Interview with Structural Designer Dorothy Collins

Photo of WBRC Structural Designer Dorothy Collins

In 1951, the National Society of Professional Engineers initiated Engineer’s Week to highlight the important role engineers play in our society. It’s been celebrated every year since. E-Week events and publicity also focus on attracting young people to the profession.

In honor of E-Week, we’ve asked some of WBRC’s newer engineers and engineers-to-be about their chosen careers.

Dorothy Collins – Structural Designer

From the first day she contacted us in 2021, Dorothy Collins (then Ullrich) impressed us with her professionalism. She is one of our teammates who was onboarded while most of us were still working remotely. Dorothy works out of our new offices on 701 Forest Avenue in Portland.

Why did you become an engineering professional? What attracted you to this profession?

I wanted to become an engineer because I enjoyed math and science in high school. I always had an interest in architecture because I thought they did what structural engineers do, but I am not a creative person. Once I found out about the field of structural engineering, where I could apply my math/science brain, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you learn from him or her?

No specific mentors but a couple of great professors.

What traits do you think are needed to be successful in your engineering discipline?

Successful structural engineers are good at adapting to what the needs of the project are, but they also need to be realistic. So a critical thinker who likes problem-solving would be a good fit.

When people ask you what you do all day, what do you say?

I do some structural analysis but most of my day is coordination with architects and developing drawings.

When you first started working in engineering, what was most surprising to you?

The biggest surprise was how much of what you learn in school is not really used in real life. Most of construction is driven by budget and time of construction, not the theoretical best solution.

Is there a WBRC project you are especially proud of? Why?

I have been with WBRC for about 1.5 years. So far I have been involved in so many interesting projects but there have not been any big ones I have seen from start to finish. I am saving my favorite for those.

What would you say to a young person who is interested in becoming an engineer but unsure if they have what it takes?

Join ACE! ACE is a high school program where local professionals mentor high school students and give them a better idea of what engineers and architects do day to day.