As I look back on the past year and a half and think about all the madness surrounding Covid-19, I can’t help but feel as if I’m emerging from some strange cosmic time warp. The time that has passed since the early days of the pandemic feels so slow in the moment, yet, when I think about all that has happened in my life during this period, the time has passed by surprisingly quickly.
I graduated from Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, in June of 2020, and I proceeded to complete my first year as an Architectural Engineering (ARCE) student at Cal Poly SLO during the 2020 –21 school year. This past June, I began my job here at Simpson Strong-Tie as the summer intern for the Pleasanton R&D Lab.
My familiarity with Simpson Strong-Tie dates back to my middle school days. I attended Hart Middle School, which is situated across the street from Simpson’s Pleasanton facilities. When I was in 7th grade, I enrolled in an Intro to Engineering course, and one of our field trips brought us into the Simpson Strong-Tie Lab. I learned all about the company and witnessed one of the very same tests that I help with in my current position. I remember being awestruck that the small and seemingly insignificant fasteners and connectors could play such an integral role in not only building structures, but also in my everyday life dwelling in and navigating those buildings. That field trip planted the seeds that would eventually help me develop into the architectural engineering student I am today. So, in a strange way, Simpson led me to Cal Poly, and Cal Poly led me back to Simpson Strong-Tie.
During my time at Cal Poly so far, I’ve taken ARCE-106, which introduced me (on a basic level) to building structures and components, and that course helped solidify my certainty in my passion for architectural engineering and boosted my confidence in knowing that I’ve chosen the right major. Beyond that course, I feel that my time at Simpson Strong-Tie has been an equally, if not more, valuable experience than the one ARCE-specific course I have taken thus far. I’ve learned about wood and its properties: species, grain pattern, specific gravity, etc. I’ve also had the chance to work with multiple types of fasteners and connectors that Simpson manufactures and learn about their various applications and the ideal scenarios for their use. While working in the lab, I’ve been able to witness the numerous testing methods and safety factors Simpson employs to ensure a safe, No-Equal® product reaches its consumers.
If I had to name some favorite aspects of my job here at Simpson Strong-Tie, the first thing that comes to mind would be the people. All my coworkers are not only knowledgeable, but they are all kind-hearted and friendly people who look out for each other. Within my first week on the job, I felt as if I was at home and a “part of the team.” Everybody knows the intern horror stories of those students who are stuck mopping floors all day and doing busy work, but I felt as if every moment of my time on the job was a valuable experience. Sure, I had to vacuum the equipment every so often, but I was also using that same equipment for its intended purposes daily, gaining valuable, hands-on experience.
Among that hands-on building experience were opportunities to build two workbenches and a desk and to conduct multiple write-ups for lab testing. I constructed the workbenches using 4×4 and 2×4 pieces of wood, in addition to Simpson’s very own RTC42 parts. These workbenches were constructed for the R&D engineers, and they were made to match those already in place for the lab technicians.
Another project I built was a desk that I could take with me and use in my apartment for this coming school year. The build for the desk utilized 2×4 boards and Simpson’s RTC2Z parts, and it was constructed around a spare tabletop I was given by one of the lab technicians.
Working with my hands was something I got to look forward to everyday, and I loved not only the finished result but the process of making sure every piece was square, level, flush and plumb.
Besides building projects, I also helped conduct tests in the lab and was responsible for the write-ups. These are valuable for tracking the variables within the tests and noting the conclusions derived from the tests. Among the tests run in the lab were multiple joist/hanger setups designed to test varying lengths of the Outdoor Accents® Structural Wood Screws. Another test I worked on required me to construct and fill concrete forms to create blocks for anchor testing. These are just a few examples among many hands-on opportunities here at Simpson Strong-Tie. All of them were valuable for seeing what the day-to-day routine looks like in the Simpson R&D Lab.
My experience as an intern at Simpson Strong-Tie far exceeded any hopes or expectations I could have held for any company or position after my first year of college. I gained various valuable skills working alongside structural engineers. I learned to work better with people and navigate a real-world work environment. I learned to work more efficiently with both my hands and tools, and I improved the quality of my workmanship as well. I gained a better and broader understanding of the scope of not just the structural engineering field, but of Simpson Strong-Tie as an industry leader in construction manufacturing. Most importantly, I found myself enjoying the entire experience. I am not a morning person, but I certainly looked forward to arriving at work every day at 7a.m. No two days were the same, and I managed to learn something new for each day I was on the job. I certainly hope to come back next year and gain even more experience working with Simpson Strong-Tie, preparing for my future as a structural engineer. As far as my experience as an intern is concerned, I truly believe there is “no equal” to working at Simpson Strong-Tie.