Work-Life Balance in the A/E/C Industry

By Julie Olson

Balancing work and life isn’t hard to do when you work for a company like GRAEF. An employer that supports a balance of a career, family, hobbies, and health is essential. Finding a balance is decidedly the responsibility of the individual, but the added perk of a supportive employer is sought after in today’s workforce whatever the industry or market.

Collaboration02_Planning Table Nicole and Erik 2014

Maintaining a balance according to personal needs and wants is a goal for many employees. Equally important in the architecture, engineering and construction industry is balancing the needs of our clients, stakeholders and “team members.” Working out timelines, expectations and preferred methods of communications are all great places to start. Discussing these needs will enable you to make independent, fully informed decisions at the right time. After all, that is our focus in the industry: problem solving.

Ideally, one works with a client often enough and close enough that one is in sync with the client’s expectations. Though other aspects of life are not as predictable, anticipating a client’s needs and exceeding their expectations should be second nature. One’s colleagues, manager and other support staff can and are willing and able to help. On can use these outlets from time to time when needed to meet a client’s goals.

CollaborationTran04_2014

One’s family, on the other hand, can be a very different story. From our individual experiences, we all know that things come up at the most inopportune times. Whether work went well or not, shifting into family mode upon arrival at home can sometimes be difficult. This takes practice. Being fully present in one’s family life and keeping up at work are two major life concerns. One way to alleviate the stress of finding a balance is to set schedules for both work and home and stick to those schedules.

Family, career, and health are all essential to a balanced life, and holding a steady balance between them day-to-day can certainly be a struggle. It is an ongoing challenge that is universal, not just in the AEC industry. Surely we all can admit to experiencing this struggle! Having that balance in life with little to no effort on our part is the objective. And so we continue our efforts every day with the support of a great employer.

Embracing Summer

By Ashlee Bishop

City living comes with its perks; accessibility, more people and vast varieties to choose from, on practically anything. These perks can be enjoyed by anyone willing to try. Summer in Wisconsin finally arrives, and while the weather has been tricky, it still beats the mildest winter night. It’s a no brainer, that when the sun is out we all want to soak it up! Outside of work, school and family there is ample opportunity; seems like the distance/commute and probability are all that stand in the way.

You find the park you want to visit but chances are it’s more than 10 miles away. That’s it; you’re taking the trip! You load up the car; food, friends and fun are all on the agenda. Cruising along the way, you notice the potholes that winter has left. Attempting to reroute and dodge the “roughed up” roads, you are eventually engulfed in traffic as far as the eye can see.

Or, let’s say you found a peaceful pluck of nature befitting of your needs and personal agendas. Chances are so have others. So, as you were taught in kindergarten you must share. Fair enough until somehow it’s ruined; this is no longer a place of rest and it only makes you uncomfortable. Ingeniously these two scenarios have kept you from the happiness that comes with sun shine.

Here’s an easy solution; this summer forget planning, comfort and otherwise sound logic. Go out in the rain, stay out past dark and dress for comfort instead of for fashion. The Wisconsin winter was brutal enough to us this year; step into nature ready to receive rejuvenation. Open yourself the simple beauties of the summer. Go on trips “Spur of the moment”: go alone even. Use the time you will spend outside to reflect, meditate and unwind from the constant every day.

“INTERNal Input”

By Ashlee Bishop

As a returning Intern in GRAEF’s Corporate Marketing group through the Earn and Learn Initiative, the importance and effectiveness of my position are often issues of concern, for me personally. In an Intern position, one may find they are assisting others more than actually shadowing a specific position per se or learning independently rather than matching class based instruction with on-the-job application. So to the weary intern, entry level employee or self-proclaimed stagnant, veteran employee I have a few things you can do to increase your “range of reach” on the job:

First things first, take an inventory of your skills and talents. This may seem easy and it is; however, there are some things you should keep in mind; Skills and talents are two different things. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines talent as “natural endowment(s) of a person.” This is something you really don’t have to try to have to accomplish while others do. Skills on the other hand are “developed aptitudes or abilities.” Slightly different from a talent, these attributes can be picked up along the way from any aspect of life and development. Both of these qualifications are vitally important to this professional appraisal.

Next, practice perfecting said professional attributes.  Once you made your list of things you can do and the things you do well; use them! Whenever, wherever and with whom ever; practice, practice, practice, this the only way you can surely mature an expertise. Plus the added experience, I think adds to your work-related worth. Now as my grandma would say, “Now, you’re cooking with grease!” Not only have we uncovered your skill set but we are using them often.

Then, I want you to lend a helping hand! Help any and everyone, where applicable. Offer up your assistance frequently but not to the point where it becomes bothersome. Go off the feedback you are receiving, if the person appreciates your help, is always happy to have you and usually has something for you to do then, very well carry on! But if their facial expression changes when you enter their presence, even though you are only looking to help, ask that person a little less. While you are “on the job” with each person and their project you’re assisting with, go above and beyond even if you are not being paid. This way, you can let your work reflect your worth!

In addition to now knowing your professional capabilities, so do the people you work with. One last thing, don’t be afraid to inform or remind others of what you can do or have done. This way the things you are allowed to do may expand. If people don’t know of your mentoring abilities or the team-oriented attitude even when you are not the leader, then perhaps they will not consider you for projects that call for these attributes. So go ahead, when your team/ department is discussing upcoming tasks, mention your “outside of the office” experience with something similar and don’t forget to mention the results. This can cause others to become more flexible with your work assignments and in essence value your skills and assistance.

Hopefully these tips allow you to define your standing in your current position, increase your status/organizational prestige, and augment your responsibilities within your organization!

From the Edge of Space to Your Living Room

Felix Baumgartner

By: Joe Avram

One hundred eleven years ago man-kind could barely get off the ground. Now, there is a man that can say he jumped toward earth from the edge of space. Not only that, but he set 5 world records including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier during free fall. On Sunday, I anxiously sat on my couch with my computer on my lap, waiting for a man to get the OK to step out into space.  Of all the sporting events I have participated in and watched, nothing has ever been as nerve racking as Sunday afternoon.  I watched with over 8 million others around the world as Felix Baumgartner took a leap out of a perfectly good capsule and calmly proclaimed to the world, “I’m going home now.”

I grew up hearing countless stories of what it felt like to see the first man walk on the moon, hear the first news of Sputnik or watch the launch of Apollo 11. It fascinated me how far science and innovation had come and left me wishing I could witness something similar in my lifetime. So now, it feels incredible to have watched a human shatter expectations and move science forward on such a grand stage. To me, the numbers are mind blowing. Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph during his free fall from the edge of space. So, what type of suit could withstand that force and protect the human inside? One created by the US company, David Clark, that has been making suits for astronauts and high-altitude aviators since 1941. Baumgartner’s suit was based on those worn by pilots of high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, but it had never been used in a free fall setting until Baumgartner began testing it. It had four layers consisting Gore-Tex and heat and flame-resistant Nomex. All these layers had to keep him safe, comfortable, and mobile under such extreme conditions. As an engineer, it’s impossible to not be inspired by the innovation that made the jump a success.

In case you missed it, check out the amazing piece of history:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOoHArAzdug?list=PLnuf8iyXggLF2b7bYQU5s2FqW1sLE1ywh&hl=en_US&w=560&h=315]

Don’t be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

Image

One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

Image

Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!

Don't be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

Image

One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

Image

Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!

Legos, Legos, Legos

By Andrew Slater 

This R2D2 is one of many scuptures featured at this years legofest

My family attended Legofest last weekend. This event was really a lot of fun! The day was filled with activity and featured very interesting Lego sculptures constructed by the master builders. The scupltures included characters from Star Wars, Harry Potter, and many super heros such as the Hulk and Batman. The event provided an opportunity for everyone to build their own creations and to walk around to observe the various stations. One station for the kids focused on building & racing their own lego car, while another station was set up to create something using only a single color. I am pretty amazed how this toy can bring some creative and beneficial possibilities. 

My creation with the single color legos atLegoFest

Being a newer Dad, I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to share one my favorite childhood past times with my children. At home, we are only building with Duplos. Currently, I am the tower creator and my son, Evan, plays the role of Godzilla destroying them. Eventually my kids will move on to the “big boy” legos and then we can have some real fun! I am also hoping their interest grows enough for us to maybe move on to the Lego automation series. I think it will be pretty cool to build a rube goldberg machine. It is amazing how these interlocking bricks can let the imagination grow. My childhood lego adventures led me to create futuristic worlds for spaceships, space stations, and intricate objects such as the robot character “John 5” from the movie “Short Circuit“. The endless pieces, options, and accessories allowed me to continuously expand my creativity.

My oldest son, Evan, playing with his creation

I always wondered if Ole Kirk Christiansen, the Lego Creator, had any idea that his toy would be this popular when he designed them in 1940. Would he have been considered a visionary in 1940 similar to today’s computer tycoons like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? I am sure Ole did not visualize that his toy would bring so much fun that included so many positive benifits. Many researchers indicate that legos refine detail motor skills and open the worlds of imagination. I want to believe Legos probably had some influence on my career choice as an engineer. I would like to believe my creativity for finding solutions to difficult challlenges was enhanced with my childhood hobby of legos. I look foward to taking my old lego collection and adding to it with new collector sets that are now  available. Legos are a timeless hobby that my kids, and millions of others, will continue to enjoy for years to come.