Eric Stovner | President
First inspired at the age of 3 when his dad walked him by a construction site with jib crane and steel frameworks, Eric played with his Legos and building blocks, and in high school was mentored by Todd Wales with four years of drafting and housing design and William Bell with architecture. Eric was welcomed by George Hasslein into the stellar Architectural Engineering program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, learning from many fine professors, including Jake Feldman, Sat Rihal, Clay Pharoah, David Hatcher, Robert Liu, and Celina Penalba. Eric interned in the Riverside, CA office of Johnson & Nielsen, learning from Per Ron, Don Irving, Clarence Behling and Rick Bird. Upon graduating from the program in four years in 1987, Eric worked in New York, NY with great companies Leslie E. Robertson Associates – mentored by William Faschan, Monica Svojsik and Hal Roet, Robert Silman Associates – mentored by Bob Silman, Marie Ennis and Donald Friedman, and Thornton Tomasetti – mentored by Tom Scarangello, Peter Rottas, Charlie Thornton, Dan Cuoco, Manny Velivasakis, Dave Peraza, Aine Brazil, Kirk Mettam and Richard Tomasetti. With Thornton Tomasetti, Eric returned to California, mentored by John Coil, Stephanie Welsh, Ed Kasparek and Jim Ebrahim, and also worked with Miyamoto, mentored by Chris Smith. Eric has had the blessed fortune of always working in a profession that he loves. Eric started his company Critical Structures in the spring of 2009 with supportive prayers, emotional support, generosity and well wishes from so many family, friends, clients and one very special angel — JP — in particular. In the winter of 2009, Eric acquired Breiholz Qazi Engineering, a company established in 1973 by David Breiholz. It has been fantastic to work closely with Dave and to continue to serve his clients. Eric’s current phase is to build on the strong foundation of a great group of people and continue working with great clients and friends in this profession of endless possiblities.
Stephen Fong | Sr. Project Manager
Originally interested in architecture and design at a young age, Stephen changed his focus to the more technical side of buildings after taking AP physics at Berkeley High School with teacher Richard White, who inspired him to always think creatively and introduced him statics and dynamics and the foundation of what would later become Stephen’s career. Following high school, he attended the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UCLA for 3 ½ years and graduated with a BS in civil engineering with a structural emphasis. Stephen’s first job out of university was with Stuart Engineering, a civil engineering firm located in San Diego. After several months with Stuart Engineering, he was hired as a structural designer at Wynn Engineering, a structural and civil engineering firm. Stephen spent several years working at Wynn Engineering developing his skills in custom home design and various other small scale residential and commercial projects. In addition, whenever the civil engineering department was overloaded, he took the overflow and provided design for many grading plans. After working in San Diego, Stephen moved to New York, NY and took a job with Goldstein Associates Consulting Engineers, where he worked for the following 3 years, starting as a Structural Engineer and becoming Project Engineer shortly thereafter. During his time in New York City, Stephen was the project manager for several high rise residential and commercial buildings, as well as the restoration and rehabilitation of a prominent New York City landmark apartment building. In 2010, Stephen returned to California and began work with Breiholz Qazi Engineering in Lomita, CA, which later became Critical Structures. He has continued his work with Critical Structures, always striving to produce creative designs while keeping in mind efficiency and cost effectiveness. Stephen is now located in Berkeley, CA, his hometown. He is proud to be a part of the Critical Structures team.
Kathy Kovshilovsky | Sr. Project Manager
Raised in a household full of engineering parents and grandparents, Kathy Kovshilovsky was born and raised to be an engineer. She completed her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Civil Engineering at UCLA. David Breiholz took her under his wing at Breiholz Qazi Engineering in her last year of her studies. Kathy welcomed the fresh energy and new challenges that Eric Stovner brought when he took over the company in 2009. Since then, she has contributed to the company’s learning and growth and aspires to continue to do so in the future. She doesn’t always sign her work, but when she does she signs it “KK”.
Sharon Nixon-Escochea | Office Manager
My Life – Born & raised in NC (chicken ‘n’dumplins; homemade biscuits; sweet tea which I still make all the time; fried okra; amazing thunder & lightning rain storms; lots of greenery & floral…) / College – Meredith College (Home Economics major & Business Admin minor; Little Sister @ Sigma Chi NCSU; College Marshall my Jr year) / Moved to NYC for 3 years (studied acting, waitressed – more “hep u” moments & I often served Al Pacino who lived around the corner; Asst. Mgr of an Off-Broadway theatre; picnics in Central Park & Simon & Garfunkel reunion there on my 21st Birthday; Zabar’s Deli; friends & I hanging out one night w/Andy Warhol — he loved my Timex watch; was a Nanny / Moved to CA (more waitressing @ the legendary El Cholo Rest; more acting classes; met my husband and 2 children later – lots of “hep u” in this position; Office Mgr of The Designory in Long Beach for 16 years; am blessed by my faith/church/family/friends/pets; currently @ Critical Structures, Inc.) I do love to help and serve people. Life can be challenging, but I am grateful!
Mary Caldera | Senior Drafter
If you are reading this bio, congratulations, you have achieved a Level 5 Security Clearance from CSI. Once upon a time, Mary Caldera took a History of Architecture course for fun. After changing her major to Architecture, she received her Certificate and AA in Architecture from El Camino Community College. Near the end of her first CAD course she saw a flyer for a drafting position in the school lab and started working for Breiholz Qazi Engineering, Inc. in the fall of 2005 and has stayed with the company through its transition to Critical Structures, Inc. Mary enjoys translating architectural info for our structural plans, walking catwalks (the rigging kind), historic building visits, getting plans approved for permit and coffee breaks. Outside of work she can be found gardening, drawing or acting like she’s 12 at Disneyland.
Rosa Ocegueda | Structural Designer
I grew up across the street from the construction site of the Los Angeles County + USC hospital. For 8 years that was the first thing I saw as I stepped foot outside my house and it deeply influenced my interest in buildings. I considered studying architecture until I took physics in high school. From building rockets to calculating exactly where a ball would land, I knew I wanted to continue learning physics. I went to UC San Diego and studied Structural Engineering; a combination of physics, buildings, and a little bit of architecture. My favorite (and most challenging) courses involved design. I loved the fact that we created models of the projects we designed. This brought back my interest in architecture and resulted in a minor in Urban Studies and Planning where I focused on Urban Design / Built Environment. However, I believed this was not enough exposure to architecture and decided to look into architecture for graduate school. I received a Master of Science in Architectural Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo advancing my studies in both structural engineering and architecture. I look forward to starting my career as a structural designer.
Nirmal Kumawat | Structural Designer
Born in Indore (M.P.), India, I grew up watching my father’s work in the field of construction, which inherently made me inquisitive to understand how construction works and eventually got inclined to the technical side of it. I was in love with unfinished buildings, no less than an adventure spot did they look like to me! And thus my interest in civil engineering. To experience more extraordinary and advance mechanical modelling of genuine circumstances utilizing material science, physics and math were seemingly my choice of vocation. After my Bachelor’s, I worked as a project engineer to learn how to follow the designs provided by the engineers on field. I was actually getting everything executed but felt something missing. Mechanics! And thus happened my Master’s in Structural Engineering from California State University, Long Beach, where came the next opportunity. My work as a research assistant with Dr. Vesna Terzic for Applied Technical Council, National Science Foundation, and later during my Master’s, I was exposed to the practical use and power of coding languages and tools. All these projects also asked me to explore the world of technology, opening up the gates of connecting different fields with civil structural engineering to achieve best practical solutions.
Jaime Grabinski | Structural Designer
As a kid, I used to tell my parents that one day I would design and build them a house to thank them for what they’ve done for me; so naturally I grew up hoping to become an Architect.
While attending the Long Beach Poly High School P.A.C.E. honors program, I took a liking to the math and physics courses and my teachers recommended I go into engineering. After doing some of my own research, I found that I could become a civil engineer and still accomplish my childhood goals.
I began studying at California State University, Long Beach, striving to obtain my B.S.C.E. As an undergraduate, I joined the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s “Seismic Competition” team. We had to design and build a high-rise model out of balsawood and test it on a shake table against teams from around the world. Although we didn’t win, we did receive an award for “Best Seismic Performance” due to having almost no damages to our building; which we took as a huge success. Being part of this team solidified my desire to emphasize my focus on Structural Engineering while pursuing my master’s degree.
I continued at CSULB for my M.S.S.E. and during my first semester, I became President of the CSULB chapter of Chi Epsilon and I also began my research on “structural health monitoring” for my thesis. While nearing the end of my graduate career, I joined the Critical Structures team in October 2018. Moving forward I would like to make a larger impact on the city of Long Beach, the surrounding areas, and achieve the childhood promise I made to my parents.
Away from work I enjoy bowling in tournaments and leagues with my parents, playing video games, and going to theme parks with friends.
Christian Rodriguez | Structural Designer
Growing up I was always mesmerized watching my dad work late hours, with what seemed like millions of sketches on our dining room table. Scrambling through all his architectural drawings, I was always intrigued by his artistic hand sketches which seemed to tip toe between perfectly positioned geometric lines and a fluidity of creative ideas on thin sheets of transparent paper. Inspired by his artistic skills, I began to practice my own pencil work and sketches so that one day I could be just like my dad. As time went on, I continued to practice my sketching skills and quite enjoyed expressing my creativity of images and architecture, regardless of how crazy my house designs were. When it was time to choose my career path and what major I would pursue in college, I was torn by which path to go forward with. On one hand I still had dreams of becoming an architect like my dad but on the other, I excelled and really enjoyed solving problems using mathematical principles and science. I ended up choosing the latter and decided to pursue my education in Mechanical Engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara. After four years of enjoying some of the best years of my life with best friends, social gathers, challenging curriculum, and playing Division 1 soccer for my university; I was ready to take on the world and make a difference.
With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and as a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara, I quickly caught the attention of my managers and within three years I was appointed to a senior management position. This was mainly due to my hard-working personality, unique productivity mindset, and strong people skills. During this time, I was also given the opportunity to work closely with the VP of Product Design and was exposed to structural engineering reports for our various glazing system products from outsourced structural engineering firms, and instantly became inspired to understand and learn more about structural analysis. Having discovered this new interest, I then began learning and observing as much I could.
Regardless of my prior knowledge or experience, I did not let anything discourage me from achieving my new goal of transitioning into an exciting new challenging field of engineering. I began a rigorous eight-month journey to teach myself various Civil subjects which led me to passing the NCEES PE Civil Structural exam on my first attempt. Learning about various design subjects of steel, concrete, timber, and masonry, I quickly discovered how truly passionate I was about concepts of design, architecture, problem solving, and load path calculations. Going through this extremely tough but humbling experience, I am happy that I now know where my true passions lie, and I am ready to fully devote myself to my new dream.
Ultimately, as I continue to grow as a Structural Designer, I would like to be able to contribute to the architectural process in a unique and meaningful way that shapes the design and feel of new residential construction. I find the continuous back and forth of aesthetic design and stability of a structure beautiful, because the clashing of creative ideas initiates the manifestation of unique structural spaces that impact lives every day. Looking back at my journey and how it all began with simple yet impossible sketches of homes just to mimic my father’s actions, I have now come full circle. What was once a dream to design and build detailed structures can now become a reality. Although starting as a Mechanical Engineer, I am extremely eager and humble to venture into structural designing and apply my unique engineering experience to help change lives through design and architecture.