People Power

July/August 2020

NSPE Today: Outlook
People Power



So far 2020 has been a year of challenges. The coronavirus has changed the way people live and work, and the George Floyd protests have made it clear that our nation and our profession not only leave many people on the sidelines but worse.

People, however, can spur change and achieve great things when working together. Today, I can still feel the energy in the room at the Delaware Engineering Society’s EWeek banquet in February. We celebrated the occasion by honoring student scholarship winners along with new professionals getting their licenses. The program highlighted exciting projects. And Engineer of the Year honoree Ted C. Williams’ daughter made us laugh as well as cry with her tribute to her father.

This wonderfully inclusive event drew nearly 200 people. It was impressive to see the trio of 30-somethings who serve as Delaware state officers take on this responsibility and get it done. When I met with them for breakfast the morning afterward, they took a moment to toast the event’s success—then they got ready to tackle their next big challenge.

Their enthusiasm provides an excellent example of why it is essential for us to focus on organizational growth as a key component of the NSPE strategic plan. Having this kind of dedication from our members and volunteer leaders makes it possible to push toward fulfillment of our vision: A world where the public can be confident that engineering decisions affecting their lives are made by qualified and ethically accountable professionals.

We need to continue attracting qualified people of all backgrounds to our profession and attracting them to our Society to engage in the work necessary to fulfill our vision.

During the early years of my career I learned from one of my first mentors about NSPE’s leadership role in promoting high standards in our profession to benefit communities where we live and work. Joe Paul Jones, P.E., F.NSPE, was NSPE president in 1992–93, and he brought me into the organization’s orbit by inviting me to attend a Texas Society of Professional Engineers luncheon with him.

My long involvement at the local, state, and national levels convinces me that it is the people—regardless of skin color, gender, religion—who enable us to make a difference. And by investing in growing our membership, especially by bringing in creative young professionals, we can ensure that NSPE remains a vibrant, relevant organization that helps both our members and our profession thrive.

One way we’re going about this strategically is by hiring new Chief Engagement Officer Erik Schonher, who joined NSPE in February. In this newly created position, he’ll leverage his wealth of experience in marketing and membership development to enhance our membership engagement and communications.

This focus will expand our efforts to support our state societies with training, resources, and programs that aim to generate increased member engagement and improve member recruitment and retention. And we will continue to develop tools and frameworks for membership development so our state leaders will have access to resources that work best for them.

The strong partnership between NSPE and our state societies was demonstrated during the early stages of the COVID-19 health crisis, as volunteer leaders and staff worked together to deliver real-time information to our members. Additionally, members engaged with each other in large numbers via the online NSPE Communities where they shared information and ideas on working in our “new normal” environment.

While the health crisis presented new and unique challenges to each of us as leaders, we’ve already seen that the challenges won’t stop coming. One of the best lessons I’ve learned from developing and managing new offices for my firm is how important it is to hire good people and help them to be successful. We can use that same approach in our service to NSPE, our profession, and our communities: Expand our reach to bring in even more inventive and energetic people, of all backgrounds, and empower them to do their best.

As I start my term as your NSPE president, I am reminded of all the great PE leaders who helped me reach this point. I hope my continued service will inspire future PE leaders as they embrace the responsibility and privilege of serving society as professional engineers.

While I was working from home during the spring, a former colleague called. He was honored as his chapter’s Engineer of the Year earlier this year, and he was calling to make sure I knew how much he appreciated me introducing him to NSPE and encouraging him to get involved.  NSPE’s role in his career development as a community leader is clear. It doesn’t get much better than seeing NSPE’s influence in action!