Connecting the Dots Between Politics and Engineering with Emerging Leaders Program

Posted on Monday, October 8th, 2012 by
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Emerging Leaders Program.

I enjoyed the first session of the 2012 ACEC-Kansas Emerging Leaders Program. The goal of the program is to help engineers develop the skills they will need to become leaders of their firms and our industry. The topics we will discuss over the next three months have been identified as important for leadership by engineers, who currently serve in leadership roles at firms across Kansas. I have participated in other leadership programs and always enjoy them, but I am particularly interested in this one because it is designed with engineers in mind.

The first session included a fun orientation and introductions to my classmates. Over the two days, our topics covered leadership, business development, ethics and governmental affairs. If I had to choose one word to describe what we learned over the two days, it would be ‘relationships’. Relationships are the common thread between our topics of getting to know my classmates, how you lead those you work with, your approach to business development and how to work with your legislator. Interestingly, relationships are also the backbone of Affinis and is what our name means in Latin.

Of most interest to me was the discussion about the need for engineers to be informed and involved politically. It really hit home for me when I learned ZERO members of the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate are licensed engineers, architects, landscape architects, etc. Yet those people representing us make decisions everyday that affect how we are licensed, how our business is taxed, and how (or if) projects we work on are funded. This made it clear to me that there is value in getting to know my representatives to help educate them about our profession.

Similar to client relationships, the best way to be of value to our political representatives is to stay in regular contact with them, not just the week of an important vote, but throughout the year helping them get educated about the issues impacting our industry. Listening to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt speak about how to participate effectively and build consensus was a great learning opportunity.

Is political action my first interest? No, but I also feel leaders take the time to learn about and speak intelligently about the issues that impact the A/E/C field, not just to our legislatures but to the people who come in contact with everyday. I guess that means it is time to be more active in the politics of our industry. I had already started to take more interest this summer when redistricting and the primaries made such big news. In addition our firm leader, Rick Worrel, made an effort to educate interested Affinis co-workers about the issues. The biggest hurdle I see to getting politically active is finding ways to stay informed and know about the issues. It is time to get over that hurdle because our ‘homework’ assignment is to set up a meeting to introduce myself and firm to my Senator and Representative.

A few of resources I have found to get started include:

State

National

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