Building on a Strong Foundation
Imagine you are a construction foreman. You and your team of employees have been assigned to work on a 100-story skyscraper. The building is already halfway completed. Your job is to take over for a while. You will assess the work that is completed, build 10 more floors, and then hand the work over to the next team in line.
In order for you to complete your work successfully, what would be important to you? In other words, how will you define success when the next team comes along to take over?
For me, it would first be important to know that all of the work completed below me was quality workmanship. If I am building the 51st floor on top of 50 floors that were built poorly, it doesn’t really matter how great of a job I do. You can’t build a beautiful and reliable space on top of a bad foundation without a lot of extra work. I will be counting on the team that preceded me.
At the same time, I want to make sure that my work is just as accurate and trustworthy. I want the next team in line to know I did my job and they can rely on that fact. Construction of a skyscraper is no easy task. Everybody involved, start to finish, has to be at the top of his or her game.
I think about this analogy almost every spring when the planning for our annual print and mail industry conferences is well under way. Sure, I enjoy spending a few days with friends I have not seen in person for a while. I also enjoy visiting different parts of this remarkable country. Whether I will be attending ACUP+ with the beautiful, scenic views in Vancouver, Washington, or IPMA in historic Buffalo, New York, near the breathtaking Niagara Falls; whether I will be enjoying the food and hospitality of Austin, Texas, at the Inkjet Summit or taking in the nightlife of Las Vegas at Printing United; I am certain I will find myself wanting to make the most of every touristy minute I can make.
More importantly, though, conferences are about professional development. Networking and education opportunities exist to help us become better at our work. We learn from each other. We share our experiences and our knowledge.
Quality work matters to those who attend conferences. The people who attend not only want to be good at what they do, they want to be great. Their investment of time and money into attending is evidence to me that what they do is more than just a job. They believe in what they do, and they care about the organizations they support.
However, there is a third and often-overlooked component to conference attendance; this aspect of our professional development is typically something we do not think about, and it goes back to my skyscraper analogy.
When we attend conferences, we are actually fulfilling a larger, more important role. Our efforts toward excellence are actually honoring the work of those who have gone on before us. We are building on their work. Our coming together is an action of gratitude toward them and an expression of appreciation and respect. We demonstrate that we value our past when we invest in the present and the future.
We take seriously that our industry and our organizations depend upon us for a better tomorrow. Each generation of professionals is working towards a future success – a success where the past and the present, come together with purpose. It is a big picture kind of thing.
So, when you are attending a conference this year, attend for the education. Attend for the experience. Attend with the understanding that there is a master blueprint, and we are all part of something bigger.
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight,
but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Dwayne Magee is now in his 17th year as director of Messiah University Press and Postal Services. His department was recipient of the 2018 IPMA Organizational Impact Award, the 2015 IPMA Innovation Award, the 2017 ACUP Green Service Award, and the 2015 ACUP Collaborative Service Award. Prior to joining Messiah, he worked for 17 years at Alphagraphics as an assistant manager and ISO coordinator. He is president of the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He is currently an English major (part-time) with a concentration in writing at the college where he works. Outside of work, Dwayne enjoys exploring spiritual, environmental and social concerns through creative writing and the arts. He can often be found speaking on the topic of diversity in bookstores, public libraries and elementary schools, where he makes use of his award-winning children’s book “A Blue-Footed Booby Named Solly McBoo.” His travel writing and fictional essays have made appearances in various publications including the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology and the Goose River Anthology published by Goose River Press. Dwayne is the father of two boys and he resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife Sue and their two dogs. Contact him at: DMagee@Messiah.edu