Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid

Known worldwide for her innovative and controversial designs, Zaha Hadid’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world. The community of architecture and design gave pause to Hadid’s death, because at 65 she was still in the apex of her career. To be a renowned architect requires a vast body of knowledge, and this, coupled with the methodical and tedious pace of design to construction, takes a tremendous amount of time for an architect to find their way. Great architects like Frank Loyd Wright and Oscar Niemeyer typically didn’t build much until their late 40s and continued into their 9th decades.

Very early on in her career, Hadid managed to gain an incredible amount of traction. Her interest in the cohesion between architecture, geology, and landscape, by way of cutting-edge design technologies, produced an end result that is unparalleled and dynamic, and it lives on to inspire, provoke, and influence for generations to come.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving, in 1972, to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Built of cast concrete and glass walls, Hadid's first building was a fire station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, on the campus of the furniture manufacturer Vitra, completed in 1994. The 1994 fire station was her first major work and laid the foundation for her career. Until the Vitra fire station, Hadid was known as the architect who couldn’t get anything built, then in a heartbeat became the architect who couldn’t stop building. Her most recent builds have been on such a colossal scale that, in some cases, they have altered the culture in which they inhabit. One of the most influential projects of her career, The Heydar Aliyev Centre in The Republic of Azerbaijan, won the 2014 Design of the Year from London’s Design Museum. Built in 2012, the 100,000-square meter structure has been noted for its distinctive architecture and unorthodox curved style. The Heydar Aliyev Centre evokes a visual experience almost too good to be true; the massive white curves sweep you up into the sky, and then bring you back down to find a wall of glass panes completely exposing the interior, assuring you—yes, it is real.   

In 2004, Hadid became the first female and first Muslim recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Hadid’s successful architecture career was no cake walk. She managed to shatter a glass ceiling built on the stigmas and prejudices of being an Arab-Muslim woman in a male-dominated industry. In a recent Q&A at the Oxford Union, Hadid described the gender inequalities she faced as, “a certain world I cannot be a part of.” Despite being excluded on golf outings and after-hours drinks with her male colleagues, Hadid’s tenacious and determined personality was impossible to suppress.  Zaha Mohammad Hadid was a formidable and international influence in architecture, and her work, from buildings to footwear, are timeless pieces that will allow her legacy will live on.


Meet The Squad: Steve

Born in the Village of Newark, New York, Steve came to Southern California at the young age of 23. Since then, he has amassed an impressive employment history, taken up a laundry list of hobbies, and developed a keen eye for detail, Steve managed to acquire a unique talent, a talent that time and time again has distinguished him from the average civil designer in the infrastructure industry. 

On April 1, 1976 Rush released 2112, their first album to reach the Billboard Top 100 LPs and Tape. Only sixteen at the time and working at a Wegman's grocery store after school, Steve purchased 2112. Listening to the album on repeat for weeks on end, Steve found himself immersed in the sound, production, and writing. He began to unravel each song piece by piece, developing his own style, personality and identity. He takes this same approach with all of his hobbies, from playing a musical instrument to mastering mixed martial arts techniques. “I’m constantly chasing new sounds and techniques, that’s what it’s all about,” Steve said during our interview. He then elaborated on how difficult it is to conceptualize the simultaneous strumming of one hand and the delicate and precise placement of another. Extracting a new unique sound that’s never been heard before, itching to evoke a new gripping emotion that is just as captivating as the last. It’s this chase that keeps Steve on the edge of his seat, keeps Steve hunting for more, hunting for a new extraordinary cadence of challenging riffs and chords. Steve describes this as a “constant battle to get better.” His dedication to his passion has cultivated a vivid understanding of enterprise and the conviction required to undertake a project; and not only see it through to completion--rather, to finish with merit.

To be a successful civil designer it is essential to have a high attention to detail. Preparing engineering plans using computer aided design (CAD) is no simple task. Plans are draw down to the millimeter, so the margin for error is huge. With 30 years of experience under his belt, this pressure is just another day’s work for Steve. When challenges and obstacles arise, you want someone like Steve in your corner.

As time and technology progress, the advent of new material and updated CAD software packages are inevitable. Therefore, an exceptional civil designer must have a natural desire for achievement and success. Fortunately, Steve has acquired this unique talent through his undeniable dedication to the projects he undertakes, whether they be professional or recreational. His capacity to formulate a plan set that is clear, consistent, and complete is a unique talent not only because it is a difficult task; because he does it with passion.

Meet The Squad: Justin

Beaches, mountains, and everything in-between is what Southern California is all about. As a California native, born and raised in the City of Fullerton, Justin embodies the California lifestyle. He surfs, rides his mountain bike, and enjoys the sunny weather almost year-round. Unless he’s in the mountains snowboarding, he’d rather not have to deal with 40 degree weather.

As a gifted and talented Project Manager for Onward Engineering, Justin’s responsibilities are vast. As a Project Manager, Justin is the main point of contact for many clients. His chief responsibility is to understand fully the short-term and long-term goals of our client on the projects he is assigned, and to communicate those goals to our design team. He then directs the design team in putting together the plans, specifications, and engineer’s estimate (PS&E). The PS&E package is essentially the step-by-step guide for how a project should be built. As this package is being prepared, Justin must proactively anticipate and respond to obstacles. These obstacles can include external stakeholders, logistical concerns, and budget constraints, among other things. A good Project Manager is able to pivot quickly to keep the project going. Though Justin’s position is demanding and tedious, when asked if working on different projects simultaneously can be stressful at times, he had this to say: “It can be, but I like to think of it as a daily challenge and because of that I’m never bored.” Instead of seeing difficult tasks as chores, he chooses to view them as opportunities to learn and grow. Justin’s “can-do” attitude is one of the many qualities that make him a valued member of our team.

 Our conversation shifted gears as Justin began to elaborate on the intricacies of each stage of a project. “Having the opportunity to play a role in each one of these stages has given me a comprehensive understanding of the infrastructure industry.” Passion and dedication filled his voice. I noticed that even though we were having a casual interview for a blog, Justin paused between thoughts, gave clear in-depth answers, and made a conscious effort to simplify the complexity of his position in terms someone with no industry experience could understand. Mindful of my disposition, Justin spoke in simple terms and answered questions before I could think to ask them.

Justin is comfortable with working on multiple projects at once. At a young age he pushed himself to try new things, and no task was too daunting. For example, before he was in his teens Justin managed to learn and utilize one of the earliest version of AutoCAD. After learning how to use this complex computer software he designed a skateboard that could be used in the same fashion as a snowboard. Years later, he still enjoys self-learning and taking on personal projects that aid in his professional growth. He recently constructed a chicken coop, using photos of similar designs he found on the internet. He and his wife now have six thriving chickens (each named after a Disney Princess by his daughter) who produce an abundance of eggs week after week. Projects like designing innovative snow-skateboards was only the beginning for Justin. The satisfaction and pride of a project well done is what keeps Justin coming back for more.   

Attention to detail, creativity, and innovation are core ingredients for successfully managing public works projects. Holding the title of Project Manager means Justin must uphold those qualities day in and day out. Justin manages to stay diligent with his work, tackle projects and capture OE’s mission to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. The experiences and challenges he faced in his early years primed him for the position he holds today. Project Managers have to learn how to formulate a plan, set it in motion, and see it to completion. For Justin, it comes natural.  

Meet The Squad: Doug

Our Senior Construction Manager, Doug, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. His family moved to California when he was 11 years old. Doug’s Midwest roots made him an avid sports fan and a hockey super-fan. Although his time in the Windy City may have been brief, there’s no doubt he bleeds Chicago Blackhawk red. To hear him describe himself, he’s a gearhead who loves cars, a father and husband who enjoys spending time with his family, and a handyman addicted to taking apart and fixing anything he can get his hands on.

As a Senior Construction Manager the responsibility of ensuring projects are completed in the most efficient and timely manner fall on Doug’s shoulders. The job of a construction manager is to be the owner/city advocate, making sure that the construction work proceeds on time, within budget, safely, and in accordance with the contract documents (plans and specifications). This means coordinating with City personnel, contractors, design engineers, the local community, and many more stakeholders. Doug has to be the one with the answers for nearly every individual involved on a project. He receives about 20 phone calls a day and triple the amount in emails. The composure and communication skills a person in Doug’s position must have to manage such a barrage of concerns on a daily basis cannot be overstated.

Doug’s ability to oversee high profile infrastructure projects can be accredited to his versatile upbringing. He studied at Cal State Fullerton as a Theater Arts Production major. He then decided to become a civil engineer and received his BS degree from Cal Poly Pomona. At first glance it seems odd that a Graduate from the school of Theater Arts would go back to school to pursue a career in civil engineering, but for Doug it was his calling. Through college he worked as a structural steel fabricator, and at a very young age he learned the basics of how to build a home.  As a child, his toys were erector sets, model trains, and vacant lots within biking distance of his house where he and his friends would construct dirt jumps to launch themselves in the air on bikes. Reminiscing of his childhood Doug describes what it was like, “It was a different time, my back yard was as far as my bike pedals could take me…when my sons were kids they didn’t leave the block.” Our conversation went from the intricacies of the infrastructure industry to how the challenges and sticky situations one encounters in their youth has a significant impact on their capabilities in their career.  

 Having been uprooted to Southern California at age 11, Doug learned how to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. Coincidentally, in the infrastructure industry the chances of a project going exactly to plan is slim to none; the way Doug see it is, “Every day there is a new roadblock, it’s my job to find a way to overcome each one.” He wakes up every day knowing there’s going to be a problem he’s going to have to fix, and he enjoys it. Taking care of problems, getting his hands on projects, and making decisions to move a project forward is what gives him the satisfaction and fulfillment to wake up every morning. His natural ability to be presented with an issue, assess all possible solutions and come to a decision that best suits the project at hand in a timely matter is due to a life long history of being in vulnerable situations where he and only he could be the decision maker. Doug launching himself in the air on a BMX bike may seem a bit crazy, but it takes commitment and confidence to pedal you and your bike up to speed, to not hit the brakes as the lip of the handmade dirt ramp approaches faster with every push of the pedal, and to have enough composure to balance yourself 7 feet off the ground guaranteeing a safe landing. As one of our Senior Construction Managers Doug may not have to soar through the air to do his job but he does use that same commitment and confidence managing high-profile public infrastructure projects.

Meet The Squad: Dayton

Dayton is one of our talented Design Engineers and is the first to star in our “Meet the Squad” blog series. Dayton is what you would call a Jack of all trades—a design engineer by day and a car enthusiast, muay thai master, and an adrenaline junkie by night.

To understand who Dayton is and why he loves doing what he does here at Onward Engineering, it is important to have an idea of what a civil design engineer is responsible for. As a design engineer, Dayton surveys and analyzes roadways, prepares engineering plans using computer aided design (CAD) packages, and compiles Engineer Estimates which show projected construction costs.

Of all his responsibilities, the one that Dayton enjoys most is preparing engineering plans. When I asked Dayton why he enjoyed designing so much, his facial expression was the same expression you’d see from Matthew McConaughey if you asked him why he likes driving a Lincoln. With a confident smile on his face he said, “It’s like a puzzle!” He paused for a moment, recollected his thoughts, and elaborated, “My days go by in a snap. I put on my headphones, and put together this intricate puzzle that challenges me every time.  It’s fun. When I’m finished I feel accomplished, it’s the best feeling.” The more I learned about Dayton the more I understood why he enjoyed preparing engineering plans so much.

I should have known that as a design engineer Dayton essentially has to have a high level of spatial memory. Tasks like plotting points and drawing lines to illustrate roads may seem tedious or monotonous for most, but for Dayton, the formation of lines and points to ultimately design a comprehendible item of information and imagery is anything but monotonous, it’s art.

Before submitting project plans to the client, Dayton’s pièce de ré·sis·tance is tediously examined at three different tiers of quality control; peer review, project management, and lastly by a Quality Assurance/Quality Control Manager. After his piece of art has made it through OE’s review process it is then scrutinized by the client’s team. This entire process happens 2-4 times before the plans are finalized, put out to bid, and then used to construct roadways, sidewalks, parking lots, trails, bikeways, bridges, waterlines, sewer lines, or storm drains.

Having your work meticulously studied by so many can be overwhelming and nerve racking. When Dayton was asked if the scrutiny of his peers and clients made him uneasy, the seasoned design engineer replied, “The more eyes on it the better.” Not only is Dayton confident in the quality of his work, but he also understands that the amount of time and money invested in a public works project is too great to allow a mistake. His humility and confidence could be attributed to his appreciation and involvement in pop art. He has taken art courses and learning new art techniques years before his career in Civil Engineering. It’s no wonder he is so comfortable with the criticism of his peers. According to Dayton, "Artist have to be open to constructive criticism, if they wish to grow."  Individuals like Dayton promote a prosperous work environment, where mistakes are opportunities, and where the service of the firm and client is of the highest priority.

Ricardo Lara Linear Park - Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

On October 10th, 2015 the Onward Engineering team joined the City of Lynwood community for a landmark event; the official ribbon cutting of Lynwood’s newest park, the Ricardo Lara Linear Park. Lynwood City Council unanimously voted the park to be named after Senator Ricardo Lara.

Ricardo Lara Linear Park is located at 3850 Fernwood Ave., and spans the length of five blocks between Atlantic Avenue and Birch Street. The park features a one-mile long walking trail and 5 separate blocks. Block 1 showcases the Dog Park with separate areas for small and large dogs. Block 2 gives park goers access to a fitness area with exercise equipment. Block 3 is equipped with a children’s playground, and plenty of open play space. Block 4 is home to the community garden with several raised garden beds, benches and a pavilion for outdoor classes. Block 5 is the echo park with open space and bioswales. Bioswales are designed to remove silt and pollution from the surface runoff water, making Ricardo Lara Linear Park not only a wonderful place to visit but extremely eco-friendly.

Sen. Lara recognized the importance of open green space for children. At the ribbon cutting ceremony Sen. Lara shared his childhood experience growing up without an adequate park nearby. He and his neighborhood friends would search the city streets for abandoned traffic cones in the area to close off their block with hopes of being able to play uninterrupted by traffic. Sen. Lara’s memory of the street being the only option as play space for him and his friends drove him to spearhead the construction of this park and secure a $5 million dollar grant from the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation Prop. 84. His unparalleled efforts brought the community of Lynwood together on Saturday October 10th, and the community responded in the best way possible.

All who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony this past Saturday will agree the event had a blissful ambiance radiating throughout the park. Children scurried around like a pack of lemurs doing their absolute best to accomplish as many fun activities as possible. Adults formed huddles that exhaled with bursts of laughter and extravagant hand and body gestures. When the time came for the honorary individuals to make their public address, the audience did not hesitate to provide their undivided attention.

Ricardo Lara Linear Park will serve the residents of Lynwood for generations to come. 

Women in STEM: Breaking Down the Gender Gap

My sisters and I had it figured out at a very young age. They would generally play with dolls and bake sweets; while I smashed those dolls with whatever I could get my hands on. There’s nothing wrong with little boys and girls taking traditional roles at play time, but by limiting gender specific toys, are we depriving them of something more?

According to the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) women make up 48 percent of the college educated work force in the United States. However, in fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) women only account for only 24 percent. More specifically, in structural and civil engineering careers, women are responsible for less than 20 percent of the work force. This illustrates a stark under representation that spans several decades.

Today inspirational people are taking action to encourage young girls to pursue STEM careers. Foundations like the National Girls Collaborative Project try to bridge this gap head on. Their primary goal is to “maximize access to shared resources within projects with public and private sector organizations and with institutions who are interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.” 

Companies are also taking a more unconventional approach. GoldieBlox designs toys which break the general “pink aisle” stereotype.

Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of GoldieBlox believes that the key to getting young women involved in STEM is to make engineering fun and exciting. The idea is that if we can reach our girls at a young age and teach them that they to have the power to build, they will have the confidence to rise up the chain of command in a male dominated field.

GoldieBlox is kicking the old myth that girls only play with dolls and Easy-Bake ovens, making toys that foster creativity and strengthen spatial navigation. With hopes that these toys will give them the skills they need to build amazing things.

Sterling could be on to something. Building blocks, erector sets, Legos, and many other toys that require a child to use spatial skills have been incorrectly labeled as toys for boys. It’s possible the main reason engineering inspired toys have been dominated by boys is because they were made specifically for boys. Sterling’s theory is that young girls are interested in stories and characters; they want to know answers to questions like, “why and what are we building” and “who is it for?”

For years engineering toys have been advertised without girls in mind, and GoldieBlox aims to change that. The time has come to shift our culture. Women in STEM earn 33 percent more than women in non-stem careers; there is no reason why more women shouldn’t take advantage of this opportunity. Tara Chklovski, Founder, CEO of Iridescent a science education non-profit for all ages said “It’s more culturally accepted to have shopping as a hobby than to have tinkering as a hobby.”

Chklovski’s statement hits the nail on the head. Young girls should be encouraged to push their creativity to new heights in unique ways, to cast a shadow of personal ingenuity, and to challenge themselves to become leaders in traditionally male dominated fields. 


Source: ESA

New Job + Expectations = Stress Overload

Excitement, euphoria and a sense of accomplishment are all feelings you experience after successfully landing a new job and rightly so - you’ve put forth the effort and succeeded. Before you know it, the news of your recent accomplishment spreads like wildfire and you are overwhelmed with support from family and friends. Monday arrives, and it’s time to prove that everything you meticulously wrote in your resume about yourself is true. You wake up 2 hours before you’re scheduled to come in, outfit chosen from the night before, coffee brewing promptly at 7:15 am, address to the office locked in the GPS and what happens? A freight train breaks down while you’re waiting at a railroad crossing. Cortisol floods your hippocampus, you’ve just entered the stress zone.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone secreted by your body in response to stress. When you’re faced with a difficult task, cortisol is released into your hippocampus. Thought to be the center of emotion, the hippocampus is located under the cerebral cortex and it is responsible for consolidating information from short-term memory to long-term and spatial memory. Working side-by-side with adrenaline, cortisol aids you in sticky situations by increasing blood sugar, metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Cortisol springs you in to action when a freight train stands between you and making a good first impression. Small levels of cortisol are a good thing. However, when the hippocampus is exposed to excessive amounts of cortisol, it can hinder learning and cause physical side effects, such as severe fatigue, redness of the skin, and dietary abnormalities. Dr. Gail Gross, an expert on relationships, family development, education and behavior, said “Everything we learn, everything we read, everything we do, everything we understand, and everything we experience counts on the hippocampus to function correctly.” This influx of cortisol to the hippocampus likely explains why everyday tasks seems so daunting when you’re stressed.

All this talk about hippos and hormones, what does it mean to you? It means that if you are serious about your new position, you are going to experience fatigue and frustration. Normal tasks that you’ve done a hundred times before will seem difficult, and that’s okay! You may feel like you’re doing everything wrong when in reality, you’re actually doing everything right. Since that reassurance may not do much to settle your nerves, here are some tips to help you dial down the cortisol and keep your hippocampus happy, so you can feel your best on your big first day. 

5 steps to prevent cortisol over load:

  1. Eat well, drink plenty of water and exercise. In other words, be sure to take extra care of yourself when your stress levels start to kick into overdrive.
  2. Instead of thinking of tasks as chores, think of them as challenges to give you the motivation you need.
  3. Effectively communicate with your co-workers. This can have a dramatic effect on your personal morale, putting you at ease and decreasing the release of cortisol.
  4. Taking notes as often as you can will take a huge load off your hippocampus.
  5. As cliché as it sounds think positive thoughts and more importantly, ignore those around you who ooze negativity.  Dr. Konstantin Korotov professor of physics at St. Petersburg State Technical University, states that “When we think positive and negative thoughts, each have a different impact on our surrounding environment.” Take control of your thoughts, and your environment will follow. 

As the newest addition to OE’s world class team, I write this from my own experience. I’ve had my fair share of fatigue, frustration, and (perhaps most comically) mishaps answering the phone. Answering the phone is something I’ve successfully done at least 321 times in my life, but because I’m constantly worried about not messing up—well, I mess up. But, I will have you know that on my second day of work, I seamlessly transferred calls and I even managed to speak in complete sentences. I attribute the shockingly swift return of my lost talent to the encouragement and consideration of my co-workers. Understanding that your mistakes are opportunities for growth is the best way to tackle a learning curve.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Marketing Associate 

Onward Engineering

Sources: Dr.Gross & Dr.Korotov

We know Millennials, But WHAT is Gen Z?

What is this new breed?


As of 2015, millennials, the cohort that ranges between roughly 20 and 35, is on track to outnumber baby boomers in the population, 75.3 million and 74.9 million, respectively. With big numbers like that, perhaps it's no surprise that the oft scrutinized age group is expected to make up 75 percent of the global work in future years.  

Let me start off by explaining what Gen Z and Millennials are.  Generation Z are those who were born between the years of 1996 and 2006.  Millennials were born between the years 1985-2000.

Millennials are certainly a hot topic of conversation, especially with regard to how they navigate their careers. But what about the next wave, the people who are growing up right now?

In some scenarios, they are immensely alike.  For instance, they both want to obtain a job right away and be financially stable.  Stability in their day-to-day life is what they both strive for.  Another key component is that they are both more likely to find a job via online job board forums.  Both generations lose the face to face contact and networking.  They do everything from behind a screen and that is where they feel most comfortable.

And, in some more prominent cases, they are different.  Millennials were the first generation born in a world in which access to digital technologies and the internet plays a significant role in providing resources and opportunities. Gen Z was raised in an environment of uncertainty driven by the recession and new security measures post 9/11.  They were put in a global world where differences in race, class and gender are shaped and challenged by strong accounts of inclusion and rapid flows of people, information, and technology.

The largest concern from both generations, is being able to find a job and be “happy”.

Post College, 32% of Generation Z wanted to land a dream job, while 34% of millennials were after financial stability. However, what they both want out of our jobs is growth opportunities, feeling satisfied and feeling stable.


Want to see statistics? Click on the link below!


Grand Re-Opening of H. Byrum Zinn Park!

On Tuesday, July 21, I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand re-opening of one of Bellflower’s oldest parks, the H. Byrum Zinn Community Park and Trail.  Onward Engineering had been invited due to our involvement providing full-service construction inspection on the project. Funded through supervisor Don Knabe, this $200,000 project was absolutely breathtaking.  

Mayor Larson opened the event, talking about how he is making it his goal in his term to help beautify Bellflower and bring it back to life.  
His councilmembers were standing right by his side as he cut the ribbon and welcomed the newly revamped park into the neighborhood.  As I watched them cut the ribbon, I noticed a sense of pride in the faces of those involved in the project. I felt the anxiousness that the kids has as they sat waiting to run on the grass. I also noticed the smiles on the parents as they took out their cameras to record this new memory.  
(Insert Photo)

Because it was my first event I have ever attended for Onward Engineering, I had no idea what to expect!
I was floored when I saw how many community members, organizations, and kids were there to support the re-opening of this park.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a jealous of the little girls with their rollerblades, about to take-off down the newly slated path.  I wish I had that much energy. I felt honored to have been part of such a momentous and joyous occasion in Bellflower.  It made me realize how beneficial and beautiful public works improvements can be. I am eager to see what the city of Bellflower accomplishes in the future!

Now, a little about the project. 
Byrum Zinn was an active member of the community and he believed that “parks make life better.” The park is named after him. The scope of work included demolition, clearing and grubbing, earthwork, and rough grading of over approximately 12,655 square feet. The project also encompassed constructing 3,714 linear feet of mow curb, installing a monument sign and chain link fence. Construction added a pedestrian path and flooring surface at the fitness and bench areas. Located in a residential area off of Foster Avenue, the trail runs through more than 2 ½ acres, and passes by new benches, and lush landscaping.