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Educating the Young Professionals

WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 2017

By Letsfixconstruction.com


More items for Good Technical Practice

If you already know me, you know that young professional development is an area in AEC that is very important to me. I have had mentors and guidance throughout my career that have helped me in my growth and success. I still have amazing people helping and supporting me every day. Because of that, I feel a need to give back what I have been given and help our younger professionals get ahead and succeed.

I have become more and more aware of an area where our young professionals are being neglected at an extremely critical time. We need to fix this.

Young boy

Public Domain, pixabay.com

A few things happened recently that motivated me to write this blog:

1. I was having lunch with a product rep friend from my CSI chapter. I asked why I hadn’t seen him at our firm doing a lunch and learn. He responded that his product was already in our specs—and a product that is widely specified—so he didn’t feel the need to come in very often.

2. I attended a conference last month in Miami geared toward pairing product manufacturers with principals in larger firms.

3. I met another product rep at a different conference. I asked who their product rep was in my area and she told me. I had never heard of him or seen him at our firm. My firm has three offices and over 300 people, so I found that odd.

4. We get calls from product reps all the time who want to meet with the specifiers or the project managers, but rarely ask to include the designers in those meetings.

5. I have had product reps complain to me that they were disappointed after a lunch and learn because there were no principals in attendance.

6. I often notice at my CSI meetings that the product reps are only talking to the most experienced professionals in the room.

Breaking news: Manufacturers, you are missing the boat in a very big way. You are missing the boat in marketing, you are missing the boat in risk management and you are missing the boat in educating the right people about your product.

Consider this:

1. There are 75 million Baby Boomers in the workforce that are retiring or preparing to retire. There are only 45 million Gen X’ers (that’s me) to fill their shoes. There are 75 million Millennials coming right behind me. This generational gap is even wider in AEC because we lost so many Gen X’ers during two recessions who never returned.

2. If we have this major gap, who is going to fill the Baby Boomers’ shoes? We don’t have enough experienced Gen X’ers to do it. Somebody is going to have to.

3. What does that leave? It leaves Millennials. Millennials have tools and resources that we did not have. The best and the brightest are well equipped to learn faster and step up into major positions of responsibility 10, 15 and even 20 years earlier than ever before in the AEC industry. I am already watching it happen; I love it and I embrace it. I am excited to work side by side with this fresh and exciting group.

So, what does that have to do with manufacturers? Why am I writing this blog to you?

Because you are missing the boat!

The millennials don’t know who you are, they are not learning about your products and they are creating risk when they are not educated about your product when they design it into our projects.

While you are chasing the principal in any given firm—who, by the way, rarely choose the products on a project—these young professionals are learning about your few competitors that are smart enough to have a long-term vision and recognize that these young professionals will be the boss very, very soon.

Manufacturers and Product Reps: What do you need to do?

• You need to get out and hit the lunch-and-learn circuit hard and get our YP’s well versed in the products, how they work, when they should be used and when they should not. We need this education for our YP’s and L&L’s are the best way to do it. Most firms have billable time requirements. Lunch hours are the only time they are given to learn from you. They are smart enough to have a life after work. You need to educate them when they can get there.

• You need to start including a contingent of these bright YP’s at your events, conferences, seminars and tours. It may be next year that they are choosing your product over someone else’s. That principal you just invited to the all-expenses paid retreat (who doesn’t choose products) is retiring next year. Do you know who is taking his or her place?

• You need to stop being complacent that you are securely in a firm’s Master Specification and you don’t need to visit them so often. If I get hit by a truck tomorrow, a younger professional who has never seen you may be taking my place because Gen X specifiers are super hard to find right now. Have they ever heard of you? They are bright and are not afraid of change. It is very likely they will research something else and that comfortable spot you had in our office will be gone.

• You need to limit risk. Both yours and mine. If our YP’s have not had experience or education with your product and they make a mistake in the design or specs, we now have a big problem and we have it together. We all know that profit-eating hours during construction due to errors, omissions or disputes are not good for anyone. If there is a failure, it may hurt your product reputation. If these YP’s are well versed in your product and proper procedures, the risk of failure is much less.

My friends, you not only need to stop ignoring the YP’s with the misguided notion that you can’t sell them anything for many years, but you need to be embracing them, teaching them, inviting them, courting them and supporting their success. You will be dealing with them much, much sooner than you think.

Then again, maybe you won’t. Your choice!

About the Author

Cherise Lakeside is a specifier with Ankrom-Moisan Architects (Portland, Oregon). She has experience with many facets of the project team. She has worked for a general contractor, an MEP engineering firm and two architectural firms in her 30-year career. She has worked extensively in multiple areas of the industry including specifications, contract administration, marketing, business management, QA/QC and standards. In addition, she is actively involved in AEC Social Media, public speaking, writes a blog called “The Voices In My Head” and participates in LetsFixConstruction.com. She is the immediate past president of the Portland Chapter of CSI and chair of the Institute Curriculum Prep Committee.

You can follow her on Twitter: @CheriseLakeside.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Letsfixconstruction.com

Let's Fix Construction is written by a collective group of construction professionals involved in letsfixconstruction.com, an online impartial platform to provide forward-thinking solutions to many longstanding issues that have plagued construction. Organizers and contributors seek to better the industry by sharing knowledge, while creating open and positive communication and collaboration. Many of the posts have appeared first on letsfixconstruction.com and are republished on Durability + Design with permission. Author information is available at the bottom of each blog entry.

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Tagged categories: Architects; Education; Specification; Specifiers; Worker training; young professionals

Comment from Dave Polovitz, (6/5/2017, 8:53 AM)

Great article.


Comment from Phil Kabza, (6/5/2017, 9:34 AM)

Right on, Cherise! YPs are oftenhesitant to reach out to product reps because they are struggling with their own lack of knowledge. Your article makes the case that the product reps need to be proactive in making those initial contacts. The loyalty they generate will last the length of their careers.


Comment from GEOFF WOODFORD, (6/5/2017, 9:55 AM)

Agreed. Fantastic article. So important. Reps need to be advocates for the future of their products and their customers who use them.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/5/2017, 12:20 PM)

The other side of it is that the "old pros" in the industry, including the reps, also have to make sure that they are developing the YPs, not driving them away. I remember in one of my first jobs (I'm an X, but it still applies today), the contractor and one of the reps thought it best to do a "burn in" of the new guy. For my 8 weeks on that site (relatively small construction job), I did what was "textbook" and apparently "wrong"...no one invested the time to teach or mentor me in what was "right". YPs need that assistance to get the knowledge they will use throughout their careers...if you want to be part of that future, you need to be involved with them, not just the "bosses."


Comment from VCBud Jenkins, (6/6/2017, 3:30 AM)

The Managers of companies need to realize that they have to send these YPs to Technical Classes whenever they arise. Especially the millennials who are too busy having fun to go to a class involving work. They need to be pushed by the boss into getting a career going.


Comment from Charles Thompson, (6/6/2017, 10:04 AM)

I agree with M. Halliwell and VCBud Jenkins as well as the author. I am a "Boomer" and my experience in working with YPs is they are reticent to engage product representatives even when they are contacted. With the proliferation of the internet and websites, they think they can acquire the information they need without a product representative. The majority of the time they want me to make the contact and inform them or in practice, wait for a problem to arise to engage the representative. I think it is incumbent on the mentors of the YPs to instill the benefits of the cooperative effort of the representative and the professional to reach a common goal in the practice of construction. If the YPs don't see their mentors and peers engaging representatives, they won't want to do it either. Management of AEC firms need to realize that the cooperative effort of both manufacturers and designers has a distinct effect on their profits as well as their image and their client's satisfaction.


Comment from Cherise Lakeside, (6/6/2017, 2:51 PM)

Thank you all, so much, for your great comments. I have read an interesting statistic in more than one place now. By the year 2025 (7.5 years) our work force will be fully 75% millennials. If that doesn't give us all a wake up call, I don't kno what will. I am Gen X and will get to work alongside this exciting group of young people. They are motivated to learn but often are not empowered to do so, especially if it will cost money or precious billable hours. I am helping with a YP development program in my firm and working both at the Chapter and National level of CSI to embrace this group. Those of us who are more "seasoned" need to make noise with the powers-that-be about how important this is. Unfortunately, our YP's are often not heard.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/7/2017, 11:16 AM)

Cherise, unfortunately the hesitance to invest in learning it all too common. A lot of Boomers are closing in on retirement, but the Gen X who will take their place have limited education and experience that would help them run a company. Most Gen X (if they remained in their field due to the two recessions that were mentioned) are more involved with the jobs in hand and assisting the Gen Y and Millennials with figuring out the job than being groomed for future leadership of their firm. The clock is ticking and the Boomers aren't going to be around forever....but few have really give thought to succession plans.


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