Why CSI? Young professionals, this is for you!

I am in my 40’s.  For whatever reason, I seem to “click” with young professionals in my AEC world.  Maybe it is because I have an 18 year old and three twenty-somethings that keep me young?  Maybe it is because I am pretty open minded, love people and am inclusive?

Maybe, just maybe, it is because I treat them as equals and realize they have as much to teach me as I do them.

Recently, at the CSI NW Region Conference hosted by the Portland Chapter,  I attended a Leadership Session presented by Ms. Joy Davis.  We should all know by now that, whether you sit in the front or the back of the room, you can’t hide from Joy.  Having this important knowledge, I figured I might as well just plant myself in the front row.

The value of CSI membership for young professionals was one of many topics in this session.  Being front and center, Joy challenged me to state to the class, in 30 seconds or less, how I would present this value to a young professional.  What would I tell them that would convince them that this is a worthwhile endeavor for them at this early stage of their career.

Even though I am not particularly fond of all eyes on me, I was lucky that this is one of the many things that I am particularly passionate about so I stepped up.  When I was done, Joy’s response was something along the lines of “good job.”  Yay, I passed the Joy test.

I have been chewing on this particular moment since that day.

I started in this business before I was old enough to vote and with the handy skill of a typing class on an IBM Selectric (some of you probably don’t even know what that is.)  That’s it.  I was going to be a writer and travel the world.  To be very clear, I didn’t know diddly squat about AEC nor was this remotely in my life plan.  Ahhh, but how things change.

I spent 23 years working in an architectural firm for three men (one a charter member of Portland CSI) who didn’t care that I was ever so young, clueless or that I was female.  They cared about getting the job done and getting it done right.  Putting out a coordinated and quality project for which they could be proud.  They taught me everything I wanted to learn and then some.  I can honestly say that, by the time we shut the firm doors in 2008, I did just about everything but draw.

Chuck Selig was my mentor.  He was a perfectionist, a curmudgeon and I was scared to death of him for the first two years I worked there.  This was one difficult man to please.  About 2 years in, after feeling particularly bullied by him one day and being pretty pissed off, I let loose and gave him a piece of my mind.  That is not something that I ever do but I had enough.  That day, I gained his total respect and we were friends and colleagues until the day he passed.  He didn’t want an employee he could push around.  He wanted an employee who would innovate and take it to the next level.  He wanted someone who would challenge him. He was testing me and I passed. I will be forever grateful for his guidance and what he taught me.

Chuck encouraged me to join CSI from day one.  Being young, a single parent at the time and working a full time job, I just couldn’t sacrifice the time.  Boy was I wrong.  I should have made the time.

I joined CSI 2-1/2 years ago, AFTER gaining so much of my experience.  I regret, almost every single day, that I didn’t do this when I was 20 years old.  If you know me, you know I am not fond of regrets.  You can’t get yesterday back so now I feel like I am playing catch up.

So, for the young professionals in AEC out there, regardless of your discipline – this is why I think you should make the time to join CSI and get involved:

–          You will learn things that will make you do your job better.

–          Those will be things that your peers do not know which will get you noticed by the boss.

–          You will make fewer mistakes and create less liability if you understand the roles and responsibilities of the project team.

–          You will fully understand the project delivery process, from all viewpoints.  Did I mention that will help you do your job better.

–          You will and should, from day one, understand a contract and how it affects you and your work.

–          You WILL get promoted first.

–          You will meet amazing and collaborative people who will help you on your professional journey.

–          You will have an opportunity to have a voice, make a difference and share your knowledge.

–          YOU WILL BECOME A LEADER IN YOUR FIELD because you were smart enough to learn things that you typically would not get the opportunity to learn in your work until a little later in your career.

–          You will have something your competition does not have.

–          You will have fun.

I take every opportunity to mentor, guide and teach any young professional who is interested and has that fire to be the best in the business.  I have a debt to pay forward.  I also want to learn and grow myself and young professionals help me do that.  

If you want to learn more about CSI and how it can help you, email me at cheriseschacter@gmail.com or go to CSI’s website and check it out http://www.csinet.org/

My challenge to you: Truly get involved and then call me in a year and tell me I was wrong.  Bet you can’t!

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