Confidence isn’t always about learning every fact and figure. Sometimes the greatest confidence comes from realizing that you don’t have to know everything.
Daniel Bressler is still in his 20s, working as a structural engineer for York Tower in New Jersey and finishing up his master’s degree at the City College of New York. By his own admission, still figuring things out.
But it’s that ability to be open about what he knows, what he doesn’t know, and lessons he’s learned that have made him a powerful resource and young civil engineering mentor.
“I’ve only been doing this for five years, so I can’t really answer any technical questions because I’m not at that level of comfort yet,” said Bressler, who perhaps draws his “tell it like it is” vibe from a lifetime growing up in Brooklyn.
“But I do know what it’s like to be a student. So, I think that people can connect with that because that's real life, as opposed to being like the perfect 4.0 student. I mean, that’s also amazing. But I wasn’t that. I’ll tell people I wasn’t a 4.0; I was a 3.3. I’m trying to share that we’re not all perfect, and we don’t all need to be perfect. You just need to be the best you can be.”
It’s that kind of genuine point of view that’s given Bressler the confidence to build community and mentor young civil engineers through ASCE Collaborate and the ASCE Mentor Match program, and on his own YouTube channel.
“People usually resonate with people,” Bressler said.
ASCE has honored Bressler as a 2023 New Face of Civil Engineering. He recently spoke with Civil Engineering Source about his career.
Civil Engineering Source: What’s the accomplishment or aspect of your career so far that you're most proud of?
Daniel Bressler: I guess the general theme of what I’m proud of is giving back – whether it’s been through ASCE Collaborate, through being a mentor, or through my videos.
I try not to come off as intimidating. I’m very open and warm. If someone connects on LinkedIn or starts attending my school, I’ll reach out and say, “Hey, let me know if you have any questions.” Just to take the first step, because I don’t mind being an extrovert in a field of introverts. I’m very proud of gaining that confidence and being able to serve on all these committees.
Source: What kind of impact do you want to make on the profession?
Bressler: I just want to make engineering tangible for everyone. People see physics and math and we’re a lot of introverts, so they think it’s an intimidating field. Then once you get into it, you find it’s not as intimidating as you thought. The engineering community is very open, very friendly, you just have to meet the right people.
Whatever it is, I want to constantly give back and show people you could do this. It's not that crazy if this is what you want to do. Follow your dream. Go for it. I'm here and I'm not perfect. So, everyone can do it if they want to.
Source: How did you decide that YouTube was a platform for you to share your perspectives?
Bressler: I’ve always liked video editing. And then when I started my job, my first six months were a very intense experience where I was very lost. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt in over my head. I didn’t know who to ask or what even to ask.
So that’s when I started looking at YouTube and realized there are not really a lot of engineering videos that would help me. I thought, I really should post a video and use my experiences to help other people.
I posted one video and took a six-month break because I was like, “I did it all wrong. I can’t do it again.” But then I was like, “OK, no, you got this.” And then I really started posting. So, I like to post the kind of topics that I would I look for as the audience. Now people leave comments or reach out to me directly or talk about it on ASCE Collaborate.
My most watched video is “Is Engineering a Hard Major?” I was surprised. It didn’t really do well the first three months or six months, and then it just shot up once a semester started. And it’s just been at every beginning of a new semester it seems to draw a new influx of views, which shows it's reaching the right people at the right time.
I’ll usually base videos around the topics that I think are important to have conversations about or that I think there should be knowledge out about. It’s nice to show people that engineers do have resources, and we’re friendly people.
I hope to instill the confidence in other engineers to realize that that they each have something unique to contribute to the civil engineering profession.