Do You Know What Today Is?

Today is a special day.

“If you are going to complain about it, you should be ready to step up and help change it.”

That was the conversation that Eric Lussier and I were having after seeing yet another post on Social Media where most of the responses were grousing and pointing fingers and almost none of them were positive, solution based feedback.   Now don’t get me wrong, I see lots of great feedback as well, just not nearly enough and not always from the right people.

We pondered the concept of a place where people could go to get feedback, ideas and solutions to problems they face every day in Architecture, Engineering and Construction.  A place where all disciplines could weigh in with their unique perspectives on those issues and everyone could learn and grow from that feedback.  A place that ONLY allowed forward moving input and did not allow finger pointing and unproductive negativity.  A place to learn, not complain.

Then, we went back to work.  A few hours later I got a message from Eric “Cherise, go check this out.”  Expecting some goofy joke or heads up on a great band, I clicked the link.

That was the day that  was born.  In a few hours, Eric had built a website where we could walk the walk.  Well now, I guess we had a project.

This was completely spontaneous.  We didn’t really know how we were going to accomplish this crazy idea but we decided to jump in head first and see where it went and we are still changing and growing every day.  Are we there yet?  Of course not!

To be honest, we don’t think that we are going to ‘fix’ all the worlds ills with this effort.   With each post, if just one person improves something they do because they learned something or had the benefit of a perspective from another discipline that makes them see that same issue in a different light – I call that a success.  As we continue to grow, improve and change – we hope we can help more than just one person.

Today though, I want to celebrate.  Today is our Birthday and I am damned proud of what we have accomplished.  An impulsive idea that began with no clear direction has turned into:

  • Weekly blog posts from a stable of over 20 well respected contributors (and growing).
  • Attention and requests for reprints from multiple industry rags.
  • Nomination for two Best Construction Industry Blogger Awards.
  • A recent expansion to facilitating in-person, interactive and collaborative workshops approaching our goal from yet another direction.
  • And our latest in-development project of a Let’s Fix Construction Podcast.

We have a lot of work to do and we are committed to improving each and every day until we have created that place that all can go to get something that helps them contribute to a better built environment.

I never would or could have done this on my own.  I wouldn’t have even considered it.  My partnership with Eric in this effort has been the best part.  How we work together is the epitome of what Let’s Fix Construction is all about.  Our relationship is open-minded, collaborative, respectful, and conflict free.  We bring different ideas, perspectives and skill sets together to work toward a common goal of success.  We are not afraid to change and we are not afraid to try new things when something isn’t working.  We are definitely not afraid to throw out the box.  We actually listen to each other and we are having a blast.  Isn’t that what we all want?  What we need?

So today, though we are celebrating the one year anniversary of a wild idea, I would like to take this moment to thank Eric for a great year and say how excited I am for the wild ideas we have for the year ahead.  I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

It’s ALWAYS about the people.

Happy Birthday LFC!

See our full 1st Anniversary post here:

On this first anniversary, we are very excited to announce that CONSTRUCT has become an official partner of Let’s Fix Construction.  Sylvia Wofford, Marketing Manager for CONSTRUCT, says “We feel this partnership will help spread the message of collaboration and resolution to problems that are faced in the construction industry.  CONSTRUCT wants to help proliferate solution messages through this partnership.”  You can read more about our partnership here:

The Voices in my Head: It’s all about the People!

I haven’t blogged much lately. I have struggled to find the inspiration.

During a particularly introspective and thoughtful time, I started a blog on an airplane home after one of my recent adventures.  It was meant to be Part 3, the final chapter, of my first two Big Life, Big Work, Big Love Blogs.  Blogs I wrote that somewhat chronicled my journey and mission to change my life over the last three years.

It was a long blog that I wrote on that plane.  When I got home, I immediately shelved it never to see the light of day.  That’s where it will stay.  Although everything in that blog was honest, I didn’t feel like I was really saying what I wanted to say.  I have thought a lot about that over the past few weeks.

If you don’t know me or haven’t read my blogs in the past, the short backstory is that I have changed every single thing in my life over the past three years.  Some of which I have shared.  Some of it wasn’t even really change but just finally giving myself permission to be me.  The ‘me’ that I had buried for most of my adult life.  All of it has been about letting go of fear.

I told a friend recently that it is war.  It is a daily battle to strive to find the positive, to live a life that is authentic and to be happy.   To live the life you truly want rather than the life that is ‘expected’ of you.

You learn a lot when you take off the blinders.  I could write volumes but what do I really want to share?  What just might make a difference to somebody else?  Maybe help someone else take the first step in that journey they so desperately need?


Fear is a cancer and it comes in all shapes and sizes.  It is often rooted in what others think is ‘acceptable’, what they expect from you or your own lack of confidence or sense of inadequacy.  It is so easy to tell yourself that you can’t chase a dream or make a change because it will not be well received by others, or maybe you might fail or a host of other things that you can tell yourself because you are afraid to try.  Because you are afraid to do the work, and possibly go through some difficult times, to get to where you want to be.

So, what’s the alternative?  Stay unhappy, complacent, apathetic, bored and/or unfulfilled?  Trust me when I tell you that is no alternative.  It eats away at you until one day you realize that you don’t much like the person you have become.

Just do it.  I don’t care how hard it is (and it can be pretty hard).  Let go of that fear and reach for what you are searching for.  Take that first step, which is the hardest, and then take the next one.  The steps  are never going to end.  If you are doing it right it will be a lifelong commitment.  BUT, if you keep taking them, I promise you will be a happier person.  I promise that you will like yourself more.  I promise that you will look forward to greeting each day’s challenges and kicking them in the ass and I promise you will move closer to what really makes you happy.  I promise you will be less afraid.

Be Real

Why is this the hardest thing?  Still a daily struggle for me sometimes.

It is the hardest thing because we are conditioned from a very young age to wear a mask.  To present a pretty picture that pleases others and is acceptable to expectations of society as a whole.  We are conditioned not to offend, to avoid conflict (I hate conflict) and ‘be nice’.

Guess what – you can be authentic and true to yourself and still ‘be nice’, not hurt others and avoid conflict.  It’s more about approach and how you deal with things than it is about just being ‘you’.  It’s about choosing your battles.  It’s about not sweating the small stuff.  It’s about constant evaluation and what can really be accomplished in a given situation.  It’s about letting go of things that don’t matter or hurt you.

My world continues to explode (in a really great way) as I work on shedding the layers, removing a bit more of the mask and tearing down the unnecessary walls that I have built for myself.  Each time I chip away at a little piece of it, my world is enriched just a little bit more.  It’s not easy.  It takes a conscious decision, every single day, to try to be positive and share who you really are.  That is scary because it is vulnerable and I personally HATE being vulnerable.  Being vulnerable leaves you open to hurt and disappointment and nobody enjoys that.  BUT, being vulnerable and open leads those around you to do the same.  It is real, it is authentic, it is amazing.  Most of all, hurt or not, it is worth it.

It seems that I like the ‘real’ me far more than I liked the ‘pretend’ me.  So does everybody else.

It’s About The People

Ahhh, the value people put on ‘stuff’ and money.   Let me tell you – money and stuff mean nothing if you are not fulfilled and happy as a person.  I don’t care how much of it you have.  What is really important are the people that surround you.

When I chose to get divorced almost two years ago (one of my many changes) – I left a big four bedroom house with all the trappings to live in a pretty small two bedroom duplex.  I left 90% of the stuff and a two income household behind to pursue a life that is right for me, on my own.  Totally solo, scared as hell and never more sure of anything in my life.  I also left behind some of the people which was hard but necessary.  I felt an actual physical response to the weight being lifted.  A weight that I hadn’t even realized had become so heavy.  Shedding the ‘stuff’ was liberating.

Funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.  As I grew, changed and embarked on this journey – I have met some amazing people.  People who accept me for me no matter how crazy they think I am. People who support me, guide me, empower me, amuse me, intrigue me, love me and enrich my life – every single day.  I try damned hard to be that same person back to them.  I fail all the time but I never stop trying.

The realization hit hard that it has never been about the stuff, the job, the money or whatever materialistic thing that you want to throw out there that somehow, supposedly define s ‘success’.

The real success comes in the quality of the people who surround you in both what you get and more importantly, what you give.  It’s always been about the people and it is so easy to neglect that in the increasingly busy, demanding world that we live in.  What a shame that we let that happen.  How much do we miss when we set aside what is truly meaningful and of value.  I would give up all the ‘stuff’ if I could be sure to keep the people.

The Moral of this Story

I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  All of the things that I have talked about here today are a lifelong mission that I recommit to every single day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.  What matters is that I keep trying.  What matters is that effort has and continues to change my life in very real and positive ways that I didn’t even imagine were possible.

Just do it.  Don’t give up.  Don’t be afraid.  Take that first step.  Celebrate and share the real ‘you’.

Most important of all, never lose sight of those amazing people!  It is so unbelievably worth it.

Big Life, Big Work, Big Love

Let’s Fix Construction

  • “I have always done it this way”
  • “I didn’t ask”
  • “I didn’t know”
  • “Nobody told me”
  • “When did that change?”
  • “That will never work”
  •   “This is what I learned”

Frankly, when the phrases above are uttered in my presence, they give me pause. Sometimes they give me fits. Sometimes my eyes bug out of my head in amazement. My response to these phrases is in direct proportion to the topic or issue at hand.  In design and construction, we have many.

The fact is that our buildings are getting more complex every day. The process has more shades of grey than ever. The roles and responsibilities are muddy, there are more players in the project and there are more hands in the pie.

This complexity necessitates a more positive, collaborative working environment with more communication than we have typically employed in Architecture, Engineering and Construction in the past.  In addition, we need to educate our professionals differently than has been typical historically.  Gone are the days where an #AEC professional slowly works their way through the phases of the project with years of experience in each area before moving to the next.

Because of the current, and very real, generational imbalance – our young professionals are walking into a job expected to learn in many areas at once.  This learning curve is often without an experienced mentor to guide them.

The project complexity, speed of light changes in technology and our generational issues are contributing to the already longstanding issues we have faced for years in construction.  Very real issues that we just can’t seem to fix.

I could spend hours writing about things in our industry that we can’t seem to fix.  Some examples?  Lack of knowledge of Contract Documents, concrete moisture and flooring issues, roofing issues, lack of understanding of the differences between design-build and delegated design, proper building envelope design, poor communication and decision-making . . . the list could go on for miles.

But I am not here to complain.  That is not my style.  I am here to offer a positive step in the right direction and I am going to ask you to do the same.

Our biggest challenge comes from working in a bubble.  It comes from only seeing things from the perspective of our own discipline.  It comes from lack of knowledge of how other disciplines work and where there is risk.  Each discipline has a different stake in the project and is often focused, fairly exclusively, on that stake.  I offer that this kind of thinking actually hurts all involved more than it helps.

I am not here to offer any easy answers. There is no such thing.  I am here to say we need to work differently.  We need to get our hands dirty. We need to learn how everyone on the project team works.

We need to finally start talking to each other and working together!

I have said many times that I choose CSI as my association of choice for two main reasons.

  1. CSI is inclusive to all disciplines. Often when I am at a CSI event discussing a problem, I get the viewpoints of many members of the project team. That changes the way I approach a problem. This variety in membership and their input keeps me from having tunnel vision.
  1. The people are amazing, helpful and collaborative. When I attend CONSTRUCT (coming up in 2 weeks), I get to access these professionals from all over the country.  Not only have I made friends, I have learned much that is outside of my box. This has changed the way I work.

This kind of collaboration, information sharing and problem solving is what we need on a bigger scale.

We need a place where we can come together with an issue and share information across disciplines, geographical areas, organizations and experience levels to find positive and collaborative solutions.  To share lessons learned, forward thinking ideas and possible ways to work together more effectively.  To teach each other what we don’t know.

I am tired of hearing people complain.  I am tired of the attitude that it is just “the way it is” when it comes to longstanding challenges we face in delivering a project.

One of the beautiful things about CONSTRUCT is that it brings many passionate members (and non-members) together for a few short days to share and collaborate.

Those few days are just not enough.

So how do we continue that positive and empowering experience throughout the year.  How do we continue to share and problem solve until we actually start to see change.  How do we teach each other, from our real life experiences, to do a better job?

I can’t answer that but I can offer one path.  One possible avenue to step outside the box.  An avenue for anyone in #AEC, CSI member or not – Owners, Architects, Contractors, Engineers, Consultants, Subcontractors – anyone on the project team.

LetsFixConstruction is the brainchild of Eric Lussier, current President of Vermont CSI.  It is a grass roots effort to bring all members of the project team together, in one place, to share positive solutions and/or ideas to move our industry forward in a different format.   A format of finding solutions together.   Sometimes all it takes is a couple of passionate people with the drive to try something different to promote change.   That something different is

LetsFixConstruction aims to address some of the age old issues we have dealt with for years from a different perspective.  A perspective of problem solving with everyone at the table.

Will it solve all of the world’s ills? Probably not, at least not right away.

Will it change the way you understand and approach daily difficulties in our industry? Absolutely!

Why? Because you will have the opportunity to understand that issue through others eyes. To see how what you do and how you do it affects the project as a whole.

#LetsFixConstruction will be a place where anyone in #AEC can contribute content, ideas and possible solutions.  Hopefully many will offer solutions on the same topic to allow us the opportunity to see that issue through a variety of lenses.

This is NOT a place to complain. This is a place to move forward, learn and grow together.

I hope you will join us, contribute your voice and work toward positive change. Check it out here:


Follow our conversation on Twitter: #FixConstruction

Product Manufacturers: Are you doing it right? Construction Education for Product Reps

I am a construction specifier.  Construction Product Representatives are vital to my work.  Frankly, I can’t do my job without them and they are my most valuable resource.  That said, I often struggle getting what I need from them, in the format and language that I need it.  In order to do my job effectively, efficiently and get it done on time – I need this to change.

It is rarely their fault.

This blog is for many of the Manufacturers that employ Product Reps to sell your product.  You are doing it wrong.

The bottom line is that there is a whole lot more to Construction Documents and design contracts than just throwing the particulars of a product in a specification.  We need manufacturers to understand this, embrace it and provide us with documents and information that we can use.

A few very simple examples:

  • A design contract stipulates that the Architect is not responsible for means and methods on a construction site. It is up to the Contractor to decide “how” the work gets done.  If I get a spec on a new product from a manufacturer at the 11th hour, cut and paste that into my documents verbatim (happens all the time, especially by those not trained to write specs) and there is language dictating means and methods, you just put me at risk.  If I put means and methods in my Contract Documents, I am taking responsibility for how that work is done.
  • Specs have 3 parts for a reason. They have 3 parts because information belongs in a particular place.  For example, manufacturers love to put warranty information in Part 3 of their guide specs.  It doesn’t belong there.  It belongs in Part 1.  We need this consistency so that when the Contractors are preparing their bids, they can count on finding the information that they need in the place that it belongs.  Otherwise, they might miss it.  If they miss it, that can result in a Change Order or dispute.  Our Owners don’t like that, it sucks immense time out of the project budget to deal with it and we all lose in the end.
  • Unless it is a very specialized system or product, design professionals and owners don’t want proprietary specs. Proprietary specs hinder competition and drive prices up.  If it is a public project, proprietary specs are almost never allowed.  If they are allowed, there is typically a detailed process to meet in order to list them.
  • Manufacturers often list products in their guide specs with proprietary information.  I am not a product expert.  I may not spot this when I am copying your spec information into my documents.  Again, this can cause all kinds of problems that all result in additional time and money spent to deal with the issues.  On a public project, an issue like this (and other issues) can cause a non-responsive bid and give a bidding contractor the right to request that bids are thrown out and the project has to be rebid.  That is never a good thing!

These are but a few examples of the many issues that specifiers encounter when trying to incorporate manufacturers specs into our documents.  One of the most common questions that I get from a Rep is “How come I am not in your Masters?” or “How do I get in your spec on this project?”.

The honest answer?  If you have a product that I can use?  It is likely your documents stink, I have other comparable manufacturers already listed and I just don’t have the time in my project budget to rewrite your documents properly in order to use them on my project.  We are not paid to do your job.  We may want to use your product.  I once spent three days rewriting one product section so I could use it on my project and comply with my design contract requirements.  Had I not needed that very specialized section, there is no way I would have spent that time fixing a manufacturers spec.

The Product Reps get the brunt of our dissatisfaction with the documents we are provided by manufacturers.  They don’t write them, typically are not allowed to rewrite them (if they know how) but yet are asked to get their products into our specs.  C’mon, make it easy for them.

So, for the manufacturers, what can you do?  You can do a lot that will make all the difference to me as a specifier.  Here are just a few inside tips to get in my door and in my Masters or Project Specs:

  • Does your Product Rep have CSI after their name on their business card? Better yet, in addition, CDT or CCPR?  If they do, they always get in my door.  Why?  Because I know they have the proper construction delivery education to know what I need to do my job.  They are going to understand what I am asking for and know how to get it done in a timely, accurate and efficient manner.  I really need that and this is cost effective education that will be INVALUABLE for your company!
  • Does your Product Rep attend CONSTRUCT coming up in just 3 weeks?  (The CSI Annual Convention) or any other products show?  I know there are tons of Reps at CONSTRUCT.  They are all working the booths and trying to sell product.  I met one last year that proudly handed me a spec written in the old 16 Division format.  A format that was discontinued 12 years ago.  Seriously?  I can’t use that nor am I going to try to fix it.  I handed it back to him and told him when he had one written in the current 50 Division MasterFormat, to give me a call.
  • I see your Reps at the booths but I don’t see many of them in the educational sessions at CONSTRUCT learning about what I need.  That doesn’t make sense.  They are already there.  Get some of them educated so they know what I mean when I ask for something.  I need your Reps to be able to tell me about your product.  More importantly, I need your Reps to understand what I do and how I need to do it.  You need to give them the tools!  You need to give them guide specs that are written correctly.  You need to get them educated and certified.  THAT is what is important to me.  IT IS NOT all about the sales pitch.  Your sales pitch is secondary to getting what I need to do my job right without risk.

We all know that AEC is a ‘time is money’ business.  The more our documents are coordinated and accurate, the more successful we all are.

Product Reps are my most valuable resource.  I have the utmost respect for the job that they are asked to do, the information that they provide and the extra mile that so many of them go to help me with what I need.  The best of the best have CSI after their name.

My challenge to the manufacturers?  The guys at the top?  Make it easy for your reps, support them, educate them and get your guide specs and documents written in a way that I can use them.  This should be first and foremost, BEFORE the pitch.

I guarantee you will see increased success.


Trade Show vs. Online Education? Why you should attend CONSTRUCT!

I was asked recently why someone would want to attend a trade show when they can get so much education via online resources without ever leaving their desk or house.  This was an easy answer!

Sure, online education is helpful and a good way to reinforce your knowledge and skills throughout the year.  What is missing from online education is the people, the personal experiences, the hands on, the questions & answers and the stories.

At a trade show, like CONSTRUCT you get so much more.

Let’s start with the education sessions.  There are many, they are varied and they are taught by some of the best in the business.  When you attend education sessions at CONSTRUCT, you not only get the class but you get downloadable pdf’s of the class materials/presentation after the show for reference.  You also have the unique opportunity to ask the instructor questions, hear others questions and feedback and often interact and discuss an issue even more with that instructor and others in the class in the social events surrounding the education sessions.

Then there is the show floor with the huge variety of manufacturers and product reps.  Many of us, especially specifiers, get regular lunch and learns in our office.  Those are not the same.  Typically, manufacturers pull out the big guns when they present at a trade show.  They have big displays, usually their best representatives and a lot of hands on opportunities with the actual products that they would never haul into your office for a Lunch and Learn.  Sometimes these products are full size mockups where you can see the product in action.

Then, there is the show floor education sessions with very specific education related to a particular product and application.  Just a few of the examples this year at CONSTRUCT are “Subfloor: The Hidden Asset” by Huber, “Wall Insulation Technology” by Firestone, “Paint Technology: Chemistry and Performance (Paint 101)” by Benjamin Moore.  This detailed knowledge of particular systems is invaluable to anyone in AEC who is involved in buildings and their performance.

CONSTRUCT also offers technical tours, this year at Austin’s new Central Library.  The Project Architect will guide the tour and describe, in detail, the sustainability goals and achievements, the adaptable spaces, how the photovoltaic array attributes to 30% more energy efficiency and how the Library was designed to seamlessly integrate into the surrounding eclectic community.  It is not often you can visit a building and get first-hand knowledge of how it came together and ask the Architect why they made the decisions that they made.

Of course, you always have the Keynote Speakers.  This year CONSTRUCT has Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development and the Game Changer Session with James Benham talking about how new technologies are evolving construction projects.  How’s that for an added bonus.

All of the educational sessions qualify for continuing education credits.

The last piece is the social events.  Honestly, you can learn as much during these events as you do in the classroom.  Top professionals from all over the country (and even some from outside of the USA) come together in one place for this event.  The wealth of knowledge, experience and advice that they have to share is absolutely priceless and trust me, they share.  I have made many friends at CONSTRUCT.  The sharing does not stop when the show is over.  I have many well respected professionals that I can contact for help at any time during the year.  Professionals with real life knowledge and experience.

The bottom line is this – You can attend online education sessions all year long and still not come close to what you can get out of 3 days at CONSTRUCT if you do it right.  Those online sessions will never give you the personal connections, inside knowledge, stories and hands on exposure that you get from attending a show.  Hands down the best professional development activity for me every single year!


AEC Young Professionals – Don’t miss CONSTRUCT!

Last year in St. Louis marked the first ever Young Professionals Day at the CONSTRUCT/CSI annual convention.  I was more than honored to be asked to plan and lead this event with a posse of volunteers.

This event is geared specifically towards Architecture, Engineering and Construction professionals ages 35 and under.  Anyone who is a young professional in the built environment is invited to attend.  What is especially valuable is that a full education program (YP Day + CONSTRUCT) is offered at a greatly reduced price for the YP’s that attend.

Last year’s YP Day event was a test run.  I am proud that we sold out two months early and the event was a hit.  It has now been added to the regular schedule for CONSTRUCT, the allowed number of attendees has been expanded and I will again be leading the charge with this year’s event.  We have a lot of fun and the volunteers are hand-picked for their open minds and dedication to YP advancement.

So, why should you attend?  I could spend all day answering that question but here are the big reasons:

  1. You learned how to design in school. You likely did not get any real world project delivery education.
  2. Because of the generational shift, YP’s in our industry are being asked to step into roles that include contract documents, specifications and construction administration far earlier than ever before. The education and contacts that you will make at CONSTRUCT will pole vault you ahead of your peers.
  3. You will meet people who will become lifelong mentors. Knowledgeable, forward thinking people who respect young professionals and want to help you grow and advance faster.
  4. You will learn how to set yourself apart with education and guidance most YP’s don’t even realize they need. You will become a leader in your field.
  5. If you are in Architecture, you will learn how to navigate the ARE’s.
  6. You will learn how to take your current role and transition to a leadership role in your firm.
  7. You will have fun.

We have a group of passionate individuals in CSI who are dedicated to helping YP’s advance in their field.  This group respects what YP’s have to offer our ever changing AEC environment and realize that we have as much to learn from you as you do from us.  We want to bring everyone to the table with an equal seat to learn, grow and move ahead.

The feedback on this event from last year’s group of YP’s was overwhelmingly positive.  The only negative comment?  “We wish we had more mentoring time!”  We listened and responded.

The best value, by far, is the full education package.  At a reduced cost, you get the entire YP Day Event, full education package for the entirety of CONSTRUCT, Show Floor Access, YP Mixer, Networking lunch, CSI Night Out, General Session, Game Changer Session and Show Floor Happy Hours.  All of this for $225, substantially less than full members pay with your own all day event.  A super huge bonus is that CONSTRUCT is in Austin, Texas this year!  A city full of music, fun and excitement.

You can see the available YP packages and schedule here as well as information for students who may want to attend CONSTRUCT:

I am passionate about Young Professional Development and can’t tell you how much I wish there was an event like this for me early in career.  If you have a difficult time getting your employer to support your attendance at this event, please feel free to have them call me.  I am confident that I can convince them of the incredible value to your firm you will gain from the education you receive and the people you meet.  I am happy to answer questions.

Our YP’s last year loved this event.  I hope you get the same opportunity.  I am excited to meet you all in Austin!



Final Presidents Message to Portland CSI

This writing marks my final Presidents message to Portland CSI.  Beginning July 1st, Ellen Onstad of Dodge Data (who was actually born into CSI) will be your new Chapter President.  Ali Clark of Emerick Construction will be your new President Elect.  I will still be around as Immediate Past President for a while.

It has been a bit of a struggle to write this column.  What exactly do I want to say?  What words of wisdom can I impart as I step down and let the new leadership take over.

It only took a moment of thought – It’s about the people!

October will mark my 5 year anniversary in CSI.  I joined the Portland CSI Board of Directors within the first year of membership, first as a Director then President-Elect and then 2 years as President.  To say that I jumped right in would be an understatement.  I will never forget the day that I was at a CDT class when Russ Pitkin and Rick Heiserman (literally) cornered me after class and said “you need to be on the Board”.   I am thankful for that.

Portland CSI has done a lot, a whole lot, in the last few years.  We have become one of the ‘chapters to watch’ in the country.  Many Chapters have contacted me for advice and guidance when they are struggling.  I have received more than one pat on the back for that.

You know what?  It’s not because of me.  It’s about the people.

I have been truly blessed the last two years to work with the most positive, collaborative, unified and hard-working Board and Committees that any President could hope to have.  Not a thing that we have accomplished could have happened without them.   I DO NOT get the credit.

Our very committed volunteers have turned this Chapter around.  They are a group of people who look, every day, at how we can succeed, improve and “Go Big or Go Home”.  They are looking to the future and adamant that they will continue on that path.  They are the best of the best of the #CSIKraken.

CSI welcomes all disciplines to the table.  CSI is about collaboration, knowledge sharing, education and making lifelong connections.  Portland CSI is doing an amazing job and I am very, very proud.

I will not name names because I would live in abject fear that I might forget someone and showing my appreciation to each and every one of them is the most important thing that I can do.

So, to each of you that I have had the extreme pleasure of working with the last two years, THANK YOU!  Thank you for your dedication, thank you for your hard work, thank you for your commitment to making our Chapter vibrant again, thank you for your undying support, thank you for your heart and thank you for making me look good.

You are the heart and soul of this organization.  Without you, we would flounder and fail.

For me, this journey has been an interesting and empowering one.  If you ever question the value of CSI Membership, you are not doing it right.  I have grown tenfold as a person and as a professional in my short tenure in CSI.  I have learned from the best (in every discipline) and stepped out of my box and discovered things I didn’t even know that I would be capable of achieving.  I have CSI friends across this country that I now consider my family.  They are there for me both personally and professionally any time that I need them.

So what is my parting message?  Those who know me will expect this.  It is . . .

Go Big or Go Home

Throw Away the Box

Get to Know Everyone on the Project Team



Live, work and love with dedication and HUGE passion.

I am here, day or night, in support of our new leadership.  I have every confidence that I am leaving Portland CSI in even better hands than mine as I embark on my next set of CSI adventures.

So – Thank you my friends.  For everything.  You are the best!



Meaningful change in CSI starts at the top! It’s time to grow up!

Complicated, outdated, and conflicting policies have been hampering CSI’s potential success.  These policies are contributing to losses in membership, leadership, and services.  We can’t let that happen anymore.  We need strong and strategic representation of the membership’s interest and we need it now.

I just read every single document related to the upcoming bylaw amendments in CSI.  Yes, I am still awake (barely).  Typically, bylaw amendments are a whole lot of updating and housekeeping.  Most are not too concerned about them nor do they pay much attention.  Many do not vote when the time comes.

This time is different.  This time you must make your voice heard.

While there is a large chunk of (much needed) housekeeping items, there are also some critical changes that will help change the direction of our organization.

This change is absolutely vital and necessary to the relevance and growth of CSI.

I am approaching my 5 year anniversary in CSI.  I realize that I am a relative newbie in this organization and that some may question my opinions due to that short tenure.  That said, I am “neck deep” involved in CSI at many levels and have put quite a bit of rubber to the road in these last 5 years.  Sometimes, fresh eyes that have taken the time to be truly involved are a good thing.

First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for the work that has been done in the past by all the amazing people in CSI.  I am in no way faulting past decisions but the fact is that our industry is drastically changing and we have to change with it.  What worked before DOES NOT work anymore.

CSI, hands down, is the leading technical resource in the built environment.  I am passionate about this and I believe in it.  That said, we have fallen behind.  We are out of date.  The good ole’ boy network that was standard in days of old no longer works.  CSI services are in need of update, repair, improvement and efficiencies.

Many will say that our steady membership decline is due to the recession and baby boomers retiring.  Not so.  Our membership has been declining for 15 years.  How is it that we can be the best resource out there for project delivery education (that you can’t get anywhere else) and have a declining membership?  It is because we are not staying relevant.  We are doing things like “we have always done them”.  How I hate those words.

Change starts at the top!

CSI has struggled the last couple years with the database meltdown, loss of staff and the process of finding a new CEO.  We have moved through these struggles and good things, things most of us do not see, are happening every day to move back toward the organization we once were.  The truth of the matter is that we can’t make CSI great again until we move our organizational structure into this century.  The old model no longer works.  We need an operational structure that assures success so we can get into the weeds and really make all of our education, programs and events vibrant again.

We need to get back to a place where our members and the value we provide to them is the first priority.

This is the first huge step in that direction and we need to collectively get behind it, vote for it and support it. Just look at the Ends the Board put into place. It places members first.  We need to be the change.

There are many clean up items in the bylaw amendments.  There are three in particular that will likely cause the most discussion and are, in my opinion, the most important.

  1. Changes in Board vs. CEO roles, duties and accountability

This. Is. Huge!  I am not going into technical details of all this (You can read all about it here:

It is time to modernize CSI. It is time to get in line with current business models, trends and member demographics.  It is time that membership value is the first priority for our Board.  It is time to eliminate personal agendas.  It is time for a clear, streamlined approach to delegation and accountability. It is time to let our CEO do his job without Board micromanagement. It is time for accountability and stated roles and responsibilities for our Board and CEO.

The proposed revisions to our bylaws will do exactly that.  Our CEO is a trained and certified association management professional.  Our Board is volunteers who understand our industry.  We need to have clear guidelines so that each of them can do the best job possible.  Our CSI staff needs a clear leader (the Board) with whom they can work and not be put in difficult positions because they receive conflicting instructions.

The amendment and the related policies draw very clear lines and has a heavy dose of accountability for all.  It is an up to date business model that we should have adopted a long time ago.  This model will put our membership needs at the forefront.  This model has been unanimously agreed upon by our current Board which, by the way, is almost unheard of.  It is smart and it will work.

  1. Changes in Board Positions

Again, we need to move out of the dark ages.  These amendments will change the former President, President-Elect, Vice Presidents model to a structure of Chair, Vice Chair, Officers and Directors.  I will be honest, when I joined CSI, I thought the President ran the whole show and the CEO was just an employee with no real power to do anything.

We need to move to a true Board of Directors model like any corporation.  A model with a clear succession plan and clear roles.  I never did understand why we had two Vice-Presidents who never moved up to President.  I also didn’t realize that some of our Board positions did not have any real job description.  It is time to clean this up and structure these positions to fit with the new organizational structure.  This one is just common sense.


  1. Changes in Terms of Office

Proposed changes to Terms of Office are Chair, Chair-Elect and Officers change from a one year term to two year terms.  Directors change from two year terms to three year terms.  These changes will have a roll-out plan that will eventually result in no more than 1/3 of the Board turning over in any given year.

For me personally, this one is a no-brainer.  In order to create great initiatives and implement them, you need consistency.  You need those people to be able to work it from beginning to end.

I was President-Elect in Portland CSI for one year.  I am just now about to wrap up my 2nd Term as President.  I will be immediate Past President for two more years.  This tenure has given me the opportunity to work with my Board on new and innovative programs and see them through to a solid and sustainable future.  Portland CSI is vibrant and getting better every day due to this consistency.  One year is not enough to do anything but get started.  We need this commitment and opportunity for our top leaders to finish what they start.

CSI, it is time to evolve and grow.  It is time to give our leaders the structure, clarity and accountability they need to do the work that they do best so our membership can benefit.  It is absolutely time to STOP saying “we have always done it that way” and step out of the box. Traditions are a good thing, but too much focus on tradition keeps us looking in the rearview mirror.

With what CSI has to offer, we should easily be at the forefront in everything that we do in the built environment.   How about we come together and make that happen again.  How about we grow up?

Please take the time and make the effort to vote on the upcoming bylaws referendum.


Where are the Specifiers?

My assignment as the official CONSTRUCT blogger this month is to write about a hot topic in specifying.

With the ever increasing speed and change in projects and products every day, this blog could have been about anything.  I chose to write about something that I am not hearing much about but that I am seeing with increased frequency.
Something that really concerns me:  Where are the trained Specifiers?  Am I the only one noticing a major shortage?

Please understand that when I say “trained” specifier, I am referring to the folks that have had contract document, project delivery and specifications education.  I am talking about the folks who are well versed in the latest and greatest in the products worlds and know exactly how to incorporate that information into the Contract Documents for the best possible project outcome.  I am not talking about all the folks out there who write specs but do not have this very special and specific training.

I am aware of a number of firms, in different locations around the country, who are having a very difficult time finding a specifier with this kind of training.

Why is that?  I will tell you what I think (which anyone who knows me would expect).

Please note that there is no scientific research or analytics behind this blog.  It is merely my observations in my local area and other parts of the country as a result of my involvement and connections in CSI.

I think we dropped the ball and I think two recessions have taken a huge toll on Generation X.  Trained specifiers are a rare breed as it is.  I see tons of (untrained) people in our industry writing or editing specs and creating risk and potential conflicts in the process because they do not know what they are doing.  The hard cold truth is that it is common in our industry to discriminate against the specs.  It is common to treat them as less important than the drawings.  It is common to see only cursory attention given to this CONTRACT document.  This document that carries equal weight with the drawings in the eyes of the law.  As a result, many firms will let anyone in the office dump information into the specs.  That is a critical mistake and I have seen the fallout of this decision first hand.  More than once.

On the flip side of that coin, the firms that are smart enough to hire trained spec writers can’t find them.  Finding a trained spec writer to hire these days is like looking for Bigfoot.

Why are we so short in this valuable, absolutely necessary resource in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC)?  Here is my take:

  • Baby Boomers are retiring at alarming rates and they are taking their expertise with them.
  • Generation X (that would be mine) took two hits in two recessions and we lost a lot of people who might have stepped into those shoes.  People who left AEC and never came back.
  • Generation X only has (overall) approximately 45 million people to fill the exiting 75 million Baby Boomer positions.  That is OVERALL.  Imagine the imbalance for specifiers.
  • Almost no disciplines outside of Architecture are getting this education which is limiting the “trained” folks even more.
  • Traditionally in Architecture, a person would transition into the Role of Spec Writer mid-career after spending a number of years designing, doing construction administration and project management.  That experience would then translate nicely into moving into a role of spec writer.  That means we would need a chunk of Generation X’ers to transition.  We don’t have them.
  • Millenials don’t have enough experience and don’t want to be pigeonholed into being a spec writer that early in their career and I don’t blame them.  After all, most of them went to school to design and administer projects.  They need that experience to be a good spec writer.  This means most of them are not interested in this role for another 10-15 years.

So where does that leave us?  That leaves us without qualified, trained spec writers to fill the shoes of the exiting Baby Boomer spec writers (which, honestly, is the majority of them).  What is the consequence?  Firms are letting anybody with a pen in their hand write specs and the conflicts on projects are increasing.

What can we do about it?  It’s not like we can close our eyes, twinkle our nose and have a boatload of trained Generation X specifiers appear out of nowhere.

We have to change the way we think about our Contract Documents and their importance.  We have to change the way we educate our staff.  We have to give the millennials the skills they need, far earlier than we have ever done before, so they can step into these empty shoes and incorporate spec education and knowledge into their design experience.


  • We NEED to get every single one of our AEC professionals, in ALL disciplines trained in Contract Documents.  No, they do not get this education in school!
  • We have to teach our young AEC professionals how to write specs or, at the very least, teach them the basics so they understand where things belong, why they belong there and how to get the information they need.
  • We have to emphasize the equal importance of the specs to the drawings.
  • We have to bring everyone to the table.
  • We have to reduce risk and conflict which typically rears its ugly head during construction.

 How do we do this?  There are many ways.

  • Join The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).  The only organization that I have found that offers this all-inclusive education and includes all disciplines as equal members.
  • Bring Contract Document education to your staff.  This can be done in very cost effective ways.  Contact CSI and they can help you.
  • Encourage our institutes of higher education to include this education in their degree programs.  How we have gone this long without this being required is totally beyond me.
  • Attend CONSTRUCT.  I learn more in one conference from the education sessions, show floor and other professionals, than I often can learn in months or longer.
  • The fact of the matter is, due to the generational imbalance, we are being forced to change the way we work.  This is a good thing.

We have two choices here: 

  • Continue to throw bandaids on the problem and allow untrained people to write specs.  Take this road at your own (very big) risk.


  • Make Contract Document education and Specifications (finally) the priority that they should be and provide better, more coordinated projects.

Seems like the answer is simple. It’s time to do a better job.

I hope you join me at CONSTRUCT to start learning how you or your firm can change.  Official CONSRUCT Website:

*See my blog next month about the 2nd Annual Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT.  An awesome event that all firms should want their YP’s to attend!



Are You Saying Thank You?

It’s Award and Award Nomination season in CSI.  This is the time of year that we are preparing to recognize members at a chapter, regional and Institute level.  Some of us do a better job of this than others.

Award nominations, especially at the regional or Institute level, can take some time and effort to prepare.  I have seen this effort fall victim to the ever present ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’.  Oh, how I hate those words.  What those words say to me is ‘It’s not a priority’ or ‘You are not important’.

Our hard working leaders and volunteers ARE important, invaluable and the key to our progress and success.  This effort should be a number one priority.

I have heard some say that it is just another certificate that is thrown in a box.  I have also seen many beam with pride when the recognition of their accomplishments and hard work is shared and acknowledged.

I am lucky enough to be on both sides of this fence.

I am currently winding down my last quarter in a two year term as the President of Portland CSI.  Considering I will be celebrating only my 5th anniversary in October, I am pretty proud of this and a little nostalgic and sad to be passing the baton and moving on to other things.

Portland CSI is one of the largest in the country but it suffered like many others after the economy tanked.  I have been very lucky to have a group of vibrant, passionate and forward thinking leaders to turn our Chapter back around.  And turn it around they have.   I digress, that is another blog.

It is my job to not only accept nominations recognizing notable accomplishments but to also give my own set of awards in June recognizing the hard work of some of these great people.  I take this very seriously and will put a good amount of effort into doing it right.

On the flip side of that coin, I have been honored to receive a number of Chapter Awards, two Institute awards and a DJC AEC Woman of Vision award.  For me, those are definitely not another certificate to throw in a box.  They are meaningful and I am proud of them.

While honored to receive all of them, I think the one that impacted me the most was the President’s award that I received at CONSTRUCT from Casey Robb in Baltimore in 2014.  This award is given at the discretion of the outgoing Institute President, it is not announced in advance and is typically issued to members that President recognizes as making notable contributions to the advancement of the Institute.  There is no application or forms to fill out.

Since I had not even been in CSI 3 years at that point, I certainly wouldn’t have even imagined that I might be considered.  Honestly, I was tweeting when Casey started talking about my award at CONSTRUCT and not really paying attention.  He was halfway through the intro of the award when I heard the word “Kraken” and realized he was talking about me.  Dang, I wasn’t even in a cute outfit and now I had to go up on stage.

To say that I was moved would be an understatement.  It made me cry.  The surprise of being acknowledged for my efforts in Portland and at the Institute level from the very top leadership in CSI was overwhelming.  To be called inspiring touched my heart.  I will admit it – I still get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.  I am damned proud of that award.

Normally, I don’t even talk about these recognitions.  It feels a bit awkward.  On the other hand, I think it is vitally important for our leadership and members to know how it makes a person feel to be recognized.

It is a number one priority that we say thank you.  It should be the first thing on your chapters to-do list to express our gratitude.

Our leaders and volunteers are giving their time and energy, some in a very big way, to move forward and help get what CSI has to offer out to the rest of the AEC world.  That needs a spotlight.

I don’t care what it is that you do in your life, gratitude is essential.

Our members bust their butts and give up a lot of personal time.  Without a thank you, kind words or recognition – they start to feel unappreciated.  We start to look ungrateful.  Motivation and passion to continue starts to fall away.  I mean really, someone does all that work and nobody notices? How does that make you feel?

Institute Award nominations are open now and due soon  Your Chapters should be preparing for your own Awards event.  Do not let this fall to the wayside, it is too important.  The people in CSI are incredible and their efforts need to be a priority right now.  I urge all of our CSI Leaders to put this at the top of the list.

While all of our chapters should be finding ways to recognize and acknowledge their member’s year around, right now is the opportunity to do it big.  To make it notable.  To make somebody cry.

It is time to say THANK YOU!