• EA Creative

For our final anniversary post, our team shared reflections and insights from our third year as EA Creative.


From Transportation Planner Josh Wagner

"Flexibility"


Through my work on a large transportation project, I learned how the intricate pieces of a massive construction job come together and how to apply my technical and managerial skills to achieve a cohesive project vision. Amidst a pandemic, the birth of a child and all the other things life throws at you, I found a flexible environment that allowed me to succeed both professionally and personally. The creative projects gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons well beyond what I thought possible as a transportation planner.


From Graphic Designer Lucy Wu:

"Separate home and work with something"

Under the situation of working from home, we need a simple ritual to turn the work mode on. Instead of a physical commute, start the daily work with a cup of coffee, a morning yoga, or a short meditation.

"We care about people, and not just business"

We work for the benefit of communities, and with people we trust and admire. The whole idea is to enjoy working, by loving what we do, and who we work with. I've worked on projects which created positive impacts within our neighborhoods, and had days when I received warm greetings and beautiful gifts from work buddies, because this is our culture to care about people..


From Project Manager Charlie Cunningham

“Slow down to speed up”


One of my mentors while working at a former job shared this catchy phrase with me and I think back to it often. Whether I'm in a quick regroup before an approaching deadline or out cycling or running, it translates easily from work projects to the outdoors. Many times I will slow down and find a place to catch my breath before picking up the pace.


“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” – Michael Jordan


This Michael Jordan quote has been shared at different times in my life but I was reminded of it while watching The Last Dance and our work on a large scale transportation project was picking up quickly. As a growing firm bringing on new team members during the pandemic we had to be nimble and use our diverse skillsets and background experience to deliver projects on time. We may not be the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, but as a team we worked together to create our best.


Every week of March we will post three thoughts for three years of the company from our CEO. This is the third of those posts.

Balance

A lot has been said about work/life balance. People generally think of this as balancing your personal life with your work life – avoiding work eating too much into other things of import to you while still having a successful career.

In talking to friends and colleagues about a balance, it has come to mean more to me. I would attribute it almost as much, if not more, to colleagues than I would to my own, unique thoughts. People see balance in many different ways and besides the amount of time spent at work or at home, people have taught me that is also in how you are. One colleague, who I have always looked to as a pinnacle of balance told me how she never uses her phone for an alarm in the morning because it becomes too intrusive. I still struggle to meet that simple goal but the fact that someone else is able to hold that balance impresses me. Another colleague recently told me she took a trip to be in the mountains because there is so much more to life than the general day to day. She is focusing on what else is important to life; yes her career, but personal inspiration too. For me, it has become the balance of not only work and personal, but what will make my life as a whole feel meaningful and therefore balanced. Money used to be a huge driver of what I did – and no, I didn’t start a company to not make money. But all the decisions are less driven by getting money and more by what will give me, and my life purpose, a balance. Balance is something different for each person but the key to this point is understanding what it is that will balance your life. What do you want to put on the other side of the scale to make you feel level, with yourself. That’s something that I continue to strive for and something that everyone should answer for themselves.

Money Isn’t Everything

Great segue and interwoven with the balance item. As stated in the previous point, a lot of my life used to be driven by money. My wife, who grew-up in very meager surroundings taught me this one. I started writing my wife’s life history but then realized that is not for me to share, that’s her story. But what I will share is that she made clear to me that when you have enough to feed, house and clothe yourself and your family, you have enough. It is important to take perspective, deep perspective on what you have. What I wrote in the previous posts about being grateful and there being enough to go around for everyone (also a lesson from my wife) speaks toward reminding yourself of the things you do have and what others need. And that leads me to making choices that are not always driven by money – it has helped me level myself and brought balance.

Invest in the Future by Investing in Others

These three points for this post are clearly all hand-in-hand. It wasn’t done consciously but there is clearly a reason they all came up together. Balance and not focusing only on money have allowed me and our firm to focus on others.


I have personally made decisions during these difficult times less focused on money and more focused on supporting our team. Our firm has focused our extra time on helping others, pro bono work and providing monetary support to help others with their careers. Hopefully these small efforts will play a role in strengthening the future of our profession and better the world.

Every week of March we will post three thoughts for three years of the company from our CEO. This is the second post those posts.



Changing engineering, one person at a time.

At face value this makes no sense – and I guess it wouldn’t.


Twenty years ago I was in the back of a cab with a good friend on our way to dinner. At the time he was training to be a psychologist and I was working on getting my professional engineering license. I told him how I felt like talking to people as if they were people and being more personal felt somewhat different than what business is supposed to be about. It was a very early time in my career and I really hadn’t learned much at this point. But as I told him about how I wished business was less “business” and was more personal, he said that how I was acting toward people made it less like business. He then said, “you’re changing engineering one person at a time.”

There was something profound in the simplicity of what he said to me. I take that saying now to have different meanings and fit many situations. Regardless of the field you are in, there are ways to improve it, “changing (fill in your career descriptor here) one person at a time.” But for me, it means that I don’t need to necessarily conform directly to the model of business while doing business. It can be more personal and I can change the way I work with people thereby changing engineering one person at a time.


Relationships first, business second.

This isn’t as straightforward a comment as you might think. Yes, people should come first and business second. But I mean it in a bit of a different way.

I used to find it very uncomfortable to mingle with people, go to conferences, be forced into situations where I don’t know many people. If you know me well enough, you are likely saying this does not sound like the me you know and you don’t believe it. But the truth is that when I started going to conferences and meeting people I was VERY uncomfortable. Part of this goes back to trusting in yourself but another part of it goes into what you think when you are in these situations. My focus used to be work and functions – when I met people what did I need to get from them for work. It put a pressure on me to make sure I accomplished specific goals at these events. It also added a layer to the already uncomfortable thought process of meeting new people.

After many years of reflection, I realized that I should look at it as just simply meeting people. Hopefully I get along with the people I meet. This changed everything for me. I now speak with people on a personal level and try to develop that relationship. I put the business part of it second (both up front in person but in my mind). I’ve made many friends in the industry because of this approach. And the people you like to be around are the ones that, in the end, you want to work with.


Trust in your own accomplishments.

I relate trusting in your accomplishments directly with what is known as imposter syndrome. I think many more people than you would expect have experienced it – it’s just that nobody wants to talk about it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is worth looking it up. The general concept is that even though there is proof through accomplishments that you are skilled and good at what you do, you feel like you either do not deserve it or there is some specific circumstance that helped you succeed but it is fleeting and is not due to your individual abilities. In short, you think you are an imposter that doesn’t deserve the accomplishments you have and therefore may not continue to succeed.

Having spent a good deal of time with this thought process juxtaposed against some great project accomplishments, I can speak about this from the heart. I spent many years in my career with successes that I appreciated in the moment but they were fleeting. I didn’t internalize them as moments in my life that prove I have skill, worth and value. So while I had many things to look at as success, it was hard to hold on to those things.


Daily reminders to yourself of your successes can be very helpful or even transformative. At one time I kept a gratefulness journal where I would write my accomplishments as a reminder to myself. Unfortunately I stopped doing that a while ago but I have replaced that with our family discussing what we are grateful for before we have dinner each night. It has a similar impact in that I am putting time aside each day to think about what I am grateful for – and often I am grateful for an accomplishment regardless of how small or large it is.

I have learned to be more open about this missing feeling of accomplishment that once was very dominant in my mind. When I share with someone (I don’t want to use the word admit because there is nothing to be ashamed of that I would be “admitting”) that I have struggled with trusting my own skills and value over my career, I often get the same reflected back. With very few exceptions, we all have moments in life where we are uncertain, we don’t believe in ourselves or we aren’t as sharp as we wish we were. For many of us, that happens in a way that it feels too frequent and makes you question your value and worth.


If I hadn’t gotten to a point where I truly understood my accomplishments, I would have never been able to start my own company. After focusing on this, I am much more aware of my value and worth. Remind yourself on a regular basis how accomplished you are and what you’ve done with your life and in your career. It will go a long way to dealing with imposter syndrome if it happens to you. And if it doesn’t, it is still great to remind yourself (and be grateful for) your successes.