Al Nance

Vice President


Early Career

I like to say that what brought me to engineering was genetics, I never had a choice. I was born to be an engineer. While going to college I was very unhappy taking meaningless tests that we all forgot about as we walked out the classroom. The Vietnam War was going on and shortly after being passed over for the draft I got my first job, which happened to be drafting. I started in 1970 with Smith and Lee-Thorp Engineers. In September of 1972 the partners split up. The majority went with Ray Smith. Four or five of us went with Lee Thorp. We were a small firm which afforded me a lot of opportunities, and I took advantage of them. I had a lot of first-hand knowledge of what it took to construct things which is helpful in this job.

47 Years of Industry

Indoctrination of young engineers hasn’t changed much but a lot of other things about the industry has. The speed of the industry as a whole has increased immensely. When I started it wasn’t unusual for a design schedule to be a year in length or more. In today’s world, design times of a year are unheard of. We didn’t have electronic communications or electronic drafting. My thought is the pace of communication and drafting allowed designs to progress at more of a human speed. Today’s designs progress at a rather super-human speed.

Notes on Success

In the past when everything was a slower pace, the QC process was naturally inherent to the design. Today, engineering is able to be assisted by all that computers offer but the QC has to be a conscience effort. Calculations are instant, emails take seconds, and you can reach people anywhere in the world to talk about a project via a cell phone. There remains a certain amount of design process that works at a human level of speed. In some way it is more difficult to be as careful because of sped up processes. Everything is just-in-time. To be successful you have to make time for the important things in project development. Designers are the most familiar with the work being accomplished. They have the best chance when checking their work to make sure the engineering makes sense. The next step is a 3rd party QC to catch what is missed by someone familiar with the project. It’s this cohesive process that results in the highest quality product. The other way we have stayed successful for so long is something imparted to me by our founder. His thought was that you shouldn’t ever try and categorize people and decide what they should be limited to. His feeling was that if you increase the capability of everyone it will all work out.