Jan 17th, 2020
Host: Welcome to another edition of Engineering Influence, a podcast by the American Council of Engineering Companies coming to you live from Washington D C. And we're doing, Executive Committee training and orientation this week and I'm very pleased to welcome a new member of ex-com, Matt Hirst.
Matt Hirst: Hello everyone.
Host: Matt, welcome onto the program.
Matt Hirst: Thank you. So, so grateful to be here.
Host: So give the audience an idea of you know, who you are and what you do and and kind of your path to ExCom right now at ACEC.
Matt Hirst: Absolutely. So I'm thankful to be here and really a big fan of ACEC big advocate love all the work that ACEC National and then the local member organizations do. So I'm the president and CEO of a local engineering firm in salt Lake city. We're a 120, no, 115 years old this year. 1905.
Matt Hirst: And my path to ACEC ExCom started when I was just a young man in college. My father was a MO president in 1997. ACEC came out to Utah to do the national conference last time they've been in Utah.
Host: We'll have to fix that then.
Matt Hirst: Yeah, '97. And I had an opportunity to participate with a lot of the national folks from here in DC. Got to know them and just really had a great experience. 10 years later an email comes out from ACEC National for the Maui conference. And I kinda thought, man, that's a great reason to talk my father who was president and CEO at the time to take a trip to ACEC in Maui. And so I submitted a presentation request. Got it. Walked into his office, perhaps a little sheepishly and said, hey, I've got accepted. Do you think I can go?
Matt Hirst: And kind of smiled at me and said, sure, let's, let's all go. And so I got to know many of the national resources, specifically the sales and marketing forum, many of the other forums, the small firm council and really got engaged in just some of the great offerings that national provides.
Host: Yeah, that's great. So it's like it's kind of a family family business and, and family history of ACEC.
Matt Hirst: Yeah. Dad has been a big advocate and kind of pass that on and we've been really, really happy with all of the resources that ACEC can provide to a local firm.
Host: Kind of shows. It doesn't take a lot to get involved quickly. You don't have to do a lot and put a lot into it. You can start small and, and really find yourself really involved with ACEC quickly.
Matt Hirst: Yeah, the depth of resources that ACEC provides firms, both those who are already in ACEC that they're not taking advantage of or those who are just not engaged in ACEC is so broad.
Matt Hirst: Everything from contracting to sales and marketing support, leadership support. I think a weakness that exists generally in the marketplace is we all went to school to be engineers. We all learned how to design. We're problem solvers, but we're not taught to be business people and ACEC bridges that gap. There is nobody else out there who looks out for the business of design. Well, specifically consulting. Yeah, no one.
Host: And how did the path towards Executive Committee happen for you? You know, how long did it take and what really made your decision to kind of go towards, you know, this, this high level of volunteer leadership?
Matt Hirst: Well, thank you. So after being in the Maui conference, a couple of years later, I started attending more and more conferences at the national level, really got engaged in the CEO forums that was so powerful for me as I was moving up the ranks in our organization to hear what other CEOs were far superior in their tenure and experience.
Matt Hirst: Continued to attend. And then in about 2012, one of the pre ex-com members, Lee Cammack but he was one of the leadership members in our local member organization asked me to chair a committee, loved it, had a great time chairing our legislative committee for a few years. They asked me to join the local board, worked my way through the board, board, presidency national director. As I concluded our national director position last year, I thought, gosh, there's still so much more. I want to see happen in the consulting engineering field. There's just a number of challenges and a number of opportunities that I'd like to continue to give back to and work on. Talk to our executive director, talked to a couple of the folks I'd gotten to know over the years at the national level and said, you know, is applying for ExCom really something I should look at was encouraged to do so.
Matt Hirst: Did it, had a great opportunity, had, had a great experience interviewing for ExCom and just learning a broader scale of what ExCom does. And they said yes and it's a gonna be a great journey.
Host: So looking at a new year and start a new decade and an election year of all things. So it's going to be active. What do you see the greatest opportunity for ACEC and where do you think that it can really make a mark in the coming year?
Matt Hirst: You know, there are a ton of places where ACEC already does but can continue to make a Mark and that is continuing to advocate for consulting. There are, there are just tons and tons of, of governments and other special interests who want to see consulting marginalized. They I remember sitting in front of someone in our local licensing board and he was a member of that board and he said to me, looking straight in the eyes, you're just like a sack of concrete and I have to know what you cost and if I can't know what you cost, I don't want to buy you. And, and it really offended me. And I've continued to fight against that, that very thought, that mindset that we're not a sack of concrete. Everything we do is unique. It's thought leadership.
Host: Yeah, exactly. And that's something which I know from our perspective in, in, in headquarters is going to be on the front of our minds is going to be that thought leadership piece. It's the expertise and the value of consulting engineering. And like you said, the uniqueness of it of taking this talent, this experience, this expertise and applying it in a unique circumstance to help a client reach a unique objective. And it's not something you can cut and paste. It's not the kind of thing that you can, you know, just standardize and, and, and stamp out, like, you know, it's not a product, right. And it's not, it's not a commodity to be bought and sold.
Host: It is a special specialized professional service. That's right. It needs to be treated as such. And that's going to be our continued focus is going to be establishing in the minds of policymakers and thought leaders in Washington and beyond that that, that consulting engineering has intrinsic value and that with all of these different social and political challenges that we're facing, largely it comes down, you know, climate change, resiliency, sustainability at its core is the built environment and, and how we're positioning the built environment to actually withstand any of these changes. And it all comes down to the design and the build of those pieces. And that's the engineer.
Matt Hirst: Yeah. And I think, I think the big key is that no two parcels of land are new. Two projects are the same and they need a trusted advisor that they can work with and consult with. Gravity hasn't changed in a long time, so the solution will be pretty much similar from place to place. It's how we apply that solution and how we personalize that solution that matters.
Host: Absolutely. And that's where that unique knowledge base that a consulting engineer can bring to apply a solution to specific challenge comes into play. From I guess the position that you have now with ExCom at the end of the year a what do you want to leave as kind of your mark? Just on the calendar year, like 2020, if you hit hit December 31st, you know, looking back on the year, what do you want to say, yeah, I was able to push that forward?
Matt Hirst: I hope that at the end of the year we're able to look back and say as an ExCom committee, as ACEC national and then the member organizations that I'll be assigned to work with, I hope we're able to look back and say consulting as a financial opportunity was much better this year than we had anticipated it to be.
Matt Hirst: You know, there's a lot of questions about whether infrastructure will be funded or continue to be funded. There's all kinds of state by state. As I sit in the leadership breakfasts and the board meetings, there's really a lot of concerns about whether or not a recession is coming, whether or not there will be funding for projects ongoing. I mean the real reality of consulting is we're constantly working ourselves out of a job, therefore we need a healthy pipeline and if we don't, we marginalize the resources that are available to the consulting industry and all of the sudden all of these resources we have today will be gone forever and we'll never get them back. And so explaining to policymakers and those who need infrastructure that we've got to keep the pipeline going to continue to be a world leader, the United States speaking of.
Matt Hirst: And then also so that the consulting industry can be vibrant and strong to provide solutions when we need to is really, really important. I hope I'm a part of that.
Host: Absolutely. And we look forward to helping carry that message across to all audiences, both a national state and a broad, but to the larger audience, the consumer audience. Because there are a lot of people out there who, especially on infrastructure, it's, it's the thing that you use every single day of your life. You don't think about it unless something happens.
Matt Hirst: That's right.
Host: But if it doesn't work, you can't go to work. You can't get what you need in the store is you can't live a modern existence. And as technology improves and develops, it's going to require the infrastructure to sustain that. And that's why the pipeline so important. That's why the consulting engineering industry is critical to keeping America competitive. So look forward to your participation and part of the team. Thank you so much for coming in today for the orientation and love to have you back on the podcast whenever we can.
Matt Hirst: Thank you. I'm so excited to work this next year to two years with ACEC and it's going to be great. Wonderful.
Host: Thanks Matt
Matt Hirst: Thank You.