Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bridges to the Future

The 2014 edition of the CSI Northwest Region Conference is in the books. To say I’m glad I attended would be a big understatement. I was tremendously impressed with the high quality of the educational sessions, the insights of our keynote speakers, and the kind hospitality of our CSI Portland hosts. Most of all, I was thrilled to connect with fellow members who share my enthusiasm for the Construction Specifications Institute and what it can offer every design and construction professional.

The conference’s title—Building Bridges to the Future—couldn’t have provided CSI Portland with a more appropriate theme. Portland is literally a city of bridges(1). Figuratively speaking, CSI is likewise comprised of many bridges, many of which are continually under construction or morphing in response to our rapidly changing world. At the risk of unnecessarily piling metaphor upon metaphor, hunkering down into discrete silos is anathema to CSI; the members of our organization are preternaturally disposed toward networking, breaking barriers, and crossing lines. If you charted the AEC industry as a Venn diagram, CSI would be located precisely where the intersection of all the sets occurs. Better than any other association, CSI fosters engagement and interaction between the disparate constituents of the building industry.

I previously blogged about how CSI membership should be essential for everyone whose work revolves around the management of construction information. CSI is well positioned to occupy a hub of power and influence; will CSI grab this brass ring and run with it? Undoubtedly, the answer lies with the people of the organization.

The conference bolstered my belief that CSI members are hands down the friendliest, most generous, and brightest agents of change when it comes to the goal of improving construction communication. The conference also underscored my certainty in the value of building relationships. The personal connections we establish are perhaps the most potent tools we can leverage in our professional lives. The key is connecting with those who share the common goals, determination, and chutzpah to make things happen. This spirit is perhaps best exemplified by some very special people I’d come to know online but only met in person for the first time this past week at the conference.

Cherise Schacter, CSI, CDT (Twitter username: @CheriseSchacter) is an absolute dynamo and a real up-and-comer. A member of CSI for little more than two years, she has already risen to president-elect for CSI Portland and is the chapter’s education committee chair. In her own words, Cherise is “hopelessly optimistic” and a “loves a good challenge.” She has injected her considerable energy into her chapter’s activities and has contributed prolifically as a key member of CSI’s growing online community.

Professionally, Cherise is the standards coordinator for Interface Engineering. In that capacity, she endeavors to improve the consistency and quality of Interface’s construction communications and documents. She has evangelized on behalf of CSI; as a consequence, an increasing number of Interface employees are taking CSI certification classes and becoming certified. This is critical because virtually no consulting engineers receive training on construction documentation while in college. Through Cherise’s efforts, it may soon be routine for architects in our region to always expect their consultant team rosters are populated throughout with knowledgeable, CSI-certified professionals.

Cherise is also the queen of the CSI Krakens. Don’t know what a CSI Kraken is? You’ll have to read her blog post about becoming one. Let’s just say CSI Krakens are the loudest cheerleaders of a movement that exemplifies the collaborative ethos of successful project teams. The movement is an attitude. It is a desire to aspire. Krakens are always helpful, positive, and supportive. They find solutions. They teach. They are committed, passionate, and dedicated to promoting CSI and its mission. Any and every CSI member who wants to likewise spread the fever can become a CSI Kraken. With Cherise’s endorsement, I’ve achieved official Kraken status, as authenticated by receipt of my CSI Kraken colors.

It's official: I'm a CSI Kraken (photo by Cherise Schacter, CSI, CDT)

Joy Davis, CSI, CCPR (Twitter username: @CSIConstruction) is CSI’s communications/community/Web director and, like Cherise, is an unabashed advocate for everything the institute does to improve construction communications and collaboration. She ensures that CSI’s mission of improving communication in the construction industry is expressed in all of the Institute's communications. 

Joy delivered two presentations at the conference. Her seminar presentation, entitled “Are You an Educational Destination or a Tourist Trap?” addressed the cultivation of leadership and strategies for attracting a new generation of professionals to CSI. She unblinkingly highlighted some of the challenges facing CSI. Membership in CSI has declined over the years, and there is a distinctly gray tinge to the pate of most of us who have hung on. Clearly, we need to attract a young and vital cohort to the organization to ensure its future. 

Millennials don’t care about simply joining another “club.” They’re looking for change. They actively seek the opportunity to learn, to continually expand and hone their skill sets. If CSI does its job well, younger professionals will come for the education, but they’ll stay because they feel positively challenged. In return, their new ideas will further reinvigorate the entire organization. 

Promoting the use of social media by construction professionals is Joy’s crusade. She made the most of her lunchtime plenary session by presenting a terrific primer about social media. She reiterated how construction is built on relationships, and how the various social media platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) can organically link various relationships together to form powerful communities. This is why Joy believes social media is important and essential in today’s business world. If you offer something useful, gain the respect of your audience, and become the go-to resource, you’ll be a recognized thought leader. The return on investment can be tremendous. 

Speaking of social media, check out the tweets tagged with #NWRC14 (if you’re a Twitter user) and get a taste of what you missed at the conference. Or check out Cherise’s Storify timeline of the event. In a nutshell, the 2014 CSI Northwest Region Conference (and the CSI Portland Industry Forum that preceded it; more about the Forum in a future blog post) were chock full of education, networking, and good times. 

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It had been a while since I attended one of our region’s annual gatherings; I won’t make the mistake again of missing too many more. Next year, the Northwest Region will join forces with CSI Southwest Region and CSI West Region for a joint conference to be held at the Hilton Mission Bay Hotel in San Diego, May 13-16, 2015. Coming up first though is the annual CONSTRUCT show, September 9-12 in Baltimore. The obvious attraction of CONSTRUCT is the prospect of meeting in person so many more of the CSI personalities I have only come to know online.   

The folks of CSI Portland did a fantastic job producing the 2014 Northwest Region Conference. It went off without a hitch and thoroughly energized this CSI Kraken. Big thanks to Erica Bitterman-Ryan for her leadership and energy as CSI Portland’s Region Conference Committee chairperson, as well as to all the committee members who helped make the conference such a success. 

(1)   Sharon Wood Wortman (aka the “Bridge Lady”) and her husband Ed Wortman delivered an engaging lunchtime presentation about Portland’s many bridges. They later led a walking tour of the bridges for an interested group of conference attendees.


Cherise Schacter said...

I am totally speechless! Seriously, almost nobody can achieve that! Randy, thank you for your kind words. It was an absolute pleasure to finally get to meet you in person. I knew I would like you but was not prepared for instant bond of friendship I felt at saying hello. This is something that seems to be inherent in the CSI Krakens and is truly what makes all the rest of it worthwhile. I am proud of my Chapter, proud of the Krakens and wait with breathless anticipation for what we will all accomplish in the coming years. The excitement is palpable. I expect, even more than in past years, that CONSTRUCT will be a memorable event and I hope to see you in Baltimore. Don't be a stranger, Portland CSI's door is always open to you and you can be assured that I am planning more than one visit to Eugene. Hmmmm, I think I have a new idea . . . :)

Thank you again! We are thrilled to welcome you to the CSI Kraken community.

Kait Solomon said...

Randy you're an official Kraken!

david brown said...

Randy - thanks so much for your review of Portland's Northwest Region Conference. We worked hard and played hard, but enjoyed every minute!
Thanks again for your kind review.

Skip Brown
Old Kraken