The Shadow Network with KP Reddy

Shadow Shorts: Necessary Curiosity with Jason Rostar of HED

February 12, 2024 KP Reddy
The Shadow Network with KP Reddy
Shadow Shorts: Necessary Curiosity with Jason Rostar of HED
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On this episode of Shadow Shorts, Jason Rostar, Associate Principal and Corporate Practice Technology Leader at HED, and Shadow Partners, Senior Advisor and Head of Marketing, Jeff Echols talk about the curiosity that's necessary for professional development, let alone innovation, and the knowledge transfer gap.

Want more discussions like this? You can connect with KP Reddy and other innovators in the AEC and CRE Industry in the Shadow Partners Community....go to ⁠⁠bit.ly/ShadowPartnersCommunity⁠⁠ to learn more today!

Speaker 1:

You are listening to the Shadow Network with KP Ready, your gateway to innovation and architecture, engineering, construction and real estate, with a sprinkle of startups that are making a difference. In between, check us out on YouTube at Shadow Partners. Never miss a live stream fireside chat or talk that we got going on with the industry's most interesting innovators and leaders every single week. You can connect with KP Ready and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash shadow partners community to learn more. Today. All it takes is a few clicks for you to make a difference. Welcome to the future and welcome to the Shadow Network with KP Ready.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to Shadow Shorts. This is where, every weekday, at noon Eastern, I bring to you a short conversation with an expert, a thought leader, a doer in the realm of innovation for the built environment. My name is Jeff Eccles, I'm a senior advisor in the head of marketing for Shadow Partners, and today I'm joined by Jason Rostar of HED. He's in Chicago. We met just last week as we're recording this, in fact at Shadow Summit in Atlanta, and I asked Jason if he would come on to Shadow Shorts today so that we could talk about the curiosity that's necessary, not only for professional development but as we think of innovations like how, if we're not curious, how do we even get to that point? So, jason, welcome. I'm glad you're here. Looks like you made it back to Chicago, okay.

Speaker 3:

Yep, yep, it's a little chilly, but thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. It was a good time in Atlanta last week and looking forward to chatting today.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely A little warmer time in Atlanta than you have in Chicago right now. Yes, you know, here we are. So before we went live, you were talking about the curiosity and we were talking about professional development, and that's a great place, I think, to start this conversation. But as you look around and obviously I think you're going to talk about this from the perspective of HED, but I tend to believe this is not an HED specific problem but what you were talking about earlier was a bit of lack of curiosity or exploration when it comes to professional development, so can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so you know I manage the practice technology team at HED and you know we are responsible for helping set up the technology, the tools, the workflows so that the architects and engineers can do their job to deliver projects to our clients. And one of the things that we're really struggling with is is how do we get the architects and engineers engaged in learning how to use their tools. You know our platform that we deliver all our products with is the Autodesk Revit platform and really, how do we get our staff proficient? How do we get them to be engaged with training so that they can use their tools effectively? And we really think about it the Revit platform, bim360, all of those connecting pieces as the tools of the trade-up today. Right In the past you had the tools like Pencil, vellum Pen, ink, etc. And that's migrated over the years through AutoCAD, now into BIM and the tools all connected to that, and we've really seen this drop of staff continuing to hone their craft with the tools. You know a lot of our project teams are capable and able to use the tools, but they kind of stop developing once they get to that base level of knowledge and and it's really a struggle to see, you know, when we introduce new tools, when we introduce new workflows, how do we get them curious and interested to not just embrace the change and the continuous improvement, but how do we also get them to think about how can I be more efficient in how I do my work and not just do the same thing that I've done four, five, six projects in a row? You know over and over and over again. But how can we improve it? How can we look for opportunities to be more efficient, more effective, deliver better results for our clients? And that's been a real struggle to get them engaged in that way.

Speaker 2:

That's interesting. I know that's an issue out there. One thing I've wondered about is, you know, when I think about the AEC space, which is my background. This is, you know, I'm not coming into a space and throwing anybody under the bus, but I think you know, for as progressive as architecture and engineering firms are in terms of design, maybe use of materials, et cetera, I don't think we're that progressive when it comes to using and developing tools, and I have often thought that part of the reason is probably because it's such a deadline driven field or profession. So, hey, okay, you've got this new workflow. Great, how is this going to help me get to that deadline faster? How is it going to get the work done ahead of that deadline? I guess, is that? Do you think that's part of the lack of curiosity, or is there something else to it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I definitely think that's a huge driving factor from a firm's ability to be profitable and keep delivering high quality projects. Right, we just actually recently did some full day offsite training in our offices across the entire country and some of the feedback that we got ahead of time, you know we were asking staff to go offsite for a full six hours. You know, take breakfast, take lunch. You know, set aside any meetings that you had, et cetera. And before we started doing that, there's a lot of pushback. You know, can we just do this over a lunch hour? Can we do this virtually? Do we need to be in person? And you know the response that we got afterwards has been incredibly positive. Right, getting people to disconnect for a little bit, to do a full, dedicated, six hours focused training conversation really wasn't an engaging experience for a lot of people. And so we did, you know, pre-training surveys, post-training surveys, and you know it was very positively received. And you know I've been with HEE for eight years. That's one of the first times that we've ever done something that comprehensive for everybody. Right, like we might do targeted training for an individual here or there, but this was, you know, all of the architects, all the engineers required to be their type of training and it really, in the short time that since we've done some of the offices, it's made a pretty significant impact in how people get engaged, how they reach out, you know, making them aware of what resources are available to help them grow and stuff. So that's been a really positive experience. And I think that you know that reluctance is directly driven by, you know, project deadlines, like you said in the milestones, and you know, quite often what we're seeing is that staff are, you know, hitting a milestone for, let's say, cds on a project and the next week they're being assigned to another project immediately and jumping right into the middle of it without any time in between, the disconnect to debrief, to do a lessons learned, to investigate what could have been better. And those are all some of the topics that we're exploring right now as a company to see look, how can we, how can we slow down, to go faster, how can we, you know, plan our projects better so that we can be more successful in the long term as opposed to taking shortcuts for the short term success?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I remember those days. I remember specifically having a sort of a celebration dinner after the completion of one project and oh, by the way, tomorrow we're starting, you know, whatever the next one was. Yeah, pretty, pretty common, I guess, in the field. So I know, not everybody Right, innovation is not for everybody. Not everybody is an innovator. As you look out across the staff and you have these off-sites or this off-site things like that, do you have a way to identify the people that are curious, to identify the potential for growth in innovation?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so internally with an HED, we actually have a couple of different processes to try to help with that. We do what we call office hours, where members of the practice technology team will be on a Zoom call twice a week and we just invite anybody to show up and ask questions and get answers to things that maybe they're running into. We also have a research and development grant internally that our staff can apply for. So if they see an opportunity to try a new tool or to develop a new process or want to get engaged with our team to develop something new, there's an avenue so that they can offset maybe some of the hours, so it's not having a negative impact on their project. And we've had some really great successes with that effort where we've had some users reach out to us that say, hey, this is a problem I'm really struggling with. Here's a tool that I think might help. Can we explore it? And then we'll help them and we'll walk them through the process. And that's had an impact on a number of our really complicated projects lately and so we're trying to continue to push things from that perspective to make sure people are aware of these resources that are available, make sure that people are engaged, that they know where to go and ask questions if they're running into problems, et cetera.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that. I mean. So we know, at Shadow Summit we had demo day for our incubator cohort that had just wrapped up, and all these early stage incubators that we run, they always start with a problem right. Here's a problem that we've identified. And back to your original, or to the original theme of this conversation. Right, we've got to have that curiosity as you look at your role at HED and beyond. A wider view of the profession, I guess, is a better way to say that when do you see potential for innovation in the profession coming from? And I guess I'm thinking mainly in technology, because we hear so much we're at Summit, we heard about AI, we heard about EV and EV infrastructure and lots of other technology-type topics, of course, several different technology ideas from the demo day but where do you see the possibilities in the profession?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so I think when you go to a lot of these types of Shadow Summits or Autoresque University or these other conferences like Acadia, there's a lot of really flashy, really impressive, cool objects, right. But one of the things that I'm really focused on is really the foundational elements of the technology, right, and it's really possible to have this flash in the pan, really solid success story that you can go to a conference and talk about. But that's typically a hero type that's going to have some idea and have an impact on a single project, and really what we're trying to do is try to have an impact at the foundational level across the entire firm and across all the users, right. So it's not just a flash in the pan, one successful project, but rather sustained success over long term. And really I think that comes down to how do we get our staff to really be experts at the tools of the trade, how do we get them to be experts at the tools that they're using every single day, so that they don't need a BIM manager to do the high-level things for them, but rather they can do it themselves. And that then frees up the BIM manager types, like the practice technology team, to be able to do more innovative things and push the envelope and continue to push and, push and push, and so that's really what we're focused on right now is how do we upskill everybody across the board? And that's been a real struggle because if you look at our industry, if you think back to the Great Recession and even my generation, that a lot of the people I came in the industry with are no longer in the industry, just purely from a timing perspective, right, they went to other industries because there wasn't opportunities in architecture and engineering. And so there's this gap, I think, between junior employees and more senior employees in terms of mentorship and growth, and there's a struggle where a lot of the more senior staff don't have the technology experience with the tools of today. They know how to put a joint set together, they're really skilled and really knowledgeable about building, design and construction and things, but there's this gap right now, and so you don't have anybody in this middle ground to teach the younger staff how to use the tools, how to level up, how to do the things like you would have done during the hand drafting days of coming in and practicing every single day your lettering, your line weights, how to hold the pencil and the pen properly. The equivalent of that would be coming in and learning how to manipulate the BIM properly, how to manipulate and use Revit more efficiently, how to collect the data from one project and reuse it successfully on another project or analyze the data in a way that it helps inform the next project. We don't have those same exercises happening anymore and I think that's been part of our stagnation as an industry is we need to really hone those foundational level skill sets so that everybody can be proficient in the tools and everybody can deliver a project and understand how to get there.

Speaker 2:

I'm always curious when I hear somebody talk about a gap, and I know exactly what you're talking about. Right, we've got generational gaps. We've got to get a really interesting, and it's not just in the AEC world, but certainly in the AEC world you get a really interesting transitional or a generational shift right now. Now, going from boomers to X, to millennials and Zs is that gap? And maybe that's a gap, you know, maybe it's knowledge transfer, I'm not exactly sure what it is that needs to span the gap. But is that gap a place that we might see disruption in the profession, that somebody come in and I mean, I know there was a presentation from our incubator cohort about training, but is it something even bigger than that? We're, hey, we're very, very rapidly going from this generation to the next and there is this gap that you're describing. Is that a place that the profession is ripe for disruption?

Speaker 3:

I definitely think that there's an opportunity there, right and I refer to it as tribal knowledge. Right, you have all these professionals that have all this really great knowledge from their years of experience, you know, but it has never there has not been an opportunity to collect that knowledge, to organize it, to pass that down. In that sense and I think that's there's a real risk to a lot of firms right now, including ours, that those people are going to retire. They're going to take all this knowledge with them and we're going to be missing out on how to do some of these things that they were taking care of, right. So there's definitely an opportunity of how can we start to collect that knowledge, that experience, in a way that can we can either pass it down or we can categorize it and then we can learn from it before it's too late and we lose these employees that have an insane amount of knowledge and experience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I think that's. I think that's exactly the point, right? It's, I think, one of the big differences between well, I don't know if that's a fair way to say it, but you know, you do have that that institutional knowledge of someone that's been in the profession for 2030 or more years, and I think you're exactly right as you, as you identify that gap. It's what's what's driving the gap, and certainly it's age, but I think it is that technological difference, the you know my familiarity versus their familiarity with the different technologies, and I think that becomes almost something that causes a lost in translation situation. That's interesting. So we've, you know, the. I think. If I were to sum it up, I guess we've got to be, we've got to start getting curious and figure out how we're going to handle that knowledge transfer so that we don't lose it. But then we also have to depend all the way through the profession on people you know, being accountable for themselves and being curious and exploring. You know, maybe that's maybe what we're talking about on some level is digital transformation, but there's no way we get to into innovation if we don't, if we're not curious as well. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3:

And it definitely is both a both ways situation. Right. It's like we need to figure out how do we capture that that long-term experience, knowledge and everything else but then how can we also, at the same time, upskill our staff so they continue to be? We continue to improve how we deliver projects. We continue to look for opportunities to do better to to satisfy our clients. You know, of course, clients always are looking for faster, cheaper and better right, and we have to be able to respond to that in a way. That means that we need to constantly think about ourselves and our skills and our as an individual, not just as our firm. How can we as an individual, get better, faster, more efficient with the tools that we use every single day?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that needs to be our next conversation, that there's going to be that tension right, better, faster in fees and you know, how technology is affecting that. So maybe I'll have Jason back and we can. We can talk about about that, because I think that's also a place that's it's not only ripe for innovation, but I think innovation is going to have a huge impact on on that client.

Speaker 3:

You know, architect engineer relationship as well, yeah, for sure, I'd love to have a conversation about that in the future.

Speaker 2:

All right, we'll do it again. We'll schedule another one of these, we'll bring you another Shatter Short. This has been Jason Rostar. He is the associate principal and corporate design technology leader at HED. Again, jason and I met last week in Atlanta at Shadow Summit and this has been a fun conversation. Jason, I thank you for coming to talk about curiosity, innovation and this, this gap, this knowledge transfer that we've got to figure out.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, great Thanks for having me. It's been a great conversation.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, for all of you that are out there watching or listening, whichever version of Shatter Short you're consuming, I appreciate you. I'll be back again tomorrow with another Shatter Short. Thanks, everybody, thanks.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for tuning in to another episode on the Shadow Network here with KP Ready as always. Remember you can connect with KP and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash shadowpartnerscommunity to find out more today. Until next time.

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