Contributed by Lauren Anderson
I am not even sure where to begin recapping CONSTRUCT 2017.
What I will start with is my experience from last year in Austin, Texas, as I had never attended a conference for my job until that CONSTRUCT. As a product rep, this conference is the only one specifically tailored toward my profession within the AEC industry. As I was concerned about keeping costs down in ‘16, I registered as a Young Professional, and chose not to add on the Welcome Reception or walking tour. Fear drove my decision making as I didn’t know very many people attending at all. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity, I squandered it by skipping the afternoon sessions of Young Professionals (YP) Day, the Welcome Reception, CSI Night Out and the YP mixer. I made a lot of excuses out of being nervous and fearful to network alone. After Austin & CONSTRUCT, I left sort of deflated. I learned some, but didn’t network well and I completely missed the point.
A few weeks after I returned from Austin, I joined Twitter. I started connecting with some fellow CSI folks and industry professionals at all levels. Over the course of the last year, Twitter has changed my professional life. I’ve learned so much – more than I can recap here – so I signed up for 2017’s CONSTRUCT with a fresh perspective. I was so excited that I even asked two of our company’s newest reps to join me. I promptly paid extra for the Welcome Reception and snagged a seat at YP Day – a must-do. If you’re reading this, don’t miss out because of fear. Sign up for everything and connect ahead of time as much as you can with fellow attendees!
After arriving a day early into Providence this year, there was a welcome reception at Union Station Brewery across from my hotel that was geared for first time attendees. I emailed ahead to RSVP alongside my two colleagues, but realized later that it had opened over time to all attendees who arrived ahead of the official conference start. The reception was a blast. Great food, delicious locally brewed beers and I got to meet new people ahead of Wednesday’s sessions.
Wednesday started bright and early with YP Day – a special set of sessions started three years ago -- by Cherise Lakeside to specifically focus on mentoring, networking and knowledge for young professionals 35 and under. YP Day offered breakfast, almost an hour of networking time & then we dove right into introductions and learning. LeeAnn Slattery started us out with constructive tips for being a conference “sponge”. Following that, CSI Fellow Casey Robb demonstrated how to become an effective networker – something all people can benefit from in the early part of their careers. He offered specific tips and gave us a book recommendation, ‘Network like an Introvert’.
Speed Mentoring came next, which happens to be my absolute favorite part of CONSTRUCT. I love learning from more experienced professionals in our industry. Cherise gathered some of the best in the business and for half of seven minutes allotted per session, the YPs would ask questions of the mentors. After the halfway bell, we’d play musical chairs and the mentors would question us. I ended up chatting with a former CSI Institute President, a contractor with 30+ years of experience and CSI Fellows. Not only that, but I got a handful of business cards from people who are willing to mentor me for life. That’s worth the admission alone!
The YPs next went to the Let’s Fix Construction interactive lunch and I sat at a table with specifiers, product reps and one engineer. We received an envelope with a common industry issue and were asked to work together to create solutions. What an eye-opener! First, we didn’t all agree right away what the best “one thing” would be to solve the problem. That shows that sometimes there are several pathways to resolve common issues and it requires communicating verbally to come to agreement. YPs, if sitting at the table, were asked to captain the team and speak to the rest of the luncheon – only 170 people! A great introduction to public speaking if you’re nervous. Allison Marceron, our table captain, got up to present our solutions and we had some comments from the crowd on their experiences. Overall, this lunch was so interactive and fun, while solving some major issues!
After the Let’s Fix Construction session, we attended ’Tools of the 21 Century Architect’, delivered solely to the YP’s by the AEC Hackathon founder, Damon Hernandez. We then attended sessions of our choice. The sessions I chose throughout the week were based on areas I felt I was either lacking knowledge, or wanted to become an expert in – guide specification writing, how to effectively work with specifiers and what technological advancements we can expect in the future – just to name a few. I found most, if not all, to enhance my knowledge. I don’t think every conference session is going to change your life, but there was a major takeaway from every session that I plan to implement right away, that will surely change my success path.
Wednesday evening gave us CSI’s Welcome Reception. Having skipped it last year, I wasn’t sure if the price tag would be worth it. Let me just tell you – it was worth it and then some. Talk about fun! We walked into the ballroom to a stunning, well-decorated space based on a New England style clambake. There were tables set up with wait staff offering an entire steamed whole lobster. Steamed clams. Fried clams. Cornbread and fixins. Vats of drawn butter (need I say more?). A dueling piano competition with two talented artists that helped raise money for the CSI Foundation. This event is a can’t miss! I really enjoyed just hanging out, laughing with and talking to my fellow CSI members and friends.
Thursday morning brought a very early session, followed by our general session and keynote. Both CSI’s Board Chair, Ron Geren, and CEO, Mark Dorsey, got up to speak about the changes occurring in our industry. The highlights included CSI’s revised role with BSD to marry specifications and BIM technology and how the future of specifications will change, but the role of the specifier will become even more important and it’s how we adapt that will alter our prospective futures. Rhode Island School of Design’s Laura Briggs, along with four students, accepted the CSI Foundation grant. Laura shared the student’s current projects and what they’re doing to service the Providence community.
Following their speeches, we heard from the brand new director of CONSTRUCT at Informa about what to expect from future conferences. We also heard from Rhode Island’s tourism team that they were not only grateful to have us there, but they hope to have each of us back for a future visit. The representative shared highlights of living, working and playing in Rhode Island. My favorite part was that they are home to the world’s largest bug – Nibbles Woodaway. He seems like a local celebrity. Google him!
The keynote was prominent architect Thomas Mayne of Morphosis. I honestly didn’t know who he was before I attended – sorry, Thom. While he may not be affiliated with CSI, he certainly blew my mind over the process he employs to take his clients’ vision to reality. Thom showed renderings, images and BIM files of projects completed. He encouraged design teams not to limit their project delivery method to the traditional routes, but to take control of the process. Thom’s team collaborated with manufacturers to the point where they are developing the new products they wish to see, designing the machinery needed to create those products and implementing less common methods, like full scale mock-ups. It was inspiring.
After the morning session and keynote, I headed off to the show floor to see what the supportive manufacturers and companies who displayed a booth had going on. First, I want to say thank you to all the supporters of CSI and those who decided to have a demo, booth or sponsored the coffee bar (looking at you, Clark Dietrich). Your support is tremendous and your relationship to us is one we all respect and appreciate. We are equals, and that’s the beauty of the CSI organization!
The manufacturers completely blew me away with their booth designs, giveaways and learning opportunities. I especially loved the Behr booth where I could test paint a flower motif. The demos were engaging and centrally located on the showroom floor. One manufacturer, Best hardware, gave away full size ice cream bars which I appreciate more than ever after a long day! The show floor was a must-visit.
Thursday- oh, what a night! I personally had a chance to grab dinner with two specifiers, my team and a door hardware consultant that I know well. We explored the Federal Hill and Little Italy area of Providence. It was a great location that CSI recommended – small enough to be walkable but tons of New England charm. We dined at Siena – highly recommend for Providence visitors.
Afterward, we took the free shuttle to Partners and Pints, an event from Let’s Fix Construction and Clark Dietrich. It was held at Brewers Guild over in Pawtucket. When we arrived, we were greeted with food trucks (fries topped with marshmallows and chocolate, y’all), drink tickets for Guild’s craft beers, a fun DJ and best of all – a photo booth. It’s not often as a product rep that I get to throw on a Harry Potter wizard hat, put on a feather boa and take photos with architects I do business with. But that’s CONSTRUCT, you guys! It was a blast, and we even enjoyed the party bus on the way home. Too many laughs to mention.
As if Friday could show up Thursday’s festivities, I was grateful to be asked to be the keynote speaker at CSI College of Fellows breakfast. I thought it’d be helpful to share my remarks, so please stay tuned to the blog here at Let’s Fix Construction for my remarks. My goal was to communicate ideas for how to connect and engage young people. It was a great breakfast meeting, honoring the newly inducted fellows, passing the torch to the new chancellor of the College of Fellows and honoring each Fellows class of the past. I was humbled and truly honored to be invited this year.
After the breakfast and my morning sessions, we headed into the Game Changer Session with Paul Doherty. I feel sorry for people who skipped this, or who didn’t come to CONSTRUCT as Paul just completely blew me away. Paul joined Long Island CSI as a teenager, and is now with the Digit Group helping to build SmartCities all around the globe. SmartCities are the future, but they’re also necessary for sustainability as people continue to move toward cities and cities expand into suburbs. There are less resources, and a greater need for unique resource generation. Paul discussed things like VIM, which is the future of specifications and using foot traffic to create electricity. He even suggested ways that SmartCities and advanced technology can help avert nuclear crises. It was incredible! My hope is to bring Paul to local CSI chapters for a mini presentation.
After the second day of the show floor, we closed out Friday with the annual CSI business meeting, hearing from a speakers panel and an open forum of ideas CSI can implement to make the membership better. Ron Geren, current CSI Board Chair asked us to write down the single most important thing that will make CSI better personally.
Friday night, we hit CSI Night Out, now in its fourth year, for one last “hoorah”. We got dolled up and walked over to the Skyline at Waterplace. When we walked in, I was taken back by the beautiful décor, extremely fun and upbeat band and the skyline view of Providence. There were multiple levels with bars on each. The live music played while everyone shared takeaways of a great week at CONSTRUCT. Chefs prepared passed canapes while there was a mini Rhode Island slider (yes, this is a thing!) and fries bar. Laughs and talking roared on through the night until we closed the place down.
On Saturday morning, I was left with nothing but love, excitement and renewed spirit to come back to my home chapter and make it the best it can be. I am thrilled about the future of CSI. Our CEO, Mark Dorsey, is committed to elevating the roles of specifiers everywhere and more importantly, about creating the single most important association in the AEC industry that allows all of the project team members to communicate effectively to advance and improve buildings. CSI is not exclusive. We’re looking for all members of the project team – owners, developers, architects, specifiers, engineers, product representatives, facility managers, contractors, subcontractors, consultants and more. We’re seeking one common place where all other associations can exist because of the work we’re doing to educate the project team. Hope to see you at the next CONSTRUCT in Long Beach, California, from October 3-5, 2018.
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