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Daniel Surrett ND '06 ENGINEERING

AUTHOR: Allison Preston

PUBLISHED: January 31, 2018

Q: When did you start working for Severud Associates and what has your career trajectory been like?

Surrett: I’m originally from New York City and my goal was to work there immediately after graduation. I saw the Severud job listing posted on the bulletin board outside the dean’s office in Fitzpatrick Hall. I mailed my cover letter and resume to the CEO who was a Notre Dame graduate and was offered an interview. I was then offered an entry-level engineering job before graduation.

I started out reviewing shop drawings and designing framing on mid-rise to the smallest of scale renovation jobs that a more senior engineer had laid out for me. I progressed to being involved in projects during schematic design and design development in which a more senior engineer handled the meetings and correspondence with the owner, architect and other consultants, but I was able to observe the process of putting a building together. I spent a few years on various low, mid and high rise concrete job sites doing controlled inspection for rebar and concrete placement. Inspection experience gave me a better sense of what a construction schedule is really like and how to detail things in a constructible way.

When I settled back into office work, I began managing several small renovations at a time requiring interaction with the client, design team and contractor on a regular basis. After successfully managing multiple small renovations, I was given new construction low rise steel and concrete buildings to manage as well as major renovations on mid-rise structures. This also meant managing interns and entry-level engineers to complete the design and meet deliverables. At this point, the principals of the firm were comfortable with having me represent the company in front of our clients on projects of all scales. 

Q: What is your current job title and what are your main responsibilities? 

Surrett: My current title is Senior Associate. I manage coordination of the building structure with the rest of the design team, the production of structural drawings, the review of shop drawings, response to requests for information from contractors, inspections performed by our office, review of 3rd party inspections and advising the owner and architect on nearly anything related to superstructure and foundation on a macro or micro level. I’m still involved in critical beam, column and slab design as well as detailing as required to keep the project moving.

Q: What is it like working on high rises that are changing the landscape of New York City?

SurrettIt’s a great blessing. Day to day in the thick of design and coordination it doesn’t feel very different than working on a low or mid-rise building. The design process is the same whether you’re 100 ft or 1,000 ft above grade. However, when you realize that people outside the profession are even following what you’re working on including media outlets and politicians, not to mention your friends and family, you realize the project matters to others. In addition to the thousands of people who will work and shop in these structures, there are millions of people of all ages that will pass them on a regular basis and associate something you spent years of your life working on in their memories of the New York City skyline.

Q: What excites you about the future of engineering?

SurrettWe’re seeing a steady introduction of higher strength steel members and fasteners as well as high strength concrete. I look at the strength of materials in the early 1900s vs. today and can only imagine where they’ll be when I’m old and gray.

Q: What advice do you have for students who are preparing to graduate?

Surrett: Set professional goals for yourself. What do I want to be doing and where in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? and put yourself in a position to meet those goals. Also, nobody expects you to know everything about the profession coming right out of college but they do notice how quickly you pick up on things and apply them to your work. I wanted my superiors to feel like they were leading me in the right direction as opposed to dragging me along. No matter what my role was at the time, I did the best job that I could possibly do without unnecessarily spending hours on the projects. I did not complain that my peers were working on more high profile jobs than I was. I believed that if I was faithful in the small things, I’d be given more to manage and it has proven to be true.

Q: Any other words of wisdom for engineering students?

Surrett: Engineers are business people too. I don’t know if they still offer something like this, but when I was in undergrad, they offered a basic class on business for engineers taught by a few IBM execs where they made you look at what is involved in running a business outside of the services the business provides. They even put us through a business lunch as part of the class. You can’t be an engineer if you don’t have any work, so remember that business sense and good business relationships are essential to allow you to practice professional engineering. 

Daniel Surrett is a senior associate at Severud Associates. He graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structures. He was also involved with the Notre Dame Marching Band and the Jazz Band. Most recently, he gave junior CEEES students a tour of a high-rise he is working on called One Vanderbilt. 


Categories:  Alumni

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