Honoring Our Industry Heroes

Engineering News Record recently published their “Top 25 Newsmakers - Industry Individuals Who Made a Difference in 2013”. It is quite a sampling of people, and their contributions are reflective of the broad impact and diversity of our industry. People were recognized for their research, their leadership on difficult projects and programs, and for creating innovative and exciting programs to attract more minorities and women into the industry. Some were recognized for advances in sustainability, technology, and even for creating toys to teach kids to “embrace the empowering attraction of an engineering career.”

When I think about the challenges we have as an industry, with its risks and typical low margins, I sometimes wonder what the attraction might be. But then, I look at the projects we get to be a part of – and I know it is not just Austin, but it is the industry as a whole – whether it is highways, tunnels, water treatment plants, communication and power systems, or the built environment, what we do is sustaining. It is not something that is consumed and disappears.

If you have been around some industry veterans, it won’t be long before you hear them talk about a project they built that is being torn down, or hopefully, repurposed. These projects are their legacies, and the accomplishment of planning, creating and building them are proud milestones in the careers of those engaged in the projects.

I know that as my kids were growing up, they identified buildings and products with projects Austin did. It often made for interesting questions from them or their friends. But the discussion with three sixth-grade soccer players in the back of the van was, perhaps, an introduction to a profession or an industry they had never really thought about before.

In those conversations, what I really couldn’t explain to them is the satisfaction we get from what we do. It is not just the creation of the building, but it is the team experience it took to get there. Just like when they worked together as a team to score a victory, the satisfaction of being able to share the success makes the success all the more enjoyable.

No project is accomplished by one person, but in my experience, every project has its heroes. Each person has his or her role and when they execute flawlessly, when they sacrifice some time to help a teammate who is struggling, when they give up evenings or weekends to make sure the project gets done right, they are heroes. Heroes put the goal of the project, and their commitment to the team effort, above their personal goals and commitments.

They may not make it to the Top 25 Newsmakers of ENR, but their contributions make the Company stronger, their clients more successful, and the soccer players in the back of the van maybe a little more interested in how they might be part of a team that creates these impressive projects.

“A champion is someone who does not settle for that day's practice, that day's competition, that day's performance. They are always striving to be better. They don't live in the past.”

Briana Scurry

“I hope all you young girls see yourself up there... We were just like you.”

 Mia Hamm