Helping Build DA’s Campus
As a structural engineer, Susan Easterling ’00 experiences the satisfaction of contributing to a vision becoming reality, and she’s proud to have been a part of buildings all around the Bull City — including Durham Academy’s own STEM and Humanities Center. As president of one of the few woman-owned engineering businesses in the Triangle, she strives to balance work with being mom to her two young children — and to live each day to its fullest.
Q — What have you been up to since graduating from Durham Academy?
A — After graduating from DA, I attended N.C. State University and received a B.S. degree in civil engineering in 2004. I then moved to Charlotte to begin my career with AREVA Inc., an international developer of nuclear power technology. With my position there, I had the opportunity to travel extensively, experiencing new places and culture. Also while working for this company, I met my future husband, Bill Easterling. We were married in 2006.
The following year, we had the opportunity to leave our corporate jobs in Charlotte and return to Durham to begin anew. This time, as part of engineering firm Gardner & McDaniel, I began to specialize in the structural engineering design of buildings. Bill and I embarked on this new adventure together and with a leap of faith in the future of the Bull City.
Since that decision, our design work has followed with the transformation of Durham as we know it today. In 2014, I became president and majority owner of the business, and our company is one of the few woman-owned engineering businesses in the Triangle. Since that adventure began 11 years ago, we have welcomed Owen (7) and Charlotte (4) into our family, who both keep us busy.
Q — What are you doing now?
A — Quite honestly, working during the days, sometime nights, and trying to keep up with my kids. It’s a daily challenge to maintain a balance of life’s many demands, and at my core I strive to do it all — and live each day to its fullest.
Q — Why do you do what you do?
A — Within my first week of work at Gardner & McDaniel, I felt instant satisfaction in contributing to a vision becoming reality. It takes a team of people — from owners, designers, builders and subcontractors — to make a building project successful. Each stakeholder views the project from a different perspective, which creates many opportunities to learn.
Another aspect I enjoy is getting to drive around town and see our work complete and “open for business.” Good building design transforms how people interact and how a city “feels.” Not only have I had the opportunity to work on building projects at DA (including the one you see going up now!), but also at our local college campuses, hospitals and cool spots like GRUB, Mothers & Sons and County Fare. So, I’m a structural engineer because every day my job keeps me learning, is exciting and relevant to our daily life experiences.
Q — What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A — There are too many facets of my experience at DA that shaped me into the person I am today to mention here, but I can highlight two. Foremost, my DA education built a foundation to help me become a critical thinker and face the engineering challenges found in my daily work. Immediately at N.C. State, I was ready to face the difficult courses required to learn the principles of engineering. Secondly, the social experience at DA helped me create lasting friendships (some beginning in kindergarten!) and navigate through challenging situations with a clear perspective and goals for the future.
Q — What are your interests away from work?
A — Right now, I am trying to spend quality time with my family, especially investing in our kids lives. I’ve heard it so many times and try to remind myself of the phrase, “The days may be long, but the years are short!” If I’m not doing something with my family and friends, you can find me spending time on the tennis court, volunteering at church or with the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties.
Q — What’s on the horizon for you?
A — I’m excited to be in the early years of my next adventure — that of a DA parent! I’m blessed to be a part of the continued growth of our region and look forward to many great ideas coming to reality in our hometown.