Eric Li is an Associate Director at Walsh Group. He is part of the senior management team with responsibility for delivering projects, growing the business and developing other structural engineers.
Here he discusses what it means to be a structural engineer and a Fellow of IStructE.
"As Fellows we have the responsibility to promote the profession and the Institution, share knowledge and look after and inspire the next generation of structural engineers."Eric Li FIStructE
What inspired you to become a structural engineer?
I have always enjoyed sketching and from a young age I knew that I would enjoy a career that combines drawing, design and building. It was while I was studying Mathematics and, in particular, Design & Technology at Kingston College that I knew design in engineering was the direction I should follow.
I considered myself a structural engineer when I did my first industrial placement in 2001 at Mott MacDonald. It gave me a fantastic opportunity to work in a design office and to be part of a project team with real-world responsibilities. I always recommend that students work in a design office between academic years, to be 'thrown into the deep end' before the start of their professional career.
What are the greatest achievements of your career?
I believe achievements are check points along your journey, and the journey itself means as much as the goals. Having said that, some projects played a significant role in my career development, including Heathrow Terminal 5; Heathrow Terminal 2 Concourse B; my work experience in the Middle East and America; being part of the senior management team at Walsh Group; and my involvement with and contribution to the Institution – I have been an active committee member of the South Eastern Counties Regional Group for many years.
How would you define structural engineering?
The general public view of structural engineering is that it is synonymous with construction site, yellow jackets and hard hats. Structural engineering is, in fact, multifaceted.
A qualified structural engineer possesses a wide range of skills. Besides excellent technical knowledge and design skills they need to be confident speakers, sketchers and writers. They also need to be problem solvers, grow management and leadership skills, and possess a strong business acumen. We are also the ones responsible for designing and building a sustainable world for all of us to thrive and to live in.
When I say that I am a structural engineer to a friend, I am often asked if that is the same as an architect. I understand the confusion but it highlights the importance of promoting and increasing awareness of our profession. The Institution is doing a great job but we should all get involved. I believe we deserve the recognition as much as the other professions.
What does Fellowship mean to you?
It is a privilege to be elected a Fellow of the Institution. It signifies the highest standing in the profession of structural engineering and the recognition as a senior structural engineer of the highest reputation.
As Fellows we have the responsibility to promote the profession and the Institution, share knowledge and look after and inspire the next generation of structural engineers.
How do you interact with the Institution?
I have been actively involved with the Institution since early on in my career. My first involvement was acting as the Graduate Representative Committee Member of the South Eastern Counties Regional Group between 2005 and 2007.
Since 2016 I have taken on the role of the Secretary of the Group. Duties include:
- Providing assistance to the Chair
- Convening Committee meetings
- Preparing meeting minutes and agenda
- Arranging the election of the Committee
- Communicating with the Regional Group's members.
In 2019 I took my responsibilities further by becoming the Senior Vice Chair. I look forward to discharging my duties as the Chair in 2020. I learned a great deal over the years with the Institution, and I am committed to serving the interests of Group members.