AEC industry can change the world—let’s make it be for the better


man with face paint standing at podiumI recently attended Zweig Group’s Elevate AEC conference and had the honor of being a panelist at one of the breakout sessions. The conference brings together AEC professionals from across North America to discuss industry-relevant topics. Pretty standard conference stuff so far, right? AEC Elevate takes it a step further, broadening the message of these topics to incorporate the wider value AEC holds for our local, national, and global communities.

The topic of my panel was the importance of company culture in attracting and retaining top talent. Unfortunately, “company culture” has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Almost every firm says that a good company culture is something they strive for and/or claim to have. But what exactly does this mean? A ping pong table in the break room? A margarita machine in the cafeteria?

The importance of purpose

When we take a step back to really think about why a company’s culture matters, we see it really is so much bigger than these things. At its core, company culture is about our purpose. Why do we get up every morning and come to work? What is our reason for being? Why do we stay and what keeps us here?

At Mead & Hunt, we’ve seen this play out through Project Why as we’ve worked to redefine ourselves, our mission, and our values as a company. We cannot maintain our exceptional culture without a strong sense of purpose. When work inevitably becomes difficult or stressful, this sense of purpose is what pulls us through and keeps us motivated and fulfilled.

Defining our mission, then, is critical from a culture standpoint. It is also vital from a more encompassing view as well. The keynote speaker Dr. Kit Miyamoto, CEO of Miyamoto International, shared an emotional story highlighting the power inherent in our industry.

Unintended consequences

Dr. Miyamoto described how a small Ethiopian tribe has been living in near isolation for millennia. These people have thrived for generations without the modern comforts we’ve come to view as essential—and now, suddenly, they are starving. Why? Because of dams that were recently built, which stopped the annual flooding, the tribe relied on to grow their food. Nobody thought to consult them before the dams were built.

This power is precisely why a strong sense of purpose is necessary within the AEC industry. Not only was the infrastructure part of the problem—it will also be the solution. An envoy from the tribe came all the way from Africa to implore engineers at the conference to come to Ethiopia and help build sustainable infrastructure to save his people from starvation. More information can be found here.

For better or for worse, our industry has a huge impact on humanity. A strong company culture, sustained through an immutable sense of purpose, is crucial to the future of our industry and our firm. The infrastructure we build can change the world. Let’s make the change a positive one.


Wendy Culver, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

About the Author

Chief Human Resources Officers have to make urgent decisions and Wendy Culver, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, an HR veteran, easily handles them on the fly with a “do what makes sense” philosophy. Applying that concept plus a “do the right thing” mentality simplifies many decisions. “Not surprisingly, doing what’s right and what makes sense almost always equates to what’s best for both the employees and the company,” Wendy says.

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