When I first entered the A/E/C industry as a proposal coordinator, I was coming from another industry. One of my earliest projects was to write and submit an article to The Military Engineer, SAME’s bi-monthly professional magazine. I didn’t know very much about military construction at the time, so I had to get every detail for the article I was writing from subject matter experts. I conducted interviews with project team members from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the contractor. I also had to speak with the squadron commander to scrub any sensitive data before the article would be approved for publication. Because I didn’t know anything, I had nothing to contribute, so I just listened. I listened, and listened, and listened (this guy liked to talk). I learned so much from that conversation. We talked for an hour. He gave me an incredible understanding of how the squadron operated, why they only can share so much information, and so on. I learned more than I could have planned or asked for, and I might have said 15 words during that entire hour.
That was a powerful lesson. I learned that when I get a chance to talk to someone who has much more experience than me, I have an incredible opportunity to learn if I truly listen. That is what I love the most about attending SAME conferences. Through many years of membership in the Society, my biggest recommendation for these networking opportunities is to listen to those who have been doing this longer than you. The advice and information they provide is better than a management book, and it is specifically directed at you and your situation. If you aren’t listening and learning from it, you are missing out on so much. These people are investing in you and can offer great advice. Take it, use it, and report back.
You won’t find any better sources than those who have lived and experienced it. I have learned from a colonel who led thousands during the recovery of Hurricane Katrina; from leaders who have grown firms from zero revenue to hundreds of millions; from women who run multi-million dollar construction firms; and from crazy-smart engineers who design massively intricate structures. And really, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you see me at #SAMESBC18 in New Orleans, please be sure to start a conversation. You may learn something from me, and I would love to learn more about you!