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Young leaders work to bridge generations

Young leaders work to bridge generations

Local '40 under 40' honorees feel responsibility to mentor and teach

By Rob McManamy

"Information is only useful if you pass it on," said Jason Chandler, VP and director of project management at Epstein, the 93-year-old, Chicago-based architect-engineer. 

The Panelists

The Panelists

Fellow panelists nodded in agreement, as Chandler and three other honorees addressed the fall luncheon audience for the Chicago chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. The quartet is the local share of Building Design + Construction's annual '40 Under 40' feature, which highlights 40 emerging AEC leaders that the magazine's editors select not only for career achievement, but for service to both their professions as well as their communities. 

That service piece can take the form of mentoring younger colleagues or even helping to facilitate relationships between young and old. "We actually have four generations represented  at our firm and in our client groups," noted Chandler. He sees his role at Epstein as something of a bridge between generations. "We ask ourselves 'How do we motivate Millennials?' Technology is one answer, sure, but that's only a tool. We want to reach out to young people in this industry, even beyond our own companies. And we need to (physically) take them with us sometimes, to introduce them to others we think they should know."

Added fellow honoree Dan Ulbricht, VP for Interiors at Leopardo: "I do feel more of a responsibility now to be a mentor to our younger employees. Eventually, of course, we want everybody here to be mentors." One way that Ulbricht connects with multiple generations is as lead singer and guitarist for 'Liquidated Damages', Leopardo's in-house rock band, which has helped raise close to $3 million for charity over the last 10+ years.

Of course, issues of sustainability play just as well, if not better, in luring the next generation to the AEC community. And they play well with owners, too, especially when cost savings are detailed. "We work to get our clients energy grants," explained honoree Josh Greenfield, VP and Energy Services Manager for Primera Engineers. "So we are constantly teaching our clients, too."


For anyone who may have been wondering, Greenfield noted that he did not change his name to join the 'green' movement now defining his work life. "Just a coincidence," he said with a smile.  

Of course, some older clients and crustier veteran colleagues are not as easily sold on such 21st century priorities, added honoree Susan Heinking, VP of Sustainability at VOA Associates. "So I have to market the cause internally as well as externally," she noted. "I have to be a walking billboard for sustainability virtually all of the time."

Not surprisingly, modern causes demand modern tools. And the market demands the best.

"Tech plays a huge part in everything we do now, and certainly it is competition-driven," said Heinking, adding that the more tech-savvy and demanding the client is, the more pressure to be as state-of-the-art, as possible. For instance, VOA is currently designing Google's new Chicago headquarters, so there is a heightened level of technical awareness and overall agility required. "We know we won't be able to 'out-BIM' them," she conceded. "But we also know that we have to have our best BIM people leading that project."

Internally, she added that VOA also has its own 'SWAT team' of young BIM experts that it can dispatch to any of its offices for emergency refresher training sessions, as needed.

All part of the ongoing workplace and jobsite revolution that is very far from over.


Rob McManamy


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