Julianna Scheet likes to solve problems. It just so happens to be that she was faced with one during her last semester of college. “I interned as a mechanical designer for two years in college,” she recalls, “but when I went to sign up for classes my last semester, the advanced mechanical elective was already full. In order to graduate on time, I had to pick a new one.” As fate would have it, she picked advanced sanitation.
“The rest,” she says, “is history.”
Over the course of the class, Julianna realized that she wanted to continue to solve the problems and puzzles presented by plumbing systems. The material she was studying in class made a lot of sense and she was fascinated at the how’s and why’s behind the scenes. “I’d always heard that you should try and make a career out of something you enjoyed. So, I did. As it turns out, plumbing engineering actually chose me!”
She finds the problem-solving aspect of her profession to be the most fulfilling. “Having a hundred different, technically correct ways to connect points A and B, and having to choose the one that best fits the application is a challenge that I enjoy tackling,” she says.
Julianna graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering and has since worked at MEP consulting firm Lankford Fendler and Associates in Kansas City, Missouri. As the mechanical engineer she is responsible for a portion of the plumbing system design as well as the construction administration that comes with it.
“One of my favorite things about my job is visiting a site under construction, and then seeing my design come to life,” she says. “It never gets old.”
“In the next year or so,” she says, “I’m planning on working toward studying for and hopefully passing my PE exam.
In the long term, she wants to improve her management skills and become more knowledgeable about plumbing systems involved in health care, specifically medical gases.
“I think the biggest challenge I’m facing today is my lack of experience,” Julianna says. “Not just technical knowledge, but project and client management as well.”
The connections she’s making through her networking, combined with the work she’s doing now, will aide in her future goals for growth.
“When I started at Lankford Fendler and Associates,” she recalls, “one of the first projects I was put on was a multi-story office building with a potential restaurant in the basement. The owner and developer of the building had been doing business with us for a long time and had a reputation for making last-minute design changes. It was a fast schedule and definitely posed a few challenges design-wise, but being able to work on it from start to finish was very rewarding. Four years later, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on 90 percent of the tenant spaces in that building.”
In the next five years, Julianna hopes to be working confidently on larger, more complex projects. “I want to keep learning and developing relationships with other people in this industry,” she says. “Eventually, I’d like to start bringing in business based on my contacts, knowledge and reputation.”
Lankford Fendler and Associates usually hires engineering interns to help out during the summer months. Julianna looks forward to being able to explain something she describes as “new to them,” but that she deals with on a regular basis. “I love seeing the lightbulb come on," she says.
A problem she points out in the industry is the lack of interest in plumbing design. “I work with 25+ people, and only myself and another engineer work on plumbing design on a regular basis,” she says.
She adds that when she was in school, there were only a handful of students taking a plumbing elective. “I find that architects and owners also tend to forget about the pipes in their spaces or take it for granted. I think it has something to do with not understanding exactly how the systems work and not being able to see and/or feel them. People notice immediately if a space is too dark or too warm, but how often do people think or care about how their waste piping is connected?”
She made the decision to join the board of her local ASPE chapter to help address this challenge. “My role helps me reach other people in my community and share topics that might spark an interest, she says. "It’s my privilege to create events that get everyone involved, especially if they aren’t usually included in the target audience for AYP.”
Julianna believes communicating with people, both in and out of the office is key in this industry. “I find being able to have a good conversation with someone generally leads to a good working relationship as well.”
She describes herself as a normal person, “albeit one that stares up at the ceiling as I’m walking into new places.” Perhaps she’s looking for a problem to solve!
If you see Julianna at the ASPE Convention and Expo in Atlanta this year, be sure to say hi. You never know, your conversation may lead to a working relationship that helps solve a problem in the plumbing engineering industry one day!