Dare to be Great
It's been a year now since I've taken the helm of this publication, and upon reflection I took a look back at my predecessor's final column. In his parting editorial, my former colleague challenged engineers to step up to the plate as far as voicing their opinions about what he dubbed the erosion of the built environment.
It’s been a year now since I’ve taken the helm of this publication, and upon reflection I took a look back at my predecessor’s final column. In his parting editorial, my former colleague challenged engineers to step up to the plate as far as voicing their opinions about what he dubbed the erosion of the built environment. He railed at designers to break down silos and get to owners so that a voice of reason might influence building design. He also called for engineers to organize and elect leaders to lobby for the needs of the engineering community.
A year ago, I heartily concurred with many of these suggestions. However, having spent a year entwined in the bureaucracy that is Corporate America, I have greater empathy for engineers and a clearer vision that such a path might be more akin to the Yellow Brick Road than any kind of reality. Indeed, I have had great difficulty implementing changes and new initiatives on the magazine, not so much because they were bad ideas, but simply because they would cost money or were a little too different for the institution’s culture. And as if someone were trying to tell me something, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” was playing on the radio as I drove into work the day I scribed this piece.
Though frustrated to the point where I feel like I am going “to blow a 50-amp fuse,” as Sir Mick Jagger sings in the noted tune, the situation has only hardened my resolve. And that being said, a year later I must echo the voice of my predecessor in calling for the engineering community to step up.
In our most recent e-newsletter, a story ran about a survey on diversity in A/E firms. In response, one of our readers suggested we stick to engineering and leave the politics to others. I disagree. In fact, I’m in discussion with our newly active board of advisors to implement a regular editorial page, similar to that of a newspaper, where our board will express definitive opinions about issues the community faces, political or not.
As my predecessor noted, many of the fine associations that our readers belong to are technical organizations, and rarely offer any opinions, even when they’re in a position to do so. Maybe we can help push that envelope. If we’re wrong or you disagree, call us on the carpet. We welcome debate. It’s necessary for the industry to flourish.
In sum, let me relay a story. I live in Chicago, and my beleaguered Bulls recently gave me something to cheer about—they nabbed Duke’s Jay Williams in the NBA draft. In the news conference afterward, Bulls GM Jerry Krause was asked to assess the future of his now talent-laden team. Krause noted that talent alone does not necessarily make one great. Instead, he pointed to last year’s top pick Tyson Chandler—just 19 years old—whom he said he found studying game film the night before the draft in their training facility at 9:30 p.m.—this after two workouts earlier that day. Such dedication filled him with hope. But Krause also noted the kid’s desire, suggesting something, I believe, is germaine to us all, especially those confronted with seemingly undefeatable obstacles—Sometimes you have to dare to be great.