Are You Reaching Out?

Most of my connections here are in Architecture, Engineering and Construction.  Almost all of us belong to some sort of industry organization.  Whether it is AIA, CSI, ASHRAE, AGC, ASPE, BEC or any of the others out there, we join these organizations to network and learn from our peers.

Personally, and certainly no secret, my choice is CSI – The Construction Specifications Institute.  I am not only a member but also the current President of my Chapter as well as Chair of an Institute Committee.

In my humble opinion, CSI’s name is a bit of a misnomer.  While the organization started a bazillion years ago to bring some organization and standardization to specifications, it has become much more than that in the years since its inception.  CSI is about complete project delivery education and this is why it is my choice.

What makes CSI unique, and the reason it is my choice, is because it brings all members of the project team to the table.  All disciplines are equal members in CSI.  I have talked about this before but, in case you have not read my previous blogs, you should know that I choose CSI because I know that when I walk into a meeting or event, I can get the perspective of an Architect, a Contractor, an Engineer, a Product Rep, an Attorney and even Owners on any given topic of the day.  I can’t get this anywhere else.  While there is great value in learning and growing in your craft from your peers, it is priceless to be able to solve your project issues with input from all involved.  This kind of interaction eliminates working in a vacuum.

As a leader in CSI, this membership structure can create challenges when trying to plan chapter meetings/events.  We are lucky in Portland to have one of the largest chapters in the country.  This gives us the opportunity to explore and do things that some smaller chapters just don’t have the resources to implement.  Our large chapter size does not eliminate the need to provide Chapter programs that appeal to our varied member disciplines.

In Portland, we try to keep our Chapter meeting topics broad enough to appeal to all of our disciplines.  We are lucky enough to also have a monthly education program – $10 for beer, pizza, a presentation – in and out in 1.5 hours.  In this education series, we can drill into the weeds and focus in one area or another as needed.

While Portland CSI has always been involved at some level with many of our industry partner associations, we have stepped it up in this area.

We are reaching out!

Back in the day, before the economy did a number on all of us, many of our industry associations pretty much kept to themselves.  I always felt there was this unspoken fear that they would potentially lose members if they partnered with other organizations, especially if that organization was larger or stronger.  When the economy took a nosedive, all of our industry organizations took a hit.  People were getting laid off, employers were no longer supporting memberships and/or events and honestly, people just couldn’t afford it.  We ALL lost members, motivation and passion to grow.  Hell, many of us were not even working in our industry (including me for a while) and, if we were lucky enough to still have a job, were working twice the hours for half the money.

Every single one of our valuable organizations suffered.  I know of a couple formerly vibrant associations in my area that barely even exist now.  Luckily, things have ever so slowly changed.  We are steadily getting busier and construction in many areas of the country is on a steady uptick.

This is a very good thing but now our struggling associations have to catch up.  We have to get back our passion and vibrancy.  Honestly, with the generational imbalance, it is even more important now that it ever has been before.  Not only do we need to reinvigorate our organizations but we also have to revitalize and change to accommodate the huge numbers of emerging professionals coming up the ranks.  We do not have time to sit back and ‘see how it goes’!  We have to move and we have to move fast.  The Baby Boomers are leaving and taking their knowledge with them.  We cannot afford to lose that valuable education, across all disciplines.

One way to stem that flow is to reach out.  We no longer have the luxury of being EXCLUSIVE!  It is time to extend a hand across our organizations and start to share this knowledge, expertise and resources.

Portland CSI started working harder at this a number of months ago.  We are not only inviting other organizations to our meetings but we are also offering up speakers to others, partnering for events with member rates for both organizations, offering our CDT emerging professional scholarships to all disciplines, member or not and a variety of other things to start building these bridges.

A perfect example is our Chapter Meeting next week.  On February 9th, Portland CSI will hold its 4th Meeting in the “Grill the . . . .” Series we started three years ago.  Next week our meeting is “Grill the Estimator”.  We previously did “Grill the Specifier, Contractor and Product Rep”.  These meetings have been very popular.

For our Grill the Estimator (and yes, this should be fun) meeting, we invited the local ASPE #54 (American Society of Professional Estimators) members to attend at our member rates.  We also invited a few of their members to be on the Panel.  We built a bridge with this group over a year ago when they invited me to speak at one of their chapter meetings at the suggestion of one of our CSI Members who is also an ASPE Member.  This relationship has grown.

Now how awesome is it that ASPE liked this idea so much that they decided, also in February (the 16th) to do the exact same meeting only they are going to do “Grill the Architect”.  They have invited our CSI Members to attend at member rates and also to be on their panel.  What an awesome double whammy between the two organizations in the Month of February.

Portland CSI is getting out there.  We are talking to AIA, have had speakers at ASHRAE and ASPE, are working on a series of classes with DBIA, have partnered with a number of emerging professional groups, we are talking about some ideas with BEC, we will have a presence at World of Concrete with the Contractors and are not only sharing resources and extending a hand but also spreading the CSI message and clearing up misconceptions about what we have to offer everywhere we go.

Folks, the days of being “EXCLUSIVE” are over.  For all of us, it is time to reach out, educate our young professionals, get our seasoned professionals up to speed and do it by circling the wagons and sharing our resources to make it as vibrant and relevant as possible.  I am reaching out my hand, will you take it?

It is time to Release the Kraken!



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