August 10, 2021

We are highlighting the unique relationships we share in our global community of seasoned professionals. The strength of Epstein lies in the wealth of experience shared with each other to better equip our workforce with knowledge and confidence.

From building great professional relationships to long lasting friendships, these stories speak for themselves. This month the spotlight is on Raveesh Varma and Anthony Dary from our Chicago Structural department.

Raveesh Varma is our Chief Engineer of the Structural group. He completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Panjab University, Chandigarh, India (1996) and his Masters of Science in civil engineering at the University of Michigan in 1997. Since then, he has worked in A/E firms in Michigan and Illinois and is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan and a licensed structural engineer in Illinois.

Raveesh joined Epstein in 2007. His experience over the past 25 years includes various project types such as institutional, educational, commercial, aviation and industrial buildings. He has worked on projects in North America and Europe, and has experience in designing buildings and bridges. These projects include the post-tensioned slab system for Mennica Tower in Warsaw, Zeeland Community Hospital in Michigan, and Hickory Riverwalk Pedestrian Bridge in North Carolina, a design that incorporates structural steel masts and prestressed tension rods, approximating an inverted truss. Raveesh has also presented to SEAOI and ASCE-YMG (Illinois) on Riverview Bridge, a project for which he is the Engineer of Record.

Raveesh authored the “Masonry Wallbracing Design Handbook” for the Mason Contractors Association of America in 2003. Currently, he is an associate member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) Committee 355, “Anchorage to Concrete,” and has participated in NCEES sessions in Clemson for testing and grading SE licensure exams. Raveesh has also worked with several young engineers at Epstein to prepare them for their structural engineer licensure exam.

Anthony Dary is a senior design engineer within the Structural Engineering group; he has been with Epstein for a little over six years. He graduated from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania in 2015 with a Masters of Engineering in structural engineering. His primary focus has been on industrial projects, particularly in the food sector. In fact, Anthony feels he has worked on more CO2 stun buildings at pork plants than perhaps any structural engineer in the country.

Anthony has been actively involved with two of our largest DesignBuild pork processing plants, Seaboard Triumph Foods and Prestage Foods, coordinating with other disciplines, performing structural analysis and design, and seeing the project progress through bid, permit, CA, and completion. He is currently working on several industrial projects like Wholestone Farms, JBS, and Newly Weds Foods. Anthony is also a member of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

Could you share a memorable project you worked on together?

Raveesh: “Anthony and I worked closely together on Prestage Foods. I remember introducing Anthony to the complexities of wind load calculations and how to account for building expansion joints, wind torsion, roof top equipment and parapets in wind calculations. Eventually, he had to manipulate the computer models for every constituent building of Prestage to account for their unique wind characteristics. He probably devised and typed in over 100 such load combinations. He did well; his tenacity in the face of such tough sledding instilled confidence in us, and inspired us to trust him with tasks of ever-increasing responsibility."

Anthony: “Prestage Foods was the first project where I started to take on more significant design responsibilities. The food plant is actually nine separate structures (plus a pipe bridge), which created opportunities for Raveesh to split up the work and supervise me through the design process multiple times. By the end, he had drilled into my head how to start a project with a takedown of all the loads, identify the applicable code requirements, and ask key questions of the other disciplines. We often joke about how Raveesh would literally stand over my shoulder and pace behind me while I set up an analysis model, but the time he spent teaching me about design software was an important investment that enabled me to work more independently.

"Raveesh and I had many discussions about Prestage's challenges like supporting the trailer-sized rooftop units on the Cut Floor, how to plan for wind load on a structure wedged next to another building, and how to stabilize the unique hanging support framing for the process rails. Four years later, I still think back to those conversations when we talk about our current projects."

What are your secrets for a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

Raveesh: “Lead by example! I cannot conceive asking a young engineer to perform a task that I cannot perform myself and have not done now or at some point in my career. This engenders trust and team spirit, which is essential! In structural engineering, we make decisions for life safety every day. There is so much to consider and learn from books and practice that an engineer’s lack of judgement becomes painfully obvious when exposed to scrutiny. I need my young engineers to feel that they can approach me with their doubts and problems that I too am simply a paper, pencil and calculator man so that we may effectively address these concerns and create a positive learning experience."

Anthony: “Patience, trust, and communication. Raveesh needs to be assured that I’m asking all the questions I need answered and understanding his explanations in full in order to make our projects successful. I’ve worked with Raveesh long enough to anticipate some of the questions he’s going to ask when I come to him for help. Having those answers ready makes for a more productive conversation (and makes me feel like a mind-reader). Also, you can't underestimate the importance of being able to laugh in developing a positive work atmosphere - be it at ourselves, at each other, at corny jokes, or his literary references that go way over my head."

What is your favorite part about being a mentor?

Raveesh: “Imparting experiences and knowledge, and working with young engineers. At times, their unstudied irreverence makes me laugh at myself. It helps that I really love my profession and love reading the building code requirements, material specifications and research papers, playing with engineering software and so on. Sharing this knowledge and historic progression of such knowledge is a constant delight. We have inherited the awe-inspiring legacy of Robert Hooke, Leonhard Euler, Jean Claude Barre de Saint-Venant, Gustav Eiffel, Hardy Cross and Stefan Timoshenko, amongst others. To do our best, it is the very least we can do."

What is the best lesson you have learned from Raveesh so far?

Anthony: “Don't let the computer replace your own thinking. Raveesh leads by example on finding solutions with a pencil, a pad of paper, a calculator, and engineering knowledge. He'll often say, "If I still have to draw pictures after twenty years of doing this, so do you." And he's right: if you can't draw it and explain it, you can't design it even with the help of a computer."

How would you best describe your mentoring style?

Raveesh: “Plainspoken; one may even say abrasive. We are structural engineers and every day, we make decisions which will affect the personal safety and lives of many, many people. To be reticent is a luxury we cannot afford. I have to understand an engineer’s limits and then tailor my approach accordingly. We speak plainly, that is how I know they understand engineering concepts and are not hiding behind a thicket of fancy terms. Young engineers must understand the value of words, how to choose the correct words, and thus frame technically meaningful questions and observations."

Something I appreciate about my mentor….

Anthony: “If you ask Raveesh a good question, he will make time to discuss and explore it until you arrive at an answer. Even after over twenty years of experience, Raveesh is open to having his mind changed by new information and a strong argument if the answer is good technically."

What best describes Anthony?

Raveesh: “Restraint, dare I say, a certain detachment. Anthony has the ability to take a step back and see his work and the input offered by others objectively. He does not give-in to sudden enthusiasms and emotional outbursts and this is very important in a profession where we value sobriety and a level-headed, clear-headed approach to resolving problems. I often say to our young engineers that everything must be explained, we do not do magic. Anthony, as far as I can see, has taken my motto to heart!”

A little known fact about Raveesh…

Anthony: “Raveesh is a skilled pianist and is well-versed in classical music and opera. I’m more of a dabbling pianist, but we’ll occasionally go off on tangents about things like jazz and musical instruments before we get back to engineering."