Interning with SSF – My Summer Experience

Interning at the Swenson Say Faget (SSF) Tacoma office this summer has been an educational experience beyond compare.

Real Life Engineering

My mentors, Ryan, Beth, and Chris expertly introduced me to what the real life of a structural engineer looks like and showed me the business side of the industry. From in-depth engineering lessons, I feel armed with the intrigue to apply in my upcoming senior year classes. All the while, I found a wonderfully supportive and welcoming atmosphere at SSF. I even ventured outside Tacoma to experience summer in the Pacific Northwest.

Many of my assignments at SSF taught me lessons about structural engineering that my undergraduate classes don’t cover. For example, reviewing steel framing shop drawings taught me how to read structural plans and consult manufacturer specifications. My mentors also sent several challenging design tasks my way. In carrying out a rigid diaphragm analysis, I improved my intuition when it comes to cause and effect of tweaking the design and saw how different lateral systems work. Furthermore, validating the design of a residential project taught me some engineering basics, like how to find wind loads and other environmental factors.

Starting with the Basics

When I found myself with many, many questions, my mentors responded eagerly and completely. For example, asking questions about the ACI (concrete design) and ASCE (general building) codes helped me see the bigger picture behind the structural design process. They also took time to explain adjunct structural engineering theories and urged me to investigate less-familiar concepts with modelling software. 

Work Life Balance

Outside of my interning life, I made the most of my time in the Pacific Northwest. I journeyed to Portland, Seattle, Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, the Olympic peninsula – in many instances upon suggestions from coworkers. I loved getting to know Tacoma, especially the Thursday farmers markets downtown, McMenamins, and, of course, Galloping Gertie.

My internship experience would not have been as rich without such a friendly office culture. Impromptu foosball games and coffee/drinks/tacos outings are a part of Tacoma office life that I will remember most fondly. I feel prepared to venture into structural engineering in the coming years, and I am grateful to have been a part of and guided by such a caring team in Tacoma.

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