My CONSTRUCT 2015 Experience

My assignment this month is to share my experience at CONSTRUCT in St. Louis.  I am finding it difficult to put it into words.

CONSTRUCT is always an awesome event and this, my fourth year, was no different.  Every year I think it can’t be topped and every year it just gets better.  CONSTRUCT had so much to offer this year that I couldn’t possibly have even attempted to make it to everything.  Every year I suffer some regret that I can’t be in five places at once so I can do it all.

So, for this effort, I am going to talk about just a few things that were especially notable for me in hopes that others will also blog and share the wealth of opportunities and events that were available to all of us.

It is no secret to those that know me that I am pretty passionate about AEC and CSI.  I am especially interested in helping Young Professionals take it to the next level and improving project coordination in AEC, specifically between Architects and Consultants/Engineers.  I was fortunate at CONSTRUCT to have the opportunity to address both of these passions to a wider audience.

Young Professionals Day:

2015 marked the first year that CONSTRUCT offered an entire day of events strictly aimed at young professionals.  This was the first day of the convention and the day-long event was geared toward bringing YP’s into the CSI family so they had a wealth of mentors/guides that would help them get the most out of the convention as a whole.

I was honored and humbled when, some months ago, I was asked to lead and help plan this day.  I love working with YP’s and I love sharing any experience that I have to offer that might help them set themselves apart.  I was lucky to have a host of well respected, experienced AEC professionals who stepped up to assist in a variety of sessions throughout the day.

It was vitally important to me that our YP’s at this event were treated as equals and that we (myself and all of our mentors) were not sitting on a pulpit saying ‘you have to do it this way’.  We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.  We could only achieve that collaboration and open communication in an atmosphere of mutual respect.   Of our many events throughout the day, the speed mentoring event best showcased this effort.

This was a two-way mentoring session.  For each round, half of the time was for the YP to ask questions of the mentor and then we switched and the mentor was expected to ask the YP questions, all with the goal of each participant learning something new from the other.  Based on the evaluation forms, the YP’s loved this event and only wished they had even more time to have these conversations.  That will be taken into account for next year.  Not only was there a bunch of animated conversations going on around the room but some instant friendships were made.  The YP’s now had a host of familiar faces who became their ‘go-to’ people throughout the Convention.  I firmly believe that you get the most out of an event when you feel comfortable and you have friends to make it less intimidating.

The day also included a number of sessions on navigating CONSTRUCT, setting yourself apart, networking, CONSTRUCT education, getting to the next level and others to help our YP’s get the most out of CONSTRUCT as a whole.

We wrapped up the day’s with an awesome tour at Hager Companies learning about door hardware and culminating with a contest to see which YP could install a hardware set the fastest along with some gooey butter cake snacks and great swag for our YP’s.  To thank Hager for their efforts, CONSTRUCT awarded one Eric Klein Memorial Scholarship, in honor of a recently lost and much valued longtime Hager employee who was passionate about education,  to Katherine Good of the Baltimore Chapter. Katherine will receive a full education package with VIP status for next year’s CONSTRUCT in Austin, Texas.

The crown on the day’s events was the YP Mixer at the Flamingo Bowl.  Not only did our YP Day participants show for this event but so did a host of other YP’s who were attending CONSTRUCT.  We took over a good portion of the venue and had some good old fashioned fun with food, drinks and some healthy competition to find the best bowler.

I am proud of this day and its successes.  I am thankful to all my CSI buddies who stepped up to help out and I am most excited about my new YP friends.  I can’t wait to get started on the Austin YP Day with all kinds of ideas to make it even bigger and better.

Pecha Kucha:

Those in CSI who know me personally also know that my first EVER speaking gig in front of a group of AEC peers was two years ago at CONSTRUCT in Nashville.  I was a nervous wreck and many of my CSI friends guided, supported and coached me to help keep me sane as I ventured into that arena.  Two years later, I think I have something like 38 speaking engagements and/or classes under my belt.  That did not make the invitation to participate on the Planning Pecha Kucha panel any less intimidating.

This format (for our event) required me to present 21 slides, 30 seconds a slide, on a timer with only images and maybe one or two words on each slide.  My topic was better project coordination among disciplines.  This format requires you to talk to the audience and not read the slides.  It also forces you to move through your presentation and not go off course or get long winded.  Since I tend to get distracted by shiny things, this was a real challenge for me to stay on my game for the entire 10 minutes.  A 10 minute presentation doesn’t sound like much until you are up there, under the gun and on a timer.

It turns out it that was kind of fun, fast paced and forced me to get my point across in a very clear and succinct manner.

Each year, CONSTRUCT has offered me different opportunities to grow not only as a professional but also as a person.  I appreciate the professional development that I gain from stepping out of my box into these new arenas.  While I always take back great education from this event, my time volunteering and/or speaking has contributed just as much to my growth in AEC.  I am thankful for that.

CONSTRUCT Fun:

The best thing that has come out of my increasing involvement at CONSTRUCT over the last four years is the amazing people that I now count as friends, mentors and trusted advisors.  While there is a ton of education offered at CONSTRUCT, sitting in a classroom does not always afford the opportunity to take that education to another level with your peers, especially if you don’t personally know them.

Some of my best professional development has come from the friends I have made at CONSTRUCT’s fun events.  I now have AEC professionals across the country that I learn from and seek guidance when I am approaching something new or have a problem to solve.  The value of these interactions is equal to the knowledge gained in education sessions.  This year was no different.

I attended a number of social events, the YP mixer, Host Chapter event, CSI Tweet Up and the CSI night out to name a few.  At all of them, I made new friends and was able to catch up with old ones.  We are all kindred spirits working in the same industry and toward many of the same goals. This, for me, is priceless.

The St. Louis Chapter did an amazing job putting together the Host Chapter event at the City Museum.  This event totally fed my inner child (#Peaches for those in the know).  I conquered most of the slides (yes, even the 10 story slide), got my dance on, participated in an epic modified dodge ball fight in the ball pits from which I emerged victorious and developed a total fascination with understanding the brain of the man that developed this quirky, interesting and crazy museum.  I could have spent days in that place.  There was a welcoming drum line, food, music on two levels and great fun being had by all although I think someone needs to ban Sheldon Wolfe from any hamster wheels in future events.

The CSI Tweet Up is always a great opportunity to meet the professionals with whom you are connected in Social Media IRL (In Real Life) and there are always new friends to greet and talk face-to-face for once.

The CSI Night out at the Budweiser Brew House at Busch Stadium was a ton of fun with more music and dancing, food and friends.  I even got to meet Fredbird, the St. Louis Cardinals Mascot.

Last, but not least:

We have a new leader in CSI.  Mr. Mark Dorsey is our new Executive Director and all CSI Members are keeping a very close eye on him to see how well he joins our family.  A little over a month ago, when he started with CSI, I tweeted him a welcome and told him that I would give him a little time to get acclimated but then I wanted to chat about CSI’s future.  I had no intention of asking for this conversation for a while as I am sure he has a lot on his plate getting familiar with our organization and our members.

No worries, he found me.  I met him briefly my first night in St. Louis and then had a chance to talk with him a little more when he stopped by for a little meet and greet at our YP Mixer.   At the YP Mixer, he said ‘Cherise, let’s set up a time to talk’.  Did this impress me? Damned right it did.  Did it impress me that he actually did it, right then and there?  Even more so.

We set up an ‘appointment’ for some time during CSI night out.  This was a fun event and most were not talking too much business by that time.  That didn’t matter, Mark found me anyway. We found a quiet corner and he proceeded to spend close to an hour with me hearing my thoughts on CSI and our future as an organization.

I liked this guy on sight.  He is smart, seriously funny, not afraid to grow and change and he LISTENS.  After our talk, I knew we picked the right guy for the job.

It meant a lot to me as a CSI member to get that personal attention and concern for my thoughts and input from someone at the top. Someone who was likely overwhelmed at his first major CSI Event as our leader.  Mark, thank you.  I have high hopes for what you have to offer this organization and I am right here to help make it happen.

There are so many things that were great about CONSTRUCT that I have not addressed here. This thing is too long already.

CSI and CONSTRUCT have been instrumental to me in my professional development and in stepping out of my box to grow as a person.  My career has taken off in ways that I never imagined and, short of a major disaster, nothing would make me miss this event.

If you have not yet attended a CONSTRUCT, you are missing out in a big way.  I hope to see you next year in Austin!

#CSIKraken

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