Headshot of male engineer and principal.
Steven Dannaway, PE, DBIA

Steven Dannaway, PE, DBIA, shares his thoughts about a career as a fire protection engineer. Steven is a principal and the operations manager for the Downtown Los Angeles office.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The people and projects that I encounter on a daily basis are my favorite part. Southern California is such a diverse and exciting market that there is no shortage of interesting project opportunities. It has never been a dull day on the job since I began my career in 2011 and I don’t see that changing any time soon. To contribute to projects that have significant impacts on our community and to do so alongside my teammates and talented industry professionals is extremely rewarding.

What piece of advice would you give a fire protection engineer just starting out in their career?

Get involved in industry organizations! Meet your peers in the industry and continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve your knowledge base. Although Fire Protection is a niche discipline, it is also very broad. The opportunities to learn more about Fire Protection are vast, and with the world and industry always changing, a mindset of continuous and life-long improvement will serve any new engineer well.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I joined Coffman in 2016 when the LA office had approximately 16 staff. I was the first fire protection engineer in Coffman’s LA office and started our Downtown LA presence in a two-person coworking space in the Gas Company Tower. Fast forward to 2023, we now have 56 professionals across three offices in Los Angeles and Orange County and have expanded our services offerings to structural, MEP, civil, and fire protection. I have appreciated the opportunity to contribute along the way. Through all the challenges and successes it has been a fantastic experience and I have learned a tremendous amount.

Before starting your career in Fire Protection, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

When I was in school, one summer I worked for a four-star Japanese restaurant in Hawaii named Tokyo Tokyo. The restaurant was adjacent to the Kahala Resort and Hotel, so we would get many hotel guests including celebrities on occasion. One week, there was a big Sumo tournament in Honolulu, and the Yokozuna and his entourage booked out the entire restaurant. That was pretty cool.

What book have you read in the last year that you would recommend to others?

I generally enjoy reading Patrick Lencioni’s material. His latest book, The 6 Types of Working Genius, hits an important note for leaders to consider. Not everyone has the same instinctive abilities and not everyone obtains energy or joy from the same activities. One of the most important charges of a leader’s role is to put people in positions where they can succeed, and understanding any one individual’s natural gifts is important.

I also enjoyed reading Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. The premise of this book is so intriguing. It talks about the concept of how some leaders, called Multipliers, amplify the capabilities and intelligence of their teams. In comparison, other leaders called Diminishers drain capabilities and intelligence from their teams. It is a thought-provoking read for anyone in a leadership position.

What is your favorite part about working at Coffman?

A core value of Coffman is being invested in the success of our Clients and invested in the success of our people. I have really enjoyed working at a company with this type of mindset. Our role as employees at Coffman is to empower our teammates with the resources they need to solve complex problems for our clients.

I have also learned so much from working at a multidiscipline engineering company. Working alongside my colleagues in other disciplines and observing how they might perceive an issue or tackle a problem has really broadened my perspective and approach to engineering. I like to think these experiences have made me a better engineer and problem solver.