by Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PE, CPEM, PMP, NPDP
In October, I had the pleasure of representing ASEM in the technical sessions, workshops, and vendor booth at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Trish Simo Kush and Patrick Kush first gave me a quick rundown on how to engage folks who stopped by the booth. It was enlightening to see so many of my fellow ChEs interested in growing their careers with ASEM’s support in the EMBOK, certification, membership, and chapters.
Perhaps the most interesting workshop at the conference was on the topic of unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. The term “covering” was used to define when we conceal an important aspect of ourselves in order to respond to perceived fears or workplace threats. We typically cover in four areas: appearance, affiliation, advocacy, and/or association. About 60% of all people “cover” in the workplace by changing or hiding characteristics within these four arenas. One lady shared that she covered her affiliation by concealing that she had grown up very poor. While many others viewed her story as one of resilience and perseverance, she expressed shame.
And that is the lesson we can all learn about unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. Our own perceptions – of ourselves and of others – can limit our ability as leaders. We must work to build trust by communicating openly and honestly in the workplace. An inclusive work environment leads to better talent acquisition and improved outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Another great session at the AIChE conference taught engineering and technology leaders that marketing is not bragging. Each individual must understand his or her own values to craft a personal brand. Our brand includes business and technical skills, soft skills, and our reputation. We reflect our personal brand through social media, in presentations, and in our daily workplace conversations. The take-away: It’s okay to share our achievements as successful engineers and engineering managers.
Yet another workshop built upon these themes by teaching that communication is at the core of successful project management and execution. Projects are as much about people as they are about scope, schedule, and budget. Learning to trust your team and to have them trust you as a leader is more important to successful project implementation than is creating a perfect Gantt chart.
I also had the pleasure of attending AIChE’s Management Division’s award presentation to Gayle Gibson, retired from DuPont. She, along with other panelists led by ASEM member, Harold Conner, described challenges in transforming organizations. Communication, trust, and diversity also were webs throughout the panelists’ remarks.
I want to thank ASEM for creating a presence within the AIChE community. As a ChE and a CPEM, I may be biased, but I see significant opportunities for a mutually beneficial relationship to continue between the associations. Based on booth attendance, we definitely should have more members with a ChE background joining us soon at ASEM!