Are You Being Pigeon-Holed? Learn (and then Do) Something New

Photo Credit: nic_r via Compfight cc
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with David Barista, BD+C Editor-in-Chief, at the BIMForum conference reception. He relayed an anecdote from a junior architect at a small firm. This junior architect was frustrated that his technical skills had him "stuck" as the BIM person in the office. Interestingly enough, I heard similar thoughts during the BIMForum conference and afterwards:
  • A principal at a large architectural practice shared his experience with their BIM experts: young architects who are good at "these tools" don't want to train and support. They want to use them on projects.
  • A mechanical engineer I know emailed me that she was glad to be getting more involved with design efforts. She had been pushing for that to make sure she can still have growth technically and not just be considered the BIM expert.
  • A client remarked that she isn't a "BIM person" because she's interested in process improvement at a much broader scale. She was surprised when I shared what I was hearing: many "BIM people" think of themselves of more than BIM.
Although I'm sure there are many who still see me as a "BIM person", I have been fortunate to expand my role within my organization far beyond BIM. While I didn't do this intentionally (at least not completely intentionally!), the most beneficial thing I did is learn. Here are a few of the topics and resources that might help you avoid being pigeon-holed: 
  • Getting my MBA expanded my skills and my thought process. Even if you aren't up for a full program, I highly recommend seeing what management courses are available on edX or a similar source. While there are other ways to learn management concepts, I found that the structure of an academic course is what changed my thinking the most.
  • The Project Management Body of Knowledge. As one of our R&D Engineers said to me after forwarding this to him, "I'm mad at you for not sharing this sooner." The PMBOK explains the concept, frameworks, and deliverables for each PM responsibility. It's tactical and (I think) very useful.
  • You may also want to expand your non-BIM technical skills. Advanced Excel work has been great for me. You may want to learn more about your company's Project Management system. While technology isn't the first thing I would turn to for additional learning, it is helpful!
Once you get this new knowledge, you must find ways to use it. Offer to take on new tasks. One of our team members has grown significantly by offering to do work for our over-burdened PM. Leverage conversations about BIM into more comprehensive topics. Show that you are thinking about BIM in terms of the project's biggest risks instead of just for cool technology.

What have you learned or done to break out of the "BIM person" label? 
Leave a note in the comments or tweet to me.

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pghbim said...

After learning of a need in our company, I was thrust into the world of GIS. I am now on a team that is planning how to provide new services to our client through GIS, and integrate GIS into internal workflows and processes throughout the company. I am also getting formal training in ArcGIS to help support our efforts.

Little Miss Runshine said...

Hey-that's me! :)

It is both exciting and scary to try to challenge people to use other skills you have or may potentially have. I was able to use my ability to quickly learn software programs to learn how to energy model. In turn, this allowed me to get more into the design and big picture thinking of a building's energy usage.

Perhaps I will do a post related to this topic! So much to say! :)

Laura Handler said...

Yes, I think you've done an amazing job of being a generalist and a specialist. I'll look forward to reading and sharing your post!