Orange County Branch Newsletter

June 2015

President's Message

Professional Development Takes Off!

By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE

ASCE (Society) is an organization that excels at making professional development events enjoyable and memorable.  Serving on the boards of the ASCE Orange County Branch (OC Branch) and ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum (OC YMF) has allowed me to participate in multiple Society regional and national conferences.  Beyond the excitement of visiting a new city, I have had the invaluable opportunity to meet the people who live and work in these cities and benefitted from lessons learned by the leaders of companies and agencies across the country and around the world.  The presenters at the Society conferences have shared their experiences on how to create a fulfilling career and what it takes to be a successful engineer.   The presenters at the Society events do not have all the answers, but after attending a few of these events over the years, a path for how my career should progress has developed more clearly with time.  Since joining the board, I have been looking for opportunities to bring the same experience to our members in Orange County.  OC Branch and OC YMF have partnered over the last year to find ways to share this benefit with our members.
Some of the professional development I received over the past decade has been participating in the boards of the OC Branch and OC YMF.  However, most of our members do not have the time to serve on a board of directors for the OC Branch.  This is why we increased the number of technical groups/institutes in Orange County from two to five.  The technical groups/institutes are in most of the fields that members practice every day-water (EWRI), transporation (TTG), geotechnical (GI), structural (SI) and construction (CI).  Since there are usually only three to six events a year for each technical group/institute and there are typically three to six members on each of their boards, the board members of the technical groups/institutes are only responsible for one event a year.  The structure of the technical groups/institutes makes it easier for our members to participate in planning and coordinating events.  Setting up an event for the technical groups/institutes usually consists of calling one of your clients and asking them to talk about a project they are excited about.  This provides members with the opportunities to develop their relationships with their clients and bring excellent programs to the OC Branch.  In the last two years, the OC Branch has invited interested board members from our technical groups/institutes to participate in the institute conferences or the Society regional conference.
In addition to the opportunities to get involved in the technical groups/institutes, the OC Branch created a Professional Development Committee. The OC YMF has been the leader in ASCE Orange County for developing professional development programs that members can participate in large numbers and enjoy the experience.  This year the OC Branch partnered with OC YMF to create a mentoring program as the first step to developing a Professional Development Committee.  The OC Branch board members have learned as much from the process of creating a mentoring program with OC YMF as our members who have participated in the program.  The purpose of this program was to get experienced and younger engineers to engage with each other on a professional and personal level.  At a recent event, participants in the mentoring program were asked “What is the most significant thing you got out of the program?” and the largest response was that the mentor and protégés were becoming friends and they plan to continue the relationship after the program is completed.  The real success of a mentoring program is when the mentor learns as much as the protégé.  Michael Pierce provides an excellent write-up with additional details about the event in his article in this month’s newsletter, “Mentorship Program Mid-Year Check-In Event”
Last year the OC YMF came together and developed a speaker series that rivals some of the excellent programs I have seen at Society’s regional and national conferences.  OC YMF identified prominent and well-respected members in the civil engineering field to discuss “valuable, desirable, non-technical abilities and skills” with our members.  OC YMF was recognized for their efforts this year by Society with an award for their speaker series program.  The speaker series continued this year with presenters Patti Boekamp, Natalie Meeks, Rob Himes, and Bob Bein from Orange County.  I like that the focus of the event was to discuss the “skills that helped these professionals become successful and are sought by seasoned professionals as pivotal skills for an up-and-coming young engineer.”  The largest attendance was by younger engineers, but a few experienced members attended as well.  Hopefully, more members of all ages will attend the event next year.
For the closing event of the speaker series, OC YMF and OC Branch partnered to do what I had been dreaming of accomplishing the last few years.  We invited Renate Mousseux, a presenter our members met at a Society conference, to Orange County and discuss "Body Language and Its Power (For Architects and Engineers)."  The program focused on the different tools to help you become a more effective and successful communicator.  The attendees were engaged with the presenter throughout the program and it was exciting to see the lessons learned being conveyed through the questions to the presenter.  Some experienced engineers came with their staff to the event, were discussing the event together as they were leaving the event.
We hope these events will get members excited about professional development and start the conversation regarding what types of professional development programs our members would be interested in for the future.  We would like to eventually add half-day seminars about professional development and offer social events where professional development concepts can be used to help members engage more with other attendees and be more fulfilled from the event.