At TLC, we believe our people are our most valuable asset. We continually invest in our employees and provide a variety of ways for them to grow, succeed, and shine. Whether it’s working on projects, helping out in the local community, or simply lending a helping hand to their coworkers, we frequently have employees who go above and beyond. In this new recurring segment we showcase some of our up-and-coming employees, as well as the interesting projects they are working on. So without further ado, please welcome TLCer Brian McSweeney!
Tell us about your involvement at TLC and what you do?
Brian: I’m a structural engineer and project manager at TLC. In short, our role as structural engineers is to make sure things stand up but also that what we do fully coordinates with the vision of the architect. Both of those roles are equally important because the architect’s vision is probably being driven by the owner, who is trying to achieve a certain goal. So we have to work within those constrains but also have that push and pull with the architect and owner where we tell them what we need to make sure that the structure stands up. I also work on project management to make sure we feed out work to the staff, along with mentoring and teaching them how to do what we do more effectively.
What got you interested in structural engineering?
Brian: Well I would blame my Legos first and foremost. I was always a huge Lego fan; I like building things, putting things together, and trying to figure out how things work. As I was growing up I really found that I liked drawing a whole lot which led me to drawing mostly buildings. I loved buildings and I found myself fascinated with what architects do with plans and laying out elevations and so forth, which led me to four years of drafting class in high school. Near the end of high school I took a physics class and I started thinking “is there a way to pair physics with architecture?” I had a series of conversations and someone mentioned the word structural engineering. They said that’s what it sounds like you’re looking for and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
If you had to give an interesting fact about yourself what would that be?
Brian: On the side I’m a computer modeling and animation geek. It kind of goes hand in hand with me liking photography a lot. I also have a short film that I worked on with a bunch of other folks.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Brian: That’s a really good question. My thought was to stop being so hard on yourself and expecting perfection. Just be comfortable with who you are and don’t constantly hope to meet others’ expectations of who you are. It’s easier said than done, especially when you’re younger everything around you feels like you have to do this and do that. Looking back if I could let go of that, I would have been a lot less stressed in all of my school years.
What advice would you give to college students who are looking to enter the engineering field?
Brian: During college, seek internships. Even if it’s not directly in your field, as long as it’s associated. I did two years of a construction internship which was fantastic because I got to see how things were built and also found out that I had no desire to become a contractor at that point. When coming out of school, talk to the people you know to try and find a good job; don’t just seek jobs on Google. Network and find someone who matters to you. My first job was with a guy that I really respected, who ended up leaving the firm I interned at in my final two years of college. He left to start his own company and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because I knew him, and respected him, he was able to teach me far beyond what I would have gotten at another place where I would have just been a generic number. So if you have a place you’ve interned, if you know someone, work that network and try to take that into consideration relative to the big names in the industry because the big name doesn’t mean everything.
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Brian: Messing around with LEGOs or getting outside. I like to spend time outdoors hiking, adventuring, and trying to find new places. Right now free time is a precious commodity, primarily filled with sleep when I can.
What is your favorite thing about working at TLC?
Brian: What got me hooked on TLC was talking with Steve Shelt. He was willing to talk a long time about the history and his team. Listening to him talk about his team, it sounded like a close-knit group and when I interviewed it was apparent that they are a close-knit group. It reminded me that having a comfortable work-family to lean on was something that I valued.
So to answer your question, my favorite thing about working at TLC is the people. I may be a bit biased, but the people in my local group here are the best. Steve has always said “There’s no egos, we all help each other out, we all ask questions, and are all willing to make sacrifices to get things done.” At the same time, we all have fun, joke around, and have a good time.
Outside of the people, the variety of projects is fantastic. Steve clearly prizes having a variety of work to do and not just doing the same cookie cutter work for the same sort of building every couple of weeks. We are constantly tested with projects that present new challenges every day and I think that is fantastic.
Tell us about a cool project that you are working on. What was your involvement with this project?
Brian: One of my most favorite recent projects that we are finishing up on is the Jeweler’s Exchange building renovation in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It’s a historic renovation that involves a very old building from 1915. As with many old buildings, especially the commercial ones of that era, engineers and architects experimented with structural systems. So you never quite know what you’re going to find.
I enjoyed that one because like most of my historic projects over the years, it was a real puzzle. It’s a mystery — you got all of these plaster finishes and you are thinking to yourself, how the heck am I going to see the structural elements? So you’re asking the constructor to cut a hole here, cut a hole there…and then we ended up having to make a second site visit because we didn’t fully understand the existing structure based on our limited access. So we came back out and unpacked the rest of the mystery. While the structural scope isn’t the biggest part of the renovation on this one, it’s an exciting and challenging part because it’s a big puzzle.
How do you balance working on a bunch of different projects all at once?
Brian: We have to juggle a lot. One of the things we found is that with engineering it’s feast or famine. We would rather be busy and juggling projects compared to scrounging for work. So we juggle quite a few projects at once to keep ourselves going. Sometimes we get overwhelmed and in those moments it’s really important to ask for help and redistribute the work.
You are known for your passion for TLC and the work you do. How would you encourage others to have that same level of enthusiasm?
Brian: I always felt that whatever you’re doing, you should be passionate about it. If you’re not then ask why. Maybe it’s not the right fit for you or there is something specific that’s been dragging you down. I’ll be perfectly honest, there are some days that I’m dragging. Maybe it’s a hard day, maybe I didn’t get a lot of sleep, maybe I’m not feeling well, or maybe a project I was working on isn’t sparking that interest, it could be any number of things.
I think it’s important for folks to evaluate where they are and how they can get excited about what they are doing if they’re not. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing first ask yourself how you can make it better for yourself and others before you decide to move on. I think there is a need for all of us to be proactive in every area of our life to make sure we are enjoying what we are doing in a holistic sense…not letting it get to the point where we get burnt out.
Thank you for meeting with us Brian, You gave some great insight!
Brian: Thank you for having me! I appreciate you guys doing this. I think it is important to learn about each other and the projects we are all working on. We should all have some enthusiasm for what others in the firm are working on and doing.
That’s all we have for now. Stay tuned for additional interviews and let us know what you thought of this one!