San Diego's Superheroes
San Diego is full of superheroes.
Some superheroes were found at Comic-Con International, whose annual convention of sci-fi, fantasy, comics, and gaming fan culture also happened to be taking place concurrently with the NSPE Annual Meeting this past July. On account of the Comic-Con goers, the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp District were definitely more energizing and colorful than usual—it’s not every day that you get to stand in line between a Storm Trooper and Where’s Waldo while waiting for a slice of pizza.
Others were superheroes of eras past, like Thomas Edison and Charles Lindbergh who graced the corridors of the breathtaking and historic Hotel Del Coronado, or “Hotel Del,” whose iconic (and according to tourist brochures, haunted) crimson turrets are themselves a feat of aesthetics, architecture, and engineering.
Other superheroes still were the resident heroes truly living up to the name: the Navy SEALs trainees at the Naval Amphibious Base training center on Coronado Bay. Each early morning that I drove past their training grounds on my way to the NSPE meeting, their tireless commitment, counterpoint to their exhausted but otherwise stoic appearance, was visibly at work with each stride they took across the beachhead in full training gear.
This trip to a quiet cove of San Diego’s Coronado Bay placed me in the company of other kinds of heroes as well: those engineering professionals of NSPE and its affiliates from across the United States as well as other countries like Korea and Japan, all contributing their energies toward the broader mission to serve and develop the engineering profession as a whole.
Being in a room full of NSPE members who have given up countless hours of personal time throughout the year and who have made personal sacrifices to gather here, to see members from across all 50 states convene to push forward the mission to further the engineering profession and its practitioners, is one of the most inspiring experiences an NSPE member can have. Compliment that with the tireless NSPE staff working behind the scenes and one sees that the possibility of such a superhuman degree of logistics, planning, and scheduling being executed is itself a manifestation of reality from fantasy.
Within a span of three days, I learned my leadership style through the Dr. Michael Lillibridge’s PeopleMap tool (per his model I’m a “Leader/ Free Spirit” combination). I learned novel approaches to fiduciary responsibilities in professional organizations from a group called Leadership Outfitters, as well as received an overview on the latest developments within NSPE, like the Political Action Committee and other outreach groups. Additional leadership topics included new approaches to promoting engineering licensure and further details on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Raise the Bar initiative to increase engineering academic requirements prior to licensure. It took a couple of introspective walks along the San Diego Bay after some hearty barbeque brisket from the local smokehouse and a pint of Coronado Brewing Company’s microbrew to really let it all sink in.
It was a grateful experience to receive an overwhelming amount of support for my Career Engineering Roadmap program for emerging engineering professionals as well as to be a part of discussions on the next phases of NSPE’s own organizational growth as we explore the “Race for Relevance” model of professional society excellence. Also energizing for me was interacting with the new class of NSPE leaders stepping into new roles for the coming terms of office, ranging from the PEPP Young Engineers Advisory Council leadership like Amy Barrett, Daniel Gilbert, Neerali Desai, and the rest of the team, to the other newly elected young leaders on the NSPE Board of Directors, like David Conner and Kodi Jean Church, who are all going to be so important to sustaining and growing NSPE in the coming years. Being a part of the range of experience, talent, and expertise that now sits on the board continues to help me dimensionalize what opportunities exist for my own continuous learning and knowledge growth.
Attending large national society events such as the annual meeting are of course filled with the formal interactions within the various sessions held throughout the conference, but just as critical were those side interactions on the terrace overlooking the bay, those pre-seminar meetings over coffee and Honest Tea in the Loews Market Café, the conversations and introductions on the sides of the hallways and chandeliered stairwells. One only really gets the full impact of NSPE’s reach and combined passion to promoting licensure and the engineering profession as a whole when attending the annual meeting in person—there is no virtual link or teleconference that can quite replicate the enthusiasm and energy of an in-person experience.
It is a privilege to serve as the National Director for Young Engineers and with a year left in my term, if this year has been any indication at all, the heroes still yet to emerge, combined with those that have already begun to make their mark, will definitely make it action packed.