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Spotlight: Dylan Dowling, EIT

Dylan joined the Gray & Fick team at the start of 2019, and has grown from completing small tasks to being the primary designer for an 8 storey concrete structure (while also doing company photography and web development)!

Dylan completed his Bachelor of Applied Science (Civil Engineering) and Master of Applied Science (Civil Engineering) at the University of Waterloo in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Following his MASc completion, Dylan was looking for a career in a consulting engineering firm - something he found he enjoyed doing after completing multiple co-operative education terms at structural consultants during his undergraduate degree.

What drove you to enter structural engineering?

I've never been able to answer why I wanted to be a structural engineer with only one reason. I've always enjoyed cool looking buildings and bridges, and I've been skilled with math and physics for as long as I can remember, but those reasons were really only what made me look at engineering in the first place, and weren't why I stuck with it. As I finished high school and started university, I found the problems increasingly challenging, but also increasingly interesting, and I kept wanting to solve them more and more. Soon after, my first co-op term exposed me to the world of bridges and their design, maintenance and inspection. I started to realize that I could have a job that suited my love of my math, physics, and problem solving while also having an actual impact on the communities and environments around me. It's also really meaningful to me to leave behind something for future generations that will outlast me, where someday my great grandkids might be able to look at a building that I designed, whether they know it was me or not. I'm sure there were more reasons that I've since forgotten, but those are definitely some of the stronger drivers behind my decision.

Why did you join Gray & Fick?

I started my job search at the end of 2018 as I was finishing up my masters. I was really looking for a company where quality was emphasized based on my own personality. I was also looking for somewhere with a company personality that meshed well with my own. I really value helping others, teaching, and learning, and I wanted to make sure I was at a company that valued that too. Gray & Fick stood out to me based on the website and social media, which included not just interesting projects, but also charity and community work. That showed me a company that really had helping as a core value, which has only been reinforced over the last two years through donating to charity, blood drives, and more. The best part is that everyone gets involved and organizes or helps, and it's really key to the culture here.

What were your first few months like?

My first month or so was spent mostly in a validation role. Engineering needs checks and reviews, which were my main tasks. In addition to acting as a second check for other designers, it also helped me learn quickly and pick up details or information that I hadn't seen before. This came in particularly handy when I started work on Glendale Crossing II, which is similar in many ways to University Gates II, a project I spent my first month modelling and working with. People were really welcoming too, and helped me fit into the company and got me involved in charities and other events!

What has changed since then?

Things quickly changed after January when I was assigned to help with an ongoing project, Northpoint II. I went from mostly checking others' work to doing my own design work. Bill was invaluable during this time, and supported me with my (many) questions. Bill's commitment to helping me learn was awesome, and really helped me feel confident in design as I've moved into larger structures and more independence. I've also become one half of the web team (shared with Adam), company photographer, and one of the company techies. I've always loved photography and technology, and being able to use those as part of my job here has been great (and has probably improved my architectural photography more than I know).

What has been your favourite project so far?

My favourite project is probably split between Winston Park V and Glendale Crossing II. Both have been big steps forward in my learning. Winston Park is a 5 storey, L shaped building with a possible future expansion, and was my first time acting as the primary designer for a larger building. I had a great drafter working with me who helped me focus on both detail and the bigger picture (thanks Jason!), and I'm excited to see it in construction. Glendale is a larger, 8 storey building with a pair of smaller buildings separated by expansion joints. I've seen Glendale through from first conception and layout to the detailed design and now to the start of construction. It's really cool to work on a large design from start to finish that's almost in my backyard; it's only about 10min from my house, and I drive by it regularly and am excited to see it climb out of the ground!

What skills are you looking to improve next?

I'm thinking about looking at ways to model more effectively and ways to improve automation. We have a decent library of Excel design aids set up and I've been using ETABS's built in design modules for preliminary design, but my goal is to go a step beyond that. Certain problems, like bi-axial bending + axial force in a concrete column or masonry wall, require more intensive math than is nice with Excel, so I'm going to look into using something like Mathcad or SMath, or maybe using VBA within Excel to create 3D interaction diagrams.

What is a small thing that you like about the company?

Definitely ping pong. Over half the company plays on a regular basis, and Adam and I make an effort to play one game a day. It's a great break from work, wakes you up a little bit, and winning always feels nice, but nobody is too competitive so losing isn't bad either. Of course, it helps that I always beat Adam (don't edit this out, Adam)!

What activities are you looking forward to next year?

We've had a couple of trivia matches over the past year, including via Zoom. It was super fun, and I'm looking forward to the next one (or many!), which will hopefully be able to pick up again soon! A lot of charity events were cancelled last year, but we were still able to have fun and raise some money for charity through the trivia competitions!

Do you have a favourite quote? What is it?

I read a lot of books, but rarely am I stunned by what I read. However, one passage in Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson left me speechless the first time I read it, and even today makes me stop and think whenever I see it.

“A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us. But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination. To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.” - Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

What's your superpower?

Organization. Not just of pieces of paper, which is probably the least useful part of it, but also people, and events, and groups. I've been fortunate to have opportunities to organize a lot of events and teams, all the way from setting up 3 person group projects to a research poster series to organizing and running a day long event with hundreds of people in attendance. It's truly amazing to be able to get people into situations where they can have fun, meet new people, learn new things, and just grow as individuals, and I've always found it to be really rewarding.

If you could be anything other than an engineer, what would you be?

I mean if we're choosing, I'm going to go with millionaire beach bum. In reality though, I'd probably go with something related to media production (maybe a photographer, camera operator, or video editor). I love photography and videography, and would be very happy to make a career out of either of those. Thankfully, I can make use of some of those skills with G&F and on the side, so I'm not totally isolated from it!


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