Maria Mohammed graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 2012 and an M.S. in Structural Engineering in 2013. She joined Structural Focus in 2013 after interning with ARUP and with SKANSKA in New York City the previous two summers. Maria is a licensed Professional Engineer, she has worked on significant projects at Structural Focus including CBRE Masonic Temple, John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, and several projects on the Warner Bros. Studio lot, among others. Maria is an active member of the structural engineering community. She is a team leader at Centennial High School for the ACE Mentor Program and co-chair of the SEAOSC Young Members Committee. She is also involved with the SEAOSC Education Committee and Image and Public Relations Committee.
What does Structural Design mean to you?
Structural Design is as simple as putting things together while taking crucial aesthetic and functionality components into consideration. It means simplifying things, solving problems, and challenging yourself to contribute to the overall benefit of society.
Favorite Project, Biggest Challenge, and Dream Project
I really liked working on the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre project. It involved the historic rehabilitation of portions of the existing Amphitheatre and development of the new Ford Terrace, the Ford Plaza, and the Transit Center. It was a very complicated project, components that started as straightforward and simple did not end up being simple at all. This is the largest project I have worked on, I loved the challenge. Working as a team, we were able to resolve all the challenges and deliver a successful project. It was a great experience to work with Levin & Associates Architects and Pankow.
What’s your favorite part about working at Structural Focus?
Structural Focus gives me the opportunity to be very involved in my projects, I have a lot of responsibilities for someone with only a few years of experience. I have a sense of ownership over my projects that is very satisfying. The combination of cool projects (like the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre!) and the family environment makes everyday fun and rewarding.
I have learned so much at Structural Focus. It has been a great experience learning to communicate directly with our clients. We are constantly helping and providing guidance. It is very important that our clients see us as advisors, not just technical structural engineers whom they’ve hired to produce a set of drawings. It’s really fun to be the person the client regularly calls when they have questions or need something. Overall, I feel that is what separates good structural engineers from those who just crunch numbers and draw designs. How do you deal with those questions? How do you assure the client that you have his/her best interest at heart?
The Future of Structural Engineering
Structural Engineering as an industry is nothing like I envisioned it when I was in school, I had a sense that it was a very technical field. But there is a very crucial business aspect to it that not everyone understands. In the future, Structural Engineering will need to embrace the business in addition to the technical aspect. We must advocate for our profession and market ourselves as advisors as well as engineers in order for the public to understand the crucial value we add to this world.
What advice would you give young structural engineers?
Learning doesn’t stop once you’re done with college, every day is a learning experience in our field. Each project has a unique challenge that you can learn from. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The sooner young structural engineers realize that the more satisfying this profession becomes.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I started out as an Architecture major in college but once I realized that as my education progressed the classes would be more artsy than technical, I decided to look for an alternative. I am a technical person, I enjoy analysis. So I looked for a career that required a combination of technical expertise and creativity, I wanted to work with numbers and draw lines that lead to creative solutions. That is how I started my path to Structural Engineering. My creativity doesn’t stop there, I also enjoy painting. I’ve painted all the artwork displayed in my apartment and a few pieces for my family and friends.