Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The View from the Finish Line

En route to Reno, Heavy Civil coach and industry veteran Tom Woodall put the competition in perspective. While the final presentations and awards are exciting, they are the tip of an iceberg running down miles under the surface.

"What the kids have to go through to get to the final 20 minutes on Friday is tremendous," Tom said.

The clock starts in August, when the announcement is made to all CM students that the ASC competition in Reno is open to those who have what it takes. Requirements include weekly meetings, intensive technical training with mentors, endless research, practice problems and presentations, and many other things you won't find in a syllabus. Those left standing after they hear the details form teams, and the real work begins.

Tom said the students depend not only on the knowledge and guidance of their faculty coaches but also on industry professionals who volunteer their time to get the teams up to speed.

"What this produces is an individual who is persistent and wants to learn, who has the dedication to put it all on the line and deliver," he said. "The industry likes that person. That person is tested."

Lucky for the competitors, the industry will be in the room when they present. Recruiters from dozens of top companies will be in the audience, looking for the nuts and bolts (honesty, work ethic, technical skill) as well as the X-factor.

The X-factor is the thing that separates a good construction manager from a standout leader. LEED coach and civil engineering professor Sondra Miller used the analogy of a military commander directing troops.

"It's management; it's not control," she said. "It's about picking the right people to do a job and then letting them do it. It's emotional intelligence."

Or, in Tom's succinct words: "Know your people."

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