Technical staff has what it takes to win clients

This is a quick note with thanks for the fortune of a valuable lesson that impacted my career. The following is my story. This may remind you of a similar experience.  Now is a good time to thank those who helped shape your career and to think about how you might help someone by challenging them to reach (and not do it for them).

I was 26 years old and a budding civil engineer with an A/E firm. A principal in the firm decided he wanted to break into the drinking water business. He knew I had “vast” experience in drinking water while with my first engineering firm (yes, it is not just the Millennial generation that doesn’t stick around long), and well, there was no one else with experience in that area. So, he took me to meet with a couple of clients and an RFP ended up on my desk.  So, with a lot of coaching, I wrote my first proposal. With a lot of editing, the proposal was submitted.

Mind you at that time, my intent was to be a technical engineer with a reputation for being the best designer.  I had no interest in project management or sales. But, I did what I was told.

Then, somehow, we got invited to an interview. I did take a public speaking class in college but my most advanced talk was how to make a tie-dyed T shirt. But, the scope included modeling a water system, and in those embryonic years of computers, people still thought it was magic that one could enter numbers into a box and get answers on a print out. So, I took a stack of printouts to the interview and showed the selection committee how I was going to enter numbers, and get answers on how to improve their water system.

I can’t imagine the competition did anything different. However, one of the old timers on the board sat examining my resume in the proposal. He had one question for me. Did I really graduate from U. of Vermont school of engineering?  Why he did too!   So, we were buddies.  And we won the job.   So much for qualifications and experience.  It really is a people to people business and decisions are emotional decisions. Don’t forget it.

Doug Reed,