Universities do an adequate job preparing students for the technical aspects of a career in Civil Engineering, but eventually most engineers will be forced to take on a leadership role with little or no training. In 2008, ASCE gathered with eight partnering professional organizations to coordinate the Emerging Leaders Alliance (ELA) conference. This annual conference is an exciting and unique opportunity for upcoming engineers and STEM professionals to come together and develop some of the skills necessary to become an outstanding leader.

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Emerging Leadership Alliance

(M. Butcher, November 24, 2013) In July, I was selected as one of eight to represent ASCE at the ELA conference. I was very excited and knew that I would be in for a great learning experience!The three-day conference hosted a series of talented speakers, covering a variety of pertinent topics. Bob Heavers, of Priority Management, developer and team success mentor for 35 years, delivered dynamic sessions on “Becoming an Indispensible Leader” and “Building Highly Productive Relationships that Matter”. He employed tools, such as the Social Styles Model, to facilitate each individual’s grasp of how those around us perceive our actions, and to shine a light on potential weaknesses with room for improvement.

We also heard from Rahul Dogra, who has over sixteen years of experience managing an international software company. He opened discussions on “Making the Transition from Technical to Management” and “Developing Emotional Intelligence for Success”. Rahul’s dynamic talks helped attendees explore the difference between a technical expert and an excellent manager. Such discussions aided audience members to explore what it really means to have emotional intelligence.

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Bob Heavers, of Priority Management
Credit: Chris McKelvy, ELA

The highlight of day one had to be the “architecture” competition.  Each group at a table made up one team.  Every team member had a specific title and task. I worked as the observer.  I had to look at an artfully crafted gum drop and tooth pick masterpiece and deliver a description to the runner.

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Gum drop architecture

The runner was not allowed to ask me any questions about what I described to him.  The runner then had to deliver what he got from the observer to the builder.  The objective was to convey instructions such that your builder could construct an exact replica, down to the correct colors of both gum drops and toothpicks… Some tables finished products looked like large buildings, others like monsters. We all learned important lessons about our own communication abilities and capacity for interpreting others.Mike Giorgione of Leading Leaders, LLC, Mo Hamilton of Toastmasters International, and Betty Shanahan from the Society of Women Engineers also brought their talents to the event. Mike, with a fruitful career in both the military and consulting as an engineer, shared a wealth of experience with us and highlighted the importance of successfully working through challenges. He taught specific examples, which illuminated how knowing yourself and your mission will help you best lead your team.

Mo Hamilton, a Governor of Toastmasters and seasoned veteran of law enforcement, used engaging activities to get teams talking, discussing experiences of conflict, and how such challenges are best handled. Later, Betty Shanahan emphasized where our society, particularly fields like engineering, stand with cultural and gender equality, and how we can all contribute to improve the workplace for peers from all backgrounds.  And on the final day, the conference hosted Jeffery Cufaude of Idea Architects. Jefferey gave us insights into how companies, such as Ideo, cultivate a work environment that fosters innovation. We explored how, as leaders, we can foster team dynamics that result in both happy and productive team members.

At the end of our second full conference day, the ASCE organizing team took all the sponsored attendees out for dinner to discuss our experiences and thoughts on improving the conference.  This was a great chance to get to know some successful engineering leaders from across the country.  Everyone’s experience is different and all had a unique perspective to offer.  The ASCE team was a gracious host.

I strongly encourage any young professional Civil Engineer involved with ASCE to apply for the opportunity to attend the ELA conference in 2014. Likewise, if you know any young engineers in your company who could use an opportunity to develop additional leadership skills, consider encouraging her or him to apply to the ELA conference through ASCE. 2014 applications will be available through www.asce.org early next year. The viewpoints explored and relationships developed at the conference all contribute to gaining a deeper understanding of management, leadership and how to be your own personal best.

2013 ELA group

Conference attendees
Credit: Chris McKelvy, ELA

ELA Partnering organizations include:

American Institute of Mining, Metallurgic & Petroleum Engineers (AIME)

National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)

Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration

Association for Iron & Steel (AIST)

Society of Military Engineers (SAME)

Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)

The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS)

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)


Melissa Butcher, a Civil Engineering graduate student at the University of South Florida focusing on stormwater and water treatment topics, recently attended the 2013 ELA conference. Her experience at ELA provides a great launching point for a successful career as a leader within the profession. Read on below for Melissa’s reporting. ps. If you’re looking to add an emerging leader to your team, Melissa will be graduating in August 2014.

Profile Photo Melissa

Melissa Butcher


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