10 Must-Have Traits for Entry-Level Truss Designers

10 Must-Have Traits for Entry-Level Truss Designers


With the Economy in the United States on the rebound, truss designers are in unusually high demand. A good portion of these skilled professionals were laid off when the downturn took effect in 2007-2008. The unfortunate news is this: They are hesitant to return to the industry, for fear of repetition. With families to feed, they were forced to move on into other fields. Can you blame them?

Unlike other professionals in the building industry, a truss designer is not required (at present) to have any formal education or any type of college degree. Fact is, there is presently nowhere in the world that an entry-level designer can go to be taught the skills needed to perform. There is no uniform standard of comprehensive requirements. The education comes from good old-fashioned “OJT” (On the Job Training). This OJT is totally the component manufacturer’s expense.

You may be thinking: How can this be? These individuals are specifying structural building components!

So the question becomes: Where will future truss and building component designers come from?

A good component designer is a rare breed. An exceptional one is even rarer. A wide variety of skills are needed to perform successfully. Of course, they need the usual skills that all employed professionals need, such as punctuality, professionalism, integrity, loyalty, good work ethic, etc. This article will not address the “usual suspects”, rather only the specific traits needed in a very unique job description.

This is the “Top 10” list of required traits that I look for in potential candidates, in no specific order.

Math Skills

Math is essential to truss and building component design. Geometry, algebra, trigonometry are all used on a daily basis. “Truss math” as it is referred to, can make or break a designer. From reading architectural plans in feet-inches-sixteenths, to solving an unknown plane, to calculating a heel height, to load transfer, math is a critical skill requirement.

Ability to See In 3D

In my opinion, seeing in 3D is a skill that cannot be taught. Either you have it or you don’t. You need to be able to look at the architectural plans and be able to see what is happening and identify areas of concern. Experience can teach you WHAT to look for, but it cannot teach HOW you see it.

Work Experience

The most sought after entry-level designers are ones that have worked in a manufacturing production facility, framed houses or have drawn plans. They already possess the basic knowledge of terminology, material specifications and spatial visualization. While this is not a requirement, it certainly speeds up the process and therefore lowers the overall cost of professional development.


With the complexity of building designs on the rise, creativity is a huge asset. Each design has a unique aspect to it and a little creativity can go a long way in helping to make the cost lower. We have all heard the saying “There is more than one way to skin a cat”, well the same is true for framing a building.

Communication Skills

More times than not, some type of collaboration is necessary with the building designer. This is especially true on commercial and multi-family projects. Proactive communication is essential to success and ensures that the customer gets what they expect. “Guessing” is just not acceptable and communicating properly can make or break your profit margin.

Relationship Building Skills

A relationship is like an IRA account. It takes time to build and requires many deposits to support you long-term. Relationship building skills are often overlooked at the hiring stage. Think about it, when was the last time you went back to a retail store when the clerk was rude or you were overcharged for something? Chances are you never will and have told others about your unpleasant experience. The same could be said about your company. Every opportunity to speak with a customer, architect, engineer or builder is an opportunity to invest in that relationship.

Attention to Detail

This is a “given” right? Well not so fast! Most exceptional designers are perfectionists. They have an uncanny attention to detail. Assessing this early on will tell you if the individual you are considering is worth investing in. Detail is a critical component in the level of client satisfaction and also the profit margin. Thoroughly executed attention to detail will lead to repeat business.

Personality Type

Why is this here you ask? Simple! Is your candidate is outgoing and fast-paced or reserved and slow-paced? Are they people oriented or task oriented? It’s better to know ahead of time before you invest precious resources. Spend a little money up front and classify each individual using a DiSC Assessment. Click here for more information on this extremely valuable resource. The DiSC will also help to identify things about an individual that were previously not considered.

Ability to Multi-Task

The designer is the heartbeat of the company. A designer must adhere to and have knowledge of: company values, request from sales, building codes, various software platforms, architectural plans, framing practices, cost efficiency methods, production staff requirements, administration policy……..I could go on and on. Oh and they also need to produce accurate designs for the production facility to build.

Willingness to Learn

With the building codes always changing and the software becoming increasingly more powerful, learning new things is always present. Remember the days of the pager (beeper)? The Commodore 64? The Atari 2600? Seems like ancient history right? Well we all had to learn the new devices that technology produced. Component design is no different. There is always a new innovation or an evolution of software. Why in the world would anyone still want to use MiTek eFrame when Sapphire is available? Because they are unwilling to take the time to learn it. If they only knew how much using the outdated software was costing them, they would switch. Does anyone REALLY use a beeper anymore?

Let’s face it, component designers do not grow on trees. The time has come to grow your own. I would encourage you to look for some of these traits in your potential new hires. Our industry needs you, the component manufacturer, to provide a quality product in a timely fashion at an affordable price to retain the reputation it has established. Are you willing to do this?

Over the years, my company has devised a very elaborate and thorough skill assessment and professional development program to evaluate experienced and entry-level design candidates. I am proud to say that we are now offering this to anyone willing to invest in themselves or their team. Contact me for more information.

Why is it that some manufacturers are so quick to throw half a million into a piece of equipment, but are unwilling to throw a loyal employee a half of a percent of commission? I cannot think of any greater investment into a company than its employees. Can you?

Christopher Gould – President

Gould Design, Inc.

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