The light gleams on my strands and bars
In glory when the sun goes down.
I lift a net to hold the stars
and wear the sunset as my crown.

(from The Song of the Bridge, 1955)
— David B. Steinman, the civil engineer who founded NSPE in 1934; Steinman was also a published poet

// NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE.org) was founded in 1934 as a non-profit advocacy group, promoting the professional engineering license (PE) and its aim to promote the safety and well being of the public in the context of technological advances and engineering ethics.

I served as as NSPE-California State President from July 2017 to June 2019. I’m a past Director of the NSPE National Board of Directors where I worked on career development initiatives for emerging professionals. Previously I also served as the Industry Director for the Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers and as Past Chair of the Professional Engineers in Industry (PEI) interest group. I was part of a small splinter group that founded NSPE NextGen, created to promote EIT and PE Licensure to emerging professionals.


// NSPE PECON2019 IN KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI (JULY 2019)

Excited to be leaving NSPE-California in good hands with (L to R): Incoming President Mehdi Khalili, Executive Director Jeanne Marie Tokunaga, and Incoming Vice-President Joseph Quinn.

Excited to be leaving NSPE-California in good hands with (L to R): Incoming President Mehdi Khalili, Executive Director Jeanne Marie Tokunaga, and Incoming Vice-President Joseph Quinn.

Trying to make a talk on emerging technologies as exciting as possible.

Trying to make a talk on emerging technologies as exciting as possible.

At the conference reception at Science City, an interactive family science museum in downtown Kansas City. Pictured here with the Incoming President of the Japan Society of Professional Engineers (second from left), one of NSPE’s international sibling societies.

At the conference reception at Science City, an interactive family science museum in downtown Kansas City. Pictured here with the Incoming President of the Japan Society of Professional Engineers (second from left), one of NSPE’s international sibling societies.

Joseph and I catching up with NSPE General Counsel and long time friend, Art Schwartz.

Joseph and I catching up with NSPE General Counsel and long time friend, Art Schwartz.

Mehdi meets Einstein

Mehdi meets Einstein

One of the coolest parts of this year’s PECON was the inaugural year of NSPE’s Emerging Leaders Program, bringing together a cohort of emerging professional engineers to talk career development, advancement of the profession, and the future of NSPE. Sitting here with Emerging Leader participants in the mentor-mentee program.

One of the coolest parts of this year’s PECON was the inaugural year of NSPE’s Emerging Leaders Program, bringing together a cohort of emerging professional engineers to talk career development, advancement of the profession, and the future of NSPE. Sitting here with Emerging Leader participants in the mentor-mentee program.

Chatting with the Emerging Leader mentees over breakfast before the day’s sessions get kicked off.

Chatting with the Emerging Leader mentees over breakfast before the day’s sessions get kicked off.

Thanks to a trip to Rainy Day Books, was able to gather up some local reading to complement those rare slivers of downtime during my conference travels. I’d like to think Montaigne would appreciate that a book about his writings would have its pages stained with fried chicken grease.

Thanks to a trip to Rainy Day Books, was able to gather up some local reading to complement those rare slivers of downtime during my conference travels. I’d like to think Montaigne would appreciate that a book about his writings would have its pages stained with fried chicken grease.

Hanging out with a detail from Robert Rauschenberg’s “Tracer” (1963) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Hanging out with a detail from Robert Rauschenberg’s “Tracer” (1963) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The Quaff in Kansas City’s Quality Hill neighborhood where Friends go to hang out.

The Quaff in Kansas City’s Quality Hill neighborhood where Friends go to hang out.


(Re-post from the NSPE California e-Newsletter, where I filed my last piece as State President in July 2019).

// NSPE-CALIFORNIA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE: The Highest Law

The Southland Mall sits within view of the highway in the San Francisco suburb of Hayward. In keeping up with the disruptions going on in the retail industry, Southland has tested everything from changing its mix of stores to a complete rebranding and modernization of its structure and interiors.

It was a weeknight evening when I parked my car underneath the Southland Mall’s new sign. It had been rebranded with a new scripty typeface that looked like the signature dashed off at the end of a thank you card.

I had been in the midst of the Bay Area’s infamous traffic when I saw that I had a missed call from Ken Discenza who had been serving on the board of NSPE-California. The Southland exit was the closest escape route off the highway where I could pause and return his call. He and then NSPE-California Executive Director Marti Kramer had been working with me on the Society’s virtual chapter and we were in the midst of restructuring some of the state’s activities so I knew it would be an important conversation. But Ken had other ideas. NSPE-California was under a serious transformation, Ken said, and they were looking for an experienced NSPE member to take over as President. They wanted me to consider taking the role.

At the time, I had already been busy on a few NSPE national task forces and had no shortage of to-do list items that I was trying to finish up. Perhaps it was a moment of weakness at the end of a long work day or maybe it was the drone of the interstate traffic, but I said yes. More likely, it was my desire to continue working alongside a passionate team that collectively advocated for the safety and well-being of the public with a direct concern over the impact of licensure to California engineers.

Today, a little more than two years later, I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Between an ever shifting membership landscape across technical professional organizations like NSPE, a retiring Executive Director, a visual and structural transformation of California and of NSPE at the national level, it’s been two years of delightful, productive work.

We’ve done so much and we still have so much more to do. As we head into the start of NSPE’s new fiscal year, NSPE-California has committed to a new action plan centered on member value: the reason why any California Engineer joins and stays a part of NSPE-California. With initiatives such as cross-functional collaborations with sibling societies such as the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET), partnering with the State of California on its technical education initiatives in primary and secondary schools, and the development of a forum centered on women in engineering in California, NSPE-California has a very bold future ahead.

And for the 2019 – 2021 term, you have a talented leadership team serving you throughout California to make it all happen. For our new officer installation ceremony, we enhanced our traditional pass-the-gavel ceremony by gifting the incoming President with their own actual gavel. On it is inscribed their name and this quote from famed Roman Orator, Cicero: salus populi suprema lex esto or “The health and welfare of the people should be the supreme law.” It’s an incantation worthy of welcoming in the new California leadership. I couldn’t be prouder of this incoming leadership team with Mehdi Khalili as our President and the mark he and the team will make on California and on NSPE as a whole.

Thank you so much for the privilege of serving you these past two years as NSPE-California State President. That day I parked underneath the flashing Southland Mall sign was the best experience rush-hour traffic has ever given me.

And the lights are still glittering.


// LAST BOARD MEETING AS CALIFORNIA STATE PRESIDENT - JUNE 2019

Having a joint board meeting between the boards of NSPE-California and our Education Foundation was a wonderful way to close out my two year term as California State President. Was a huge honor serving alongside these fine folks.

Having a joint board meeting between the boards of NSPE-California and our Education Foundation was a wonderful way to close out my two year term as California State President. Was a huge honor serving alongside these fine folks.

The 2019 NSPE National President Michael Aitken participating in our officers installation ceremony, welcoming in the 2019-2021 NSPE-California leaders. From left to right: Cliff Ishii, Past NSPE-California President, Michael Aitken, incoming State President Mehdi Khalili, Vice President Joseph Quinn, Treasurer Ken Discenza.

The 2019 NSPE National President Michael Aitken participating in our officers installation ceremony, welcoming in the 2019-2021 NSPE-California leaders. From left to right: Cliff Ishii, Past NSPE-California President, Michael Aitken, incoming State President Mehdi Khalili, Vice President Joseph Quinn, Treasurer Ken Discenza.

Issuing the inaugural Marti Kramer Award for Leadership Excellence to Joseph Quinn, an outstanding role model for self-directedness and member value stewardship. We had the chance for the award to be presented to Joseph by Marti Kramer herself, our long time past Executive Director.

Issuing the inaugural Marti Kramer Award for Leadership Excellence to Joseph Quinn, an outstanding role model for self-directedness and member value stewardship. We had the chance for the award to be presented to Joseph by Marti Kramer herself, our long time past Executive Director.

Only expecting that she was giving an award, Marti also received this gift on behalf of the NSPE-California Board of Directors, an inscribed golf club celebrating her retirement after having served the Society for almost three decades. Without her leadership, there would very likely not have been a California society that would have survived all the ups and downs over the past decade.

Only expecting that she was giving an award, Marti also received this gift on behalf of the NSPE-California Board of Directors, an inscribed golf club celebrating her retirement after having served the Society for almost three decades. Without her leadership, there would very likely not have been a California society that would have survived all the ups and downs over the past decade.


// NSPE-California Strategic Planning in Venice Beach (March 2019)

As difficult as it is to help run a state society that spans the 800 mile north to south range of California, the times the leadership team does get to meet up face to face is always a delightful treat. Being a joint meeting of NSPE-California and our sister subsidiary that runs the state’s MATHCOUNTS competition for local high schools, we got to cover the pipeline of engineers into the profession, from aspiring student to practicing licensed professional.

As I had begun winding down my term as NSPE-California state president, this workshop became the perfect opportunity to do some succession planning and lay out the direction of the state over the next five years. And meeting in sunny Venice Beach certainly helped with the mood as well.

The combined NSPE-California and Education Foundation MATHCOUNTS Boards planning away.

The combined NSPE-California and Education Foundation MATHCOUNTS Boards planning away.

We lucked out by snagging this shaded patio seat at The Rose Venice for a brunch break out in the ocean air.

We lucked out by snagging this shaded patio seat at The Rose Venice for a brunch break out in the ocean air.

Back to work on our strategic planning session. No workshop is complete without flip charts and dry erase markers.

Back to work on our strategic planning session. No workshop is complete without flip charts and dry erase markers.

Getting strategic inspiration for our day’s work (sunning ourselves out on the roof wasn’t too shabby either).

Getting strategic inspiration for our day’s work (sunning ourselves out on the roof wasn’t too shabby either).

Instead of heading back to the hotel for sleep as I should have after everyone went home, I went out to one of my favorite L.A. neighborhoods to grab sushi at Hamasaku.

Instead of heading back to the hotel for sleep as I should have after everyone went home, I went out to one of my favorite L.A. neighborhoods to grab sushi at Hamasaku.

My lucky streak continued by showing up at Hamasaku on a Saturday night without a reservation and still getting slotted into the sushi bar. My sushi feast served as a celebratory reward for a long day of planning out NSPE-California’s next five years alongside the Society’s future leaders.

My lucky streak continued by showing up at Hamasaku on a Saturday night without a reservation and still getting slotted into the sushi bar. My sushi feast served as a celebratory reward for a long day of planning out NSPE-California’s next five years alongside the Society’s future leaders.

Happy, energized, fulfilled (and a tiny bit sleep deprived).

Happy, energized, fulfilled (and a tiny bit sleep deprived).


// NSPE Annual Professional Engineers Conference (#PECON18) - Las Vegas (July 2018)

Heading into the second half of my term as NSPE California State President, I got the chance to onboard our amazing new Executive Director Jeanne Marie Tokunaga and our Vice-Chair, Mehdi Khalili, PE. Every year, NSPE holds its annual conference, PECON and there couldn’t have been a more exciting place to welcome in a new team than amidst the neon buzz of Las Vegas.


With each of the 50 US States represented at the NSPE House of Delegates, thanks to the alphabet, California’s seat is on the front row right up close and personal to the heat of the action. It’s been an honor to serve as the NSPE-California State President.

With each of the 50 US States represented at the NSPE House of Delegates, thanks to the alphabet, California’s seat is on the front row right up close and personal to the heat of the action. It’s been an honor to serve as the NSPE-California State President.

Introducing 75% of my new NSPE-California leadership team around the NSPE community at the 2018 PECON in Las Vegas. Here with Mehdi Khalili, PE (Vice President 2018-19) and our new Executive Director Jeanne-Marie Tokunaga.

Introducing 75% of my new NSPE-California leadership team around the NSPE community at the 2018 PECON in Las Vegas. Here with Mehdi Khalili, PE (Vice President 2018-19) and our new Executive Director Jeanne-Marie Tokunaga.

We’re at an engineering conference after all, so of course we spent our time touring the power plant that provides electricity to much of Las Vegas.

We’re at an engineering conference after all, so of course we spent our time touring the power plant that provides electricity to much of Las Vegas.

While just outside, the majority of patrons of Las Vegas were hanging out on the casino floors testing their luck, this group of licensed professional engineers were touring the chillers that help make sure entire city blocks of casinos, hotels and shopping malls stay cool when the blistering desert heat has its way with the town.

While just outside, the majority of patrons of Las Vegas were hanging out on the casino floors testing their luck, this group of licensed professional engineers were touring the chillers that help make sure entire city blocks of casinos, hotels and shopping malls stay cool when the blistering desert heat has its way with the town.

So lucky to have Jeanne Marie Tokunaga as NSPE-California’s new Executive Director: non-profit associations whiz, former journalist, gourmet chef, stamp collecting enthusiast and classic films buff all-in-one. Awesome to have her on our team (using the journalists’ “AP comma” in this description just for her).

So lucky to have Jeanne Marie Tokunaga as NSPE-California’s new Executive Director: non-profit associations whiz, former journalist, gourmet chef, stamp collecting enthusiast and classic films buff all-in-one. Awesome to have her on our team (using the journalists’ “AP comma” in this description just for her).

With our NSPE California State Vice-President, Mehdi Khalili after the House of Delegates session.

With our NSPE California State Vice-President, Mehdi Khalili after the House of Delegates session.

Inside “The Bat Cave,” what the facilities team at the Bellagio affectionately call the underground service and maintenance area that make the Bellagio Fountains as magical as they appear to be.

Inside “The Bat Cave,” what the facilities team at the Bellagio affectionately call the underground service and maintenance area that make the Bellagio Fountains as magical as they appear to be.

The floating maintenance rig that services each and every water cannon powering the Bellagio Fountains.

The floating maintenance rig that services each and every water cannon powering the Bellagio Fountains.

One of the Bellagio Fountains facilities leads explaining the literal nuts and bolts behind the captivating fountain show the Bellagio is famous for.

One of the Bellagio Fountains facilities leads explaining the literal nuts and bolts behind the captivating fountain show the Bellagio is famous for.

Checking out the engineering magic behind the water cannons that power the Bellagio Fountains.

Checking out the engineering magic behind the water cannons that power the Bellagio Fountains.

Watching the results of all that mechanical engineering and facilities maintenance that make the Bellagio Fountains possible. Seeing the machinery behind a selection of pieces by DJ Tiesto.

Watching the results of all that mechanical engineering and facilities maintenance that make the Bellagio Fountains possible. Seeing the machinery behind a selection of pieces by DJ Tiesto.

At the Order of the Engineer engineering ethics ring ceremony with our new inductees.

At the Order of the Engineer engineering ethics ring ceremony with our new inductees.

State reps from the NSPE Western Division gathering for our annual region dinner.

State reps from the NSPE Western Division gathering for our annual region dinner.

Mehdi throwing rocks straight down the middle at the NSPE evening social at Brooklyn Bowl located inside The Linq Hotel & Casino.

Mehdi throwing rocks straight down the middle at the NSPE evening social at Brooklyn Bowl located inside The Linq Hotel & Casino.

Nothing to see here. Just innocently hanging out post sushi-feast with NSPE Treasurer Brian Armstrong on the terrace of Yellowtail inside the Bellagio.

Nothing to see here. Just innocently hanging out post sushi-feast with NSPE Treasurer Brian Armstrong on the terrace of Yellowtail inside the Bellagio.

I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but had to stop by TMobile Arena to pay my respects to the Vegas Golden Knights and their stellar inaugural year in the NHL (personally I think it’s because they have Marc-André Fleury as their goaltender).

I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but had to stop by TMobile Arena to pay my respects to the Vegas Golden Knights and their stellar inaugural year in the NHL (personally I think it’s because they have Marc-André Fleury as their goaltender).

It only took me almost two decades to buy a ticket to Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère. I had been wanting to see it back in the days I was an engineering student in college and was excited to finally get a chance to make it happen. The show ended up being a nice, rewarding way to end a long week of engineering conference-going.

It only took me almost two decades to buy a ticket to Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère. I had been wanting to see it back in the days I was an engineering student in college and was excited to finally get a chance to make it happen. The show ended up being a nice, rewarding way to end a long week of engineering conference-going.

When I finish reading the books I bring on trips like these, there is always room in the suitcase for more. I needed some “protoplasmic energy.”

When I finish reading the books I bring on trips like these, there is always room in the suitcase for more. I needed some “protoplasmic energy.”

Winding down at Parasol Up at Wynn Las Vegas, reflecting on a productive and engaging week at #PECON2018.

Winding down at Parasol Up at Wynn Las Vegas, reflecting on a productive and engaging week at #PECON2018.


// NSPE Board of Directors Meeting - Newport Beach, California (2013)

Ending the face to face board meeting with a photo scavenger hunt around Balboa Island. Here’s the entire team: The Good Ship Guppy! (L to R) Me, Kodi Jean Church; Kevin Skibiski; Dan Witliff, Kim Granados, Larry Jacobson, David Dexter.

Ending the face to face board meeting with a photo scavenger hunt around Balboa Island. Here’s the entire team: The Good Ship Guppy! (L to R) Me, Kodi Jean Church; Kevin Skibiski; Dan Witliff, Kim Granados, Larry Jacobson, David Dexter.


// First NSPE Annual Meeting as a Board Member (Las Vegas, 2011)

With some of my fellow NSPE leaders during the first year of my two year term, serving on the Society’s Board as its Director - Young Engineers.

With some of my fellow NSPE leaders during the first year of my two year term, serving on the Society’s Board as its Director - Young Engineers.

Not just flashing lights and blurry cameras, from the induction ceremony to sitting in on my first conference sessions, Las Vegas was a celebratory environment, welcoming me into the first ever of my non profit board duties that had an impact on our 30,000 members across all 50 states.

Not just flashing lights and blurry cameras, from the induction ceremony to sitting in on my first conference sessions, Las Vegas was a celebratory environment, welcoming me into the first ever of my non profit board duties that had an impact on our 30,000 members across all 50 states.

The House of Delegates meeting of NSPE, where the Board and representatives from each State’s local Society join to discuss and vote on Society plans.

The House of Delegates meeting of NSPE, where the Board and representatives from each State’s local Society join to discuss and vote on Society plans.


// STARTING POINTS

It was very possibly at this Peet’s Coffee in Harvard Square where I fist became a member of NSPE. I had just moved to New England and through searches on engineering ethics and professional engineering licensure, I found out about the Connecticut State Society of Professional Engineers, that state’s local chapter of NSPE.

I was visiting friends in Boston and had the first evening to myself when I arrived. I navigated the snowy icy sidewalks of Cambridge and camped out for an hour or so at this Peet’s as I thought through my plans for the week. Reading more about the Connecticut Society and being interesting in learning how I could help, I signed up as a member over the Peet’s wifi. I’ve been continuing on at my caffeinated best ever since that night.


// WHAT’S A PE?

Just as one would expect a doctor or lawyer to also be licensed in their field of practice in their respective states, professional engineering licensure (or just “PE”) exists in all 50 states in the US to perform work that directly impacts public safety. Most common are PEs in civil and structural engineering that handle construction and public works projects, but PEs can be found across most any discipline.