11 Apr, 2016

SMPS Boot Camp with David Birtwistle, CEO of Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance


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Another great SMPS Boot Camp in the books! As our packed audience eagerly sat in the beautifully designed open space at Gensler, we heard from one of the industry greats, David Birtwistle, CEO of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, on the power of building your personal network.

Pens were racing on papers as we ferociously took notes on some of the lessons David has learned. Instead of the typical PowerPoint-led presentation (not that there’s anything wrong with those!), David led an interactive discussion where we felt comfortable and encouraged to share our thoughts. After his decades of pertinent experience in the industry, David shared some memorable points on how to effectively build your personal network:

  1. Forget nobody: In this small world, you never know who you will bump into in the future. David shared stories of how certain seemingly random connections at the time helped him years later. Make it a goal to "reduce the six degrees of separation to two degrees."
  2. Key traits to building relationships: Some of these include reliability and following through with your word, preparedness by showing knowledge and curiosity, doing your research ahead of time, compassion, humor, humility, and knowing what you don’t know. David said, "It’s okay to be dumb, just don’t be stupid." Successful relationships involve the exchange of value, but the value does not have to be at the same time – tying back into his tip to forget no one.
  3. Good networking involves being genuine and authentic: Sometimes we get so caught up with trying to "keep up with the Joneses" that we forget the beauty of authenticity! Being different makes you beautiful. "People want to work with people they know and trust," he said. Take time to learn something from everyone you meet by asking thought-provoking questions. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what your firm does, and why your firm is unique!
  4. Go somewhere you will be out of your comfort zone and you can be (one of) the only people in your field: You can be the expert.

Effective networking is pivotal in today’s industry for not only building personal brand name, but also developing a company brand. It’s important to be conscious that we are influencing our company’s brand name every single day by the way we interact with others and through the value we place in others’ lives. As David mentioned, to someone, YOU could be the face of your organization; in essence, you could make or break someone’s impression of your company through your interactions. At the end of the day, it’s always important to keep in mind that networking involves being genuine, appreciative and authentic!