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Engineering Influence from ACEC

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Engineering Influence: The Podcast of America's Engineering and Design Industry


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Engineering Influence: The Podcast of America's Engineering and Design Industry






Catching Up on AI with BST Global’s Javier Baldor

At the end of the 2023 Fall Conference, we sat down with BST Global's CEO, Javier Baldor for an update on AI and what's changed since our last conversation at the Spring Convention in Washington DC earlier in the year.


Commercial Real Estate Update with Cushman & Wakefield’s Rebecca Rockey

Rebecca Rockey, Cushman and Wakefield's Deputy Chief Economist and Global Head of Forecasting joined Thomas Grogan for a deep dive into the commercial real estate market on this episode of the podcast.


Firms Must Balance Security and Personal Freedoms in the Age of TikTok

The following is an audio recording of a post that originally appeared on the Last Word Blog at ACEC recently held a webinar on the prohibition against TikTok on any device used to execute federal government contracts. Led by Holland & Knight attorney Jeremy Burkhart – a leading expert on government contracts – the session focused on the legal implications of the ban and what firms may or may not legally do to enforce it. The rule applies to the presence or use of any covered application on any information technology owned or managed by a contractor, including equipment provided by the contractor’s employees, unless an exception is granted. Burkhart began his presentation with the backstory of TikTok: what it is, how it came to be, and why it has been the cause of such widespread agita among governments across the globe. He joked that those concerns are well beyond the obvious, namely wasting your time or socially stunting your kids. Instead, he continued, the overriding concerns are twofold: spying and propaganda by the Chinese government. “The spying to me is the larger concern,” Burkhart said. “It’s not just a hypothetical. It’s a very real issue.” He pointed to an incident in which ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, tracked three journalists who had previously exposed its links to the Chinese government and who had revealed that the company’s employees had repeatedly accessed American user data. ByteDance tracked these reporters’ IP addresses and user data to determine if they had been in the same locations as its employees in an effort to determine the source of the leaks. This, Burkhart concluded, was not a rogue operation. Rather, it was sanctioned at the company’s highest levels. ByteDance is currently under investigation by both the FBI and the DOJ. In December 2022, Congress passed – and President Biden signed – the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which prohibits the use of the app on government devices. The law passed unanimously, with broad support on both sides of the aisle – a notable moment of agreement in deeply polarized Washington. The law requires the government to “develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal of any covered application.” There have also been moves toward a more sweeping and outright ban on TikTok (which some countries and states have done) but the broad nature of the language stymied its passage. Momentum for such an outright ban has now slowed, and it’s unclear whether any legislation addressing TikTok will pass Congress. Which leaves unsettled questions for firms with government contracts on how to enforce the ban, particularly on the personal devices of employees. Burkhart was asked about personal devices not issued by the company but used by employees to access company email and collaboration tools like Teams. Would such devices be included within the ban? And is that legal? For firms, Burkhart said, the thornier question is not an outright ban so much as how to enforce compliance. “At the end of the day, there’s considerations that the company has to go through,” he said. “Either way there is some level of risk. [Firms] have to weigh all those risks.” And in weighing those risks, it’s important that firms also take into account things like their own corporate culture and demographics. What size is your workforce, and are employees of a demographic that will even care about not using TikTok? How much does the company prioritize employee expression and separation of work and personal lives? And, if a company does opt against banning its employees from TikTok, is the company prepared for the potential fallout if there is a move for more expansive enforcement? Burkhart concluded his presentation with a technical tutorial on what companies can do to mitigate the risks of TikTok for both the firm and its employees. Regardless of whether the government expands its reach on TikTok, Burkhart emphasized that the app...


Real Stories of AI Implementation with POWER Engineers

We sat down with POWER Engineers for our third podcast to discuss AI and emerging technologies. In this episode we discuss real stories of AI implementation and how POWER is harnessing AI to create a firm-wide tool to create efficiencies and new opportunities for business growth and performance.


A Closer Look at the Senior Executives Institute

Katie Goodman, Vice President for Education and Leadership Programs at ACEC speaks with Rod Hoffman and Barb Smith, lead faculty and program designers of the SEI program.


Exploring ACEC’s new Technology Committee

Thomas Grogan, ACEC's Senior Director of Economics and Private Markets sat down with Raj Arora, CEO of Jensen Hughes, and chair of the ACEC Technology Committee to discuss the group's objectives and why it is critical to stay ahead of the curve on emerging tech.


An Interview with CAMEE Chair Adam Rickey

We sat down with Adam Rickey, Chair of the Coalition of American Mechanical and Electrical Engineers to see what CAMEE is working on for its members.


A Conversation with QBS Award Winner Alabama State Senator Clyde Chambliss

Each year, ACEC and NSPE join to recognize achievements in QBS, or Qualifications Based Selection. This year, we honor Alabama State Senator and Senate Majority Whip Clyde Chambliss for his tireless work to pass strong QBS legislation through the legislature and into law.


An Interview with Polar Explorer Ben Saunders

Throughout the Fall Conference, the power of translating human potential and wisdom across industries emerged as an overarching theme. Ben Saunders is living proof of how this multidisciplinary collaboration is already moving the engineering world forward. For those unfamiliar, Saunders is the world-renowned polar explorer and was the first person to lead an expedition to the South Pole and survive. He explained to a Fall Conference audience how his experiences make clear that while we often think about technology as microchips and digital devices, the word applies evenly across all contributions of human knowledge. Saunders’s expedition to the South Pole took years to plan and four months to complete. To make this dream a reality, he would have to overcome three main types of challenges. Along with commercial challenges (i.e., fundraising, equipment, and leading a team), he faced physical challenges (such as fitness, nutrition, and clothing) and cognitive challenges relating to the physical and mental stress of the journey. When looking back on the mental preparations, Saunders “realized pretty quickly that that was the most important piece because when you’re out there, you can never really recover fully from one day to the next,” he said. “You’re always getting more and more tired. Every day you wake up and you’re just more tired, more tired, more tired in a sort of downward spiral.” The statement resonated perfectly with the realities so many professionals face in today’s fast-paced and stressful work environments. That’s why Saunders spent years developing a strategy for the extreme mental and physical stress of the journey, including getting support from a well-respected psychologist. For Saunders, “it was vital having that sort of guidance and wisdom—good coaches and mentors and advisors that I trusted.” Now, after spending almost two decades traversing terrains that are arguably the most unforgiving on Earth, he’s made a “weird pivot” to sustainable innovation, which seems a perfect fit for his skills and expertise. “I’m enjoying being a kind of catalyst. Like, I’m not a scientist. I don’t have mounds of money. But I can raise money [and] I can point it in the right direction,” Saunders said with enthusiasm. “And find extraordinary talent and intellect and IP that I can kind of back, not just with capital but with my experience and wisdom—almost as a coach in some ways.” When asked about his motivations, he said: “when we boil it down, I think that most of human wealth and progress, [as in] most value in business, has been created through extraction…it’s clear that trajectory can’t carry on. We need to push the limits of sustainable technologies, so that’s where I’ll be.”


An interview with Rizwan Siddiqi on the Importance of Community Service

We spoke with 2023 ACEC Community Service Award winner Rizwan Siddiqi, President and CEO of EBA Engineering in Laurel, MD on the importance of giving back to your community.


The Growing Partisan Divide with the U.S. Chamber’s Neil Bradley

Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy with the U.S. Chamber, was our first speaker at the 2023 Fall Conference. His presentation focused on a generational shift happening in Washington where both the left and the right sides of the political aisle are beginning to adopt policies that harken back to the big government days of the New Deal era. On the podcast, Neil discusses what this means for free enterprise.


An Interview with the ACEC College of Fellows Scholar of the Year, Michael Drummond

We sat down with the ACEC Scholar of the Year Michael Drummond to talk about his journey in engineering. Recorded at the 2023 ACEC Fall Conference.


Operationalizing AI in Your Firm - With POWER Engineers’ Nathan Bingham

There's a lot of talk about the promise of AI, but much less about how the technology can be implemented in your firm. We sat down with Nathan Bingham, Chief Digital Officer with POWER Engineers to talk about how they harnessed the power of AI.


Are We Headed to a Government Shutdown?

Government funding expires on September 30th. Unless the House and Senate come to an agreement on key spending items, we will enter a period of a partial government shutdown. Is this avoidable? How long will it last? What impact will it have on our industry? We talked to Matt Reiffer, ACEC's Vice President for Infrastructure Programs to find out.


The ACEC Research Institute’s 2023 Q3 Sentiment Survey

The ACEC Research Institute recently published its 2023 Q3 Engineering Business Sentiment Survey. We sat down with Joe Bates with the Institute, to review the survey's findings and check the pulse of the engineering industry. Download the survey here.


Filling the Practical Skills Gap with VDCI’s David Sellers

David Sellers, the President and CEO of VDCI - the Virtual Design and Construction Institute ( joined the podcast to discuss how ongoing virtual education can help close the practical skills gap that exists with new engineering graduates who lack the hands-on skills to immediately take on project work on software platforms upon being hired.


Private Market Economic Update with Dr. Anirban Basu

On this episode, Dr. Anirban Basu and Diana Alexander cover everything from recession to monetary policy, inflation to deflation, and what markets will fair best and which won't during this downturn. Find more private market briefs here: Register for the AI in AEC series here:


The Time to Standardize Digital Design Delivery is Now

With evolving sustainability requirements, talent and skill shortages across the sector, and greater client demands, infrastructure project design and delivery have never been more complex and challenging for today’s engineering consulting and service firms. A critical approach to overcoming these issues is standardizing engineering design review processes and technologies. In this podcast, we talk to Dan Cutler, Project Engineer with Bentley Systems, about how ProjectWise, powered by iTwin, can standardize engineering work in progress using scalable and customizable workflows without limiting the number of projects an organization can manage and without having to start over with new CAD applications. We also discuss how ProjectWise can help engineering consulting and service firms comply with ISO19650 standards.


The Importance of Culture for Long-Term Success with Kimley-Horn

ACEC member firm Kimley-Horn's Barry Barber, the firm's Chairman of the Board, came on the program to discuss how a long-standing set of principles and a clear corporate culture can lead to successful organic growth and employee retention.


Member Firm News: STV Acquires American Engineers, Inc.

Jerry Stump, PE, President of STV's South/Central Transportation Group joined the program to discuss the firm's recent acquisition of American Engineers, Inc. Jerry discussed STV's M&A strategy and shared his perspectives on the engineering marketplace and how firms are navigating M&A to grow and augment the engineering staff shortage.