In addition to my belief in giving back to the industry, I originally engaged in industry professional associations by presenting at conferences as a way to help shape industry best practices related to project controls and cost engineering. I saw that some associations were in the process of developing fairly narrowly defined best practices based on a few individuals’ beliefs and was concerned that the industry would find ourselves with different best practices in different associations. As I engaged in a variety of associations, I found that AACE had the best guidelines in the TCM Framework, and the best structured approach to best practices in the recommended practices. After my first paper was popular, I started writing more papers and in 2007, I wrote a paper on recovery scheduling that received a lot of good evaluations, and Ron Winter told me that he thought it would be a good recommended practice. Of course, that was after he sent me an email full of questions about my presentation! So, I developed the recovery scheduling RP (54R-07), and the first round of comments that I received were brutal; telling me that two thirds of the document were irrelevant and should be cut entirely. After significant work on the RP, it went to the next level of review and the comments were better and ultimately, I produced my first recommended practice. I will say that it was the honesty and detailed orientation of the review comments that I had to reconcile that made it the quality that it was in the final version, which took me two years.
During the time that I was working on the recovery scheduling RP, I had an opportunity to review several others and that helped me understand the intent and focus of recommended practices and I greatly enjoyed reviewing and giving feedback for other RPs. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very talented primary- and co-authors on a variety of RPs, and each has helped me to flesh out my belief system. The give and take required when you engage with an RP is extremely valuable; it’s helped me get to a point where now I rarely am challenged on best practices that I cannot defend, and that has made me stronger in my career. We have so many talented and knowledgeable experts in AACE that it is always challenging to write, present, and to get published, and the technical writing side is enhanced by the professional feedback from AACE staff and volunteer reviewers.
Interestingly enough, the other huge benefit of engagement with and particularly publishing with AACE is the name recognition that comes with publishing, I had no idea how powerful that could be for a career. It never occurred to me that enjoying myself by presenting at AACE conferences could translate, by the formal peer review, into finding your name listed in the publications, and again in every other publication that references your papers. At my previous company, we hired a new regional manager and when I was introducing myself to him, he said, “I already know all about you.” I was slightly shocked and asked why, and he said, “haven’t you ever used a search engine to look for your name?” and I said, “no”, and he replied that my industry engagement showed up in thousands of “hits” on the internet. I’ve since looked myself up and found over 300,000 hits, which is absolutely amazing for a small-town guy from North Garden, Virginia (just above the famous South Garden)! I think there were only about 20 families in North Garden, so it can’t be my hometown friends following me.
As a result of the name recognition with the industry as a published author, we get opportunities often from prospective clients who like one of my publications or presentations, and we are invited into a sole-source opportunity or are strongly positioned in a competitive environment. That provides immense value to me, and as a result to my company. I credit AACE and the development of recommended practices, as well as the use of them, for a large part of my career.
For those that haven’t engaged yet, remember that you can get involved at whatever level makes you comfortable; attend AACE functions to get involved to meet other experts, and you can simply review an RP that is of interest, or write a paper and then convert it to a new RP, pick up an outdated RP and update it, or find a co-author and team up. Any engagement will make a significant difference to you and your career. This can be particularly important if your desire is to testify; writing peer reviewed papers and practices helps to build your professional CV.