Fax machines, dark retreats and more
Eclipse Engineering’s official launch date was July 16, 1998. To celebrate, we present a look back at the early days with a current staffer who’s been here from the start.
A Brief History of Eclipse’s founding with Troy Leistiko, PE, (image: center front, in glasses).
How did you meet the other co-founders of Eclipse?
Tom Sullivan, Mark Slayden and I all worked together at Beaudette Consulting Engineers in the nineties.
What inspired you all to start Eclipse? Where did the name come from?
All three of us were raised in small business families, so you could say our DNA contained a business-minded mentality. Mark earned his degree in Business from the University of Montana, and his drafting skills were exceptional. [Tom] Sully and I handled the marketing and engineering.
During our dark retreat we manifested the name Eclipse as we determined the celestial connotation of the word itself brought inspiration and awe not only to our firm as an eventual leader in the industry, but as enlightenment to engineering as a craft.
What was the most difficult aspect of getting a new small business off the ground? Were there ever times you didn’t think it would work out?
We relied on the health of the national economy, and we went through three recessions in our first 12 years. Expenses often exceeded revenues, and we laid off more than half our staff in 2008-09. Countless A/E/C businesses went bankrupt, retired early, or closed. We cut salaries and benefits to survive, reduced fees to land projects, and fortunately lived to enjoy our latest run of success.
What technology did you use to work on projects back in 1998?
Drawings were printed, wet-stamped, and shipped via UPS Next Day Air. And design criteria was determined by calling the local building official.
Meetings in the 20th century meant driving to another city to meet face to face. Although email was smooth and reliable in 1998, we used a fax machine to send and receive sketches and contracts until Adobe made it possible to create and edit a pdf. We stored rolls of paper drawings and paper calculation booklets in several massive storage racks. We owned and maintained our own servers, too.
A great deal of research has changed the way we calculate structural loading, and our profession provides us with a massive database of useful design criteria.
What’s your best piece of advice for a young engineer today?
It seems weird to give advice to engineers. Everybody has to develop their own path based on their goals and strengths. My advice wouldn’t be more important than Uncle Bob’s, but here is goes… Becoming an engineer is an important process. It is not easy, there are no shortcuts, it will humble the most talented, but it is indeed a rewarding profession. You will learn from your mistakes, and this is part of the process. I continue to learn after three decades of failing. Seek mentors to guide you, embrace the process, and pay them back by teaching the next generation.
And lastly… What do people never ask you about that you wish they would?
I’m not falling for this trap question! But I will wrap up this interview by saying that the ownership group and the leaders of Eclipse have done a remarkable job providing us with the support and benefits required to succeed at our profession, and have actually evolved it into something better. I love being surrounded by highly intelligent, highly conscientious, and highly creative people on a daily basis. My clients and coworkers make working here a true pleasure, and I could not have chosen a better path for my career.
This has been edited for space and clarity.