ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Spotlight on OSU CEAT 2021 Hall of Fame Inductee Carrie Johnson, PE, SE

10.20.21 by Krista Looney
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This year, we've been fortunate to be able to celebrate 40 years of success as Wallace Engineering and toast the company’s current and future progress as Wallace Design Collective. 

When we caught up with founder Tom Wallace back in June, he was quick to attribute the company's past and continued achievements to "hiring some really smart, talented, and thoughtful people."

Today, we're excited to feature one of those people who have been so instrumental in building this company: Carrie Johnson, PE, SE. 

Upon graduating from Oklahoma State University (OSU) with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Architectural Engineering, Carrie joined Wallace Engineering full time in 1988 and has been an integral part of Wallace's success ever since. Her contributions range from managing huge workflows from retail clients to using her computer programming skills to develop internal design and project management tools that have improved company-wide productivity and organization.

Here’s what CEO Tom Hendrick has to say about the value Carrie has brought to Wallace:

"Carrie has been the backbone of Wallace for much of her career. In addition to overseeing large volumes of work, she has always been involved in so many other things in our offices including the databases, the standards and our culture. She is a tireless worker who always takes the time to help others and provide input to others throughout the company."

Additionally, Tom notes that Carrie’s contributions extend far beyond Wallace, as she has devoted significant time and energy to a number of industry organizations and committees. Carrie is a former president of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) and has served or is currently serving on several boards and committees within NCSEA. She has also provided leadership and insights to organizations such as Oklahoma Structural Engineers Association (OSEA), Applied Technology Council (ATC), and American Institute of Architects (AIA) as an active member or officer. Much of her efforts and involvement have focused on furthering the structural engineering industry through continued education for engineers. 

Carrie’s impact on Wallace and the industry at large is being recognized by her alma mater. On October 23rd, 2021, Carrie will be inducted into the Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology (CEAT) Hall of Fame. Each CEAT Hall of Fame candidate “must be a distinguished engineer, architect, or technologist who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession or OSU and has served their community, state, and nation with distinction.”

At Wallace, we have no doubt that Carrie meets and exceeds this criteria.

"It is no surprise to me that she is being inducted into the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology Hall of Fame,” says Tom. “It is well deserved."

Read on to find out more about Carrie - her thoughts on her career achievements, her motivations and influences, and her advice for young industry professionals:

What do you consider to be your specialties, or favorite aspects of your career? 

I think where I have been able to contribute most is by creating tools that allow us to do our work more efficiently, through developing spreadsheets, writing guidelines, developing databases, etc. I really enjoy this type of work. Often, we find that our gut feeling about how we are performing on certain project types is not exactly the same when we analyze the numbers using our databases. We find a slightly different answer and that insight is powerful.

What do you consider to be your most significant professional accomplishment? 

I would say being able to keep our retail clients happy for so many years. We have been working for one client over 30 years and it is an accomplishment to make sure that you are always listening to the client and responding to their needs. Because the people change, this often means reconsidering how you have done things for years. We have a whole group in the office that does this, and I'm very proud of everyone. Not everyone is happy dealing with the pace and of retail projects, but I think we thrive on it.

What motivates you to be involved in or lead professional organizations and committees? 

My short answer is the people I have met. I also truly believe that I get just as much out of being involved in these organizations as I have contributed. I think leading boards and committees teaches you a lot about how to be a better leader. I also think that we owe it to our profession to give back.

What do you believe are the biggest or most important issues facing the structural engineering community in the near future?

I think we need to continue to strive to make sure that our profession doesn't become commoditized. The input that structural engineers have on projects is essential to successful buildings, but we aren't always recognized for our contributions. My committee work has mostly centered around continuing education for structural engineers. I think it is important that we continue to learn new things throughout our careers.

What moments, courses, professors, or mentors from OSU stand out as helping to prepare you for real world success? 

The professor who had the most impact on me was Louis Bass. He was a pioneer in using analysis software to model 3-dimensional structures. He was truly inspirational, but one of the most down to earth people I ever met. One of my favorite memories is how excited he would get showing classes how to derive a stiffness matrix to analyze structures. He would then stand back in awe, with great flair.

What advice would you give current structural/architectural engineering students or professionals? 

It may seem slightly cliche, but make sure you find what you are doing interests you.  If it doesn't satisfy you enough, you won't be happy in the long term. That doesn't always mean changing jobs to find something completely different.  If you look around within your company, there are often opportunities that you can have by just asking. Sometimes, that means asking about something the company hasn't even thought about doing a certain way.

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Krista Looney

Structural Engineer

Ms. Looney has over eight years of experience in the field of structural engineering. Krista has performed structural assessments, inspections and roof evaluations on structures across the United States. She has also performed rapid assessments of and designed repairs for structures damaged by high winds, earthquakes and other natural phenomena. She has been a licensed engineer since 2015.

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