November 16, 2010
I recently traveled to the National Environmental Balancing Bureau 2010 Annual Conference, and found out that a childhood friend of mine lived in the area. I called her a few days before I left, and we made plans to meet for dinner. I’d never been to that part of the country, so she showed me around, and filled me in on the unusual customs of the locals. That relationship (nearly 25 years old now—wow!) saved me a lot of grief, and allowed me to be more comfortable in a new place. The friendship gave me a leg up while I was traveling and made a work-related trip more fun and memorable.
It’s relationships like this, both personal and professional, that are so important.
While at the conference, I was amazed that the conference organizers had invited industry partners and—in some cases—other organizations that might be deemed industry rivals. I met with representatives from the Building Commissioning Assn., RSES, ASHRAE, and a handful of others. However, that rivalry really wasn’t the situation here. I asked the members of these organizations how they felt about working with other like-minded industry groups, and in each case, the answer was the same: The relationship was strengthening their business, not weakening it.
I also noticed that attendees at the conference worked at companies that offered similar services in the same geographic market. While in many businesses they’d be bitter rivals (think about banks or grocery stores in your home town), these engineers were friends, both on and off the job. In one case, an engineer said that he and his immediate competition were actually really good friends, that they consulted with each other regularly, and that they pushed each other to do a better job. They even acquiesced when the other firm won a bid for a job, knowing that the “competition” was actually better suited to do the work.
So what does this teach us? For me, it’s a reminder to ensure I’m keeping in touch with old friends. It’s also a reminder that fostering relationships with all sorts of folks can lead to bigger and better things. For others, they’ll think of Abraham Lincoln’s advice to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” For many, they’ll realize that we can’t get through this alone, and hearken back to the “together we stand, divided we fall” motto.
This simple reminder may be the incentive you need to reach out to your engineering counterparts. It’s a reminder that communication with our peers is key to our personal and professional performance. It’s also a gentle push to remind you to join that technical committee, attend that educational session, or go to that networking event. You never know when one of the people you meet may become a lifelong friend or mentor.
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