you need a new ballot, please contact the SEAONC office. Voting closes at noon on Tuesday June 7th
  • Membership renewal: Expect your membership dues renewal notices at the end of June, in line with the SEAONC fiscal year beginning July 1.  Timely renewals ensure SEAONC’s financial health.
  • See you in Maui?  SEAOC Convention registration is now open!  Register by July 1 to save $200.

Back to not knowing.  As the oldest sibling of four, I grew up as a “know-it-all,” and I often slip into that role.  Little did I know that the SEAONC Presidency would help me break the habit.

Last Saturday I found myself flooded with humility as I attended the ATC-20 SAP Evaluator Training.  I had gotten my certification more than 15 years ago and wanted a refresher.  Many of the concepts seemed like second-nature, but several times, particularly during the case studies, I was struck by doubt – do I really have the knowledge and judgement to carry out post-earthquake safety assessment?

At the end of the training, a student sitting near me asked how I found it.  I said I was humiliated, but in a good way – it helped me remember I’ll never know everything I need to.  What’s freeing about this is that it leaves space for another person to step in, someone who does have the knowledge.  Good thing we have each other to lean on.

And that’s exactly what I’ve had the privilege of doing as SEAONC President – relying on the knowledge and energy of other, capable members.  Here are some shout-outs to just a few of the SEAONC members who asked “How high?” when I said “Jump.”

John Lyrenmann:  For collaborating with AIA-SF to bring new, joint activities to SEAONC members (coming this fall!), in his role as Chair of the Public Outreach Committee;

Dave Martin: For taking on the long-needed task of coordinating announcement and submissions across the several types of Convention stipends, in his role as YMF Convention Chair;

Dick Dreyer: For bringing up the need to recognize long-time member Dr. Alex Tarics, who passed away earlier this month and whom we’ll acknowledge at the June 7th dinner meeting;

Mark Gilligan: For taking the initiative to proactively identify matters affecting structural engineers, and propose appropriate positions and actions, in his role as Chair of the Professional Practices Committee;

Karl Telleen: For being the work-horse of the Board, and always with a smile;

Darrick Hom: For mindfully leading the Hensolt Legacy Project as a way to preserve the history of our profession;

…and countless others who make the SEAONC whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Thank You.

Have you experienced space opening up in your life, and others stepping in, when you realize and accept a state of not knowing?

In closing, it’s been a privilege to have served as the SEAONC President.  Special thanks to Ken, Tess, and Nick in the SEAONC office; SEAONC and the Board would be lost without them.  The future of SEAONC is looking brighter than ever.  Here’s to 2016-2017!