It’s Not Just the Person You Met, it’s the People You Meet

Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, our methods of communication varied greatly from what we have now. Pre-smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn and even email (we’re going WAY back here), most of our In Real Life (IRL) interactions were originated by telephone, traditional pen to paper or sheer happenstance. Many relationships were culled much differently than they are now. Our instant gratification, constant connectivity lifestyle has sped up the relationship cycle monumentally, going from ice breaker to “nice to meet you” to “it’s so great to see you again” at what seems like a World Record pace.

There is no denying that it can be difficult to meet new people at times, especially in new surroundings or under new circumstances. However, the ways that we can meet new people have multiplied exponentially due to the technology and our ever-sharing lifestyle that many of us now surround ourselves with. MeetUps, TweetUps, chat rooms and too many social media mediums to list have given us a virtual water cooler that at one time was impossible to even conceive. No longer do you need to feel that you are the lone member of any given club when you are a Google search away from finding not only a local person with your same interests, but even a support group to perhaps help cope.

After a voluntary relocation from Vermont to Amish Country Pennsylvania in early 2008, my life was literally turned on its side. I went from a state that I knew, filled with family and lifelong friends, to an area that held approximately three people that I had met before. Most people take working at an office for granted, but when you think about it, your co-workers can end up being a second family and many become close friends. But when you work remotely out of your home office, you rarely have the opportunity to see the same people in any sort of frequency. Things did change for me when I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Construction Specifications Institute – CSI – in early 2009. Priding itself on its members, CSI, and the Allentown, PA Chapter in particular, quickly became an adopted 2nd family to me, allowing me to see the same smiling faces with warm greetings on a monthly basis.

The more I got involved with CSI, the more it became an important part of my life. As the proliferation of social media, personal branding and social sharing became abundant, an extension of me became my tweets through my Twitter @EricDLussier. It did not take long to strike up minor conversations with a person that I now call the Pied Piper of the CSI social media community, Joy Davis, who tweets as @CSIconstruction. Having never met her, heard her voice, not to mention seen an image of her, I attended my first CONSTRUCT (exhibit hall only) in Philadelphia in May of 2010. I went a little out of my way to ensure that I met this person who, I was told by Mitch Miller (@m2architek), I would recognize due to the number of cameras that were hanging around her neck. Sure enough, in short enough time, I had the opportunity to meet and finally put the voice and the face behind the @CSIconstruction shield avatar. Fitting enough, she then took my picture with Marty Thornton, then of Foreman Group of Zelienople, PA who is the one responsible for inviting me to my first CSI meeting and getting me to join.
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Our lives came together and quickly as that, our lives separated. I came to find out later that CONSTRUCT is Joy’s Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup Finals all rolled into one.

Our paths have crossed a number of times since, including my chauffeuring from Wayne, NJ to Allentown earlier this year and now I can safely say I am very fortunate to call Joy Davis a friend. Our friendship may revolve around 140 characters at a time, but I think if given the choice, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

CSI is 130 Chapters strong, each with its own strengths and its weaknesses. From experience in visiting multiple Chapters, the one strength that each can boast is their Members – volunteers who take personal time away from their day to day grind to find and share information with other likeminded construction folk. Having the State of Pennsylvania as my territory allowed me to visit with many of the Chapters throughout the Keystone State. However, being heavily involved in social media, especially Twitter, allowed me to interact with more than those that I was just meeting in a Radisson conference room on a Tuesday night in Camp Hill.

Through the following years and CONSTRUCT conferences (2011 in Chicago and 2012 in Phoenix), the connections came from further away – @Dstutzman in NJ, @BaltoCSI in MD, @LizOSullivanAIA in CO, @JPeterJordan in TX, @SpecMonkeyNorth in CA, @kaitlinsolomon3 in VA, @CheriseSchacter in OR, @cliffordmarvin in NY and even one crazy Canadian in @PaulDGerber – all initially met or keep in touch through one medium in Twitter. While too many in society think it is all about celebrities talking about their lunch plans, a tremendous group of construction-field individuals seek, find and share information and laughs 140 characters at a time.

Even though Nashville will only be my third full CONSTRUCT, complete with education (the core of the conference), it is quickly becoming my second-family reunion. For I have friends in real life that I get to see – though not nearly enough as we all grow older and apart and then I have friends that I get to see IRL. Us CSI Tweeps may only get together once a year, but it has quickly become a group of people that I can’t imagine not knowing. They may only be an avatar 361 days out of the year, but for 4 days at CONSTRUCT, they couldn’t be any better friends.

If you are interested in attending, exhibiting or getting more information on CONSTRUCT, which is being held in Nashville from September 24 – 27, 2013, please visit http://www.constructshow.com

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6 thoughts on “It’s Not Just the Person You Met, it’s the People You Meet

  1. Well said Eric!

    Having met you and all the people you mentioned in this blog post in Phoenix last September for the first time, I was amazed at how 140 characters at a time turned in IRL friendships that seemed to be years old! We had all experienced each others personalities online and I was pleased to see that they were much the same, if not funnier and more animated in person. I was very happy with the warm reception I was given into the CSI family, especially considering that I am the “Crazy Canadian” referenced above.

    These same friendships have grown since that time (140 characters at a time) and I have been looking forward to the Nashville “family reunion” since last September for more comraderie, laughs, fun, teasing…oh yeah and that great education that you also spoke about.

    Where else can you go to hear about current issues, challenges and trends in the AEC industry, presented by experts and thought leaders than CONSTRUCT? The best part is being able to share those seminars with your friends; and, in many cases, listen to those same friends making those presentations.

    I am truly fortunate in the fact that I have two of these “families” to call my own. As an active member in Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) as both a Chapter Director (participating at the national level) and the Architectural / Specifications Officer at the Chapter level, I can see how these two organizations have forged a meaningful & lasting relationship of cooperation, sharing and development of beat practices & formats. The reason this is possible is not only due to CSI & CSC holding the same core values & goals, but the similarity and strength of their volunteer members who selflessly take time away from their families and personal lives to ensure the continued success and relevance of our great “second families”.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone I met last year in Phoenix again this year in Nashville; and to meeting even more of the “family” that I didn’t meet in Phoenix!

  2. Eric:

    I’ll echo Paul’s words: Well said!

    I certainly haven’t been as active as many other CSI tweeps, including those you mentioned in your post. Regardless, I feel as if I am always welcomed and encouraged to participate via Twitter when I do. As an architect, I’m equally active in both the AIA and CSI; what’s attractive about CSI’s “culture” is that the organization, almost by definition, is broadly inclusive and open as opposed to exclusive and more-narrowly focused. If there’s an equally active and friendly AIA Twitter community, I haven’t found it yet.

    Below is a link to a similar blog post to yours I wrote almost exactly a year ago. Regrettably, I didn’t make it to CONSTRUCT in Phoenix last year, and I won’t be in Nashville this year. I decided instead to attend this year’s AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference in Vancouver, B.C. which takes place in October. It was tough to justify the outlay and time away from work for both events; what tipped the scales in favor of Vancouver is that, like Paul, I’m a (less crazy) Canadian born and raised in Vancouver, albeit an ex-pat now working and living in Oregon.

    http://sworegonarchitect.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-social-media-community.html#.UfPb5-rn8b0

    I do hope to attend CONSTRUCT in 2014 and finally meet all the wonderful personalities I feel as if I already know. BTW, where will CONSTRUCT take place next year?

  3. Eric, you are a scholar and a gentleman.

    I finally reached a point in my career, in December 2011, that I could sign up for CSI and get involved. In less than two years, I have been both Director and now President-Elect, Education Committee Member and now Chair, Institute Education Committee Member (now 2nd year), attended two CSI Academies and will attend my 2nd CONSTRUCT in Nashville among many other activities.

    Am I crazy? Probably!

    The truth is, I love this organization and they way it operates. Besides being broadly inclusive and having more educational opportunities than I could ever count, the people are amazing, helpful, educating, funny and supportive. I can learn and grow more in one afternoon with a bunch of CSI folks than I can in months sitting in my office.

    My first clue of how CSI Members operate was in my Chapter CDT class when I was preparing for the Exam. The instructors were helpful, kind and willing to do whatever it took to help you pass. At the end of that same class, Russ Pitkin and Rick Heiserman cornered me and said “you need to be on the Board.” Imagine how good it felt to have someone notice your passion and bring you into the fold.

    Joy Davis hooked me into Twitter and Linkedin (she has a way of doing that) when I attended her Return on Investiment of Social Media class at my first CSI Academies in San Diego in 2012. I always thought tweeting about where you were having coffee was the stupidest thing I ever heard. But, Joy was pretty convincing and I gave it a try. At that same Academies, Mitch Miller and his wife kindly invited me to join them at their table during a social event after classes. I initially felt awkward walking into that room and didn’t know a soul. While typically an outgoing person, I am very much less so until I get to know people. Mitch is well known and welll respected in CSI and their including me brought me into the fold in that room in about 10 seconds flat.

    So, I found Twitter and Joy advised me to follow her CSI List of Members to get to know people. Eric, that is where I found you, John Danes, Paul Gerber, Dave Stutzman and too many more to count. I started getting involved in the conversations, reading the links to interesting and educational articles and blogs and there found a community.

    Last September, I walked into my first CONSTRUCT in Phoenix. Once again, although I had now met a few folks, I once again felt a little awkward since most faces were strangers. I will never forget, in the Lobby of CONSTRUCT, from across the room hearing John Danes yell out, OMG it’s Cherise followed by a big hug. I met Paul Gerber in the lobby of my hotel and I met Eric at the Tweetup arranged for us Twitter folks to meet IRL. From there through the course of the week, I met and made friends with one Tweep after another.

    Over the course of the last year, we have all taken that connection to another level and I now count many of these folks as my personal friends that I am more excited than I can say to see again in Nashville.

    Soooo, why have I become so involved in CSI. The education is unparalleled, the organization is all inclusive, the opportunities are huge but, most importantly – The people are AMAZING which makes all of the other benefits a joy to receive.

    I am honored and humbled that Eric included me in his list of CSI Friends.

  4. Eric,

    Well written blog by you. You have been an excellent Communications Chair for our Chapter, and a great friend as well. We truly value you and what you have brought to our Chapter. Look forward to spending some time with you at Construct!

    Dave Wrigley

  5. Hi Eric,
    Thanks for the mention in your blog. What a picture! That was a few gray hairs ago. You definitely have taken the meaning of CSI and ran with it. Honored to have invited you but if I did not, somebody else would have. That’s CSI. You said it all in this blog. Wish I could be at Construct, but a scheduling conflict with college age son is preventing it this year. We will meet up soon. Enjoy Construct. You are a great member and product rep.
    Marty Thornton

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