Learn more at rkk.com. Alright, welcome back to another episode of Inside Engineering. This week we have with us John Rinehart. John is the Career and Leadership Program Manager here at RK&K and we're going talk today about some of the things that he gets to do, how that brings value to our clients, and some of the path that sort of led him to doing what he's doing now.
So John, welcome to the podcast. We're glad to have you here. Thanks Tim. John, you are the Career and Leadership Program Manager. What does that mean? Well, actually I have been at RK&K four days longer than my title has because one of the first things I was asked to do was come up with a title for what I was doing. And after going back and forth for those four days we came up with the Career and Leadership Program, really looking at... you know we hire technically strong and great people, but what else is there that we can give them to not just be great engineers, great scientists, great planners, but great all around RK&K team members.
I know the answer might might seem obvious to some and maybe not to others but what does what you do — how does that help our clients? How does it help us win work? How does it help us recruit better people? All of these things. I mean, really, at the end of the day we're a consulting firm looking to do great work and win great work. How does what you do help our clients? Sure. So you can have the greatest ideas, come up with the greatest plans but if you're not able to communicate those plans and communicate them to all stakeholders not just other technical experts but to the public, to the funders.
If you're not able to build and manage the teams that will bring those plans to completion — you know what, as much as I dislike the term if you don't have the "soft skills" you're not going to be able to make your hard skills a reality. And even though I hate the term "soft skills" there really isn't a better term to come up with all those things that really are the key to being successful. Is there a story of success without going into too much detail about it but that that is sort of, you've seen in your time here or elsewhere in your career that really exemplifies what it means to to do what you do? Sure.
The what I always say is that almost everybody has leadership potential in them and as important as the workshops we offer, the coaching we do. It's really helping people see that potential — seeing their ability — and then giving them the opportunity to make it a reality. And I've seen numerous times where someone, you know, "Well, I'd like to learn a little bit more about leadership and maybe I can increase the skill," but it's really over the course of time having them understand that there already are a leader; it's just, you know, having that motivation to step up to take the lead to really step up and step in.
What's what's something you wish you had known earlier on in your career? I think one of the biggest things is that you know you stop and we can sell what we do and we can point out the importance but. You have to give people the opportunity. You can teach the best classes you can have the greatest content you can bring in all kinds of experts, but if all at the end of the day it is just more workshop, more information, you've pretty much wasted your time and money.
It's really giving the people the chance that: 'here's what you've learned now apply it' and if you don't give them the opportunity to use it they're never really going to develop it beyond where they probably are right now. Right. What are some of the opportunities that team members have here to grow their leadership skills or their career skills outside of working on a specific project? I think you look at what we offer and through the Cornerstone Learning Management System we have over 300 topics available.
Everything from running a better meeting to helping resolve conflict within your team to Steve Young's safety library. Short, five minute videos up to hour long self-paced courses, things you can do on your own. They're the technical writing and other workshops that we offer periodically throughout the year, and there's the opportunity to just give me a call or send me an email and saying 'I'd like to work on this, what do you have that might help?' I think the other thing and it's really, you know, empowering people to take their own lead towards leadership.
Have you offered to run a staff meeting? Have you asked if you can go along on a client meeting just to get a sense of how they work and you know really what our more experienced leaders do? Have you reached out to those experienced leaders and saying, you know, 'Do you have time for a cup of coffee. I'd like to talk about how you got to where you are and maybe how I can get there, as well.' That's that's some some really good advice. I mean I think there's advice to be had, you know, in career development for everyone from a young and aspiring engineer all the way through the later stages of the career and I think there's some great opportunities there, and you mentioned opportunities, you mentioned the Cornerstone Learning Management System and everything within there is something that people can get Professional Development Hours for.
Correct. And that's one of the other things sort of stumbled into when I started. And you know makes sense that the Professional Development — the PDH — would also be part of the career and leadership path. But looking at what we offer and we've archived and recorded all of the presentations for I guess the last three, four years. It's not just about, 'Do you have enough credits to get your license renewed?' And really want to emphasize understanding what RK&K does.
You know one of my favorite stories, we have one of the nation's leading experts on bats and did a PDH Third Monday presentation for us. That actually helped lead to a new project in Florida because we had someone who sits in Pennsylvania, but when they found a bridge that they wanted to do inspection on were a little leery about, 'Well is this an environmental issue because there are bats on that bridge?' We had a senior project manager said, 'Oh no, we've got a guy here who can take care of that let's connect them to the client.' So it's really about, you know, learning about what the company does.
I know a few weeks ago there was the story heavy rains expected in D.C.; there was going to be flooding. If you attended our PDH presentations you know we actually did the flood evacuation plan for the District. It's really just understanding everything we do. From Miami up to Florida, er, up to Pennsylvania. And for those of you listening and wondering what John is talking about with a with the bat man and people designing flood plans we plan to have those people on the show coming up.
Ryan Lieberher in Pennsylvania is our bat guy. And Meredith Upchurch is one of the people in our D.C. office that we plan to talk to soon and a really looking forward to those episodes because they are so unique and. But it's just a small part of what we do. But it's really interesting and really does help our clients. I mean, you wouldn't think that bats would be an important thing to look for when when doing a bridge project or inspection or, but bats like to live in dark places and under bridges are dark places.
And so it's great that I think you get to be at the forefront of providing those other opportunities for our experts to share. Yeah and it really is the more of the our employees know about everything we do the better they can help our clients because you might be working on a traffic problem in North Carolina but we might have an archaeologist or landscape architect or there might be someone in graphics who can help with a public presentation.
We have fourteen hundred employees with all these great experiences and knowledge that every client can benefit from as long as those fourteen hundred know what's available within the company. Right. Right. So I think one of the one of the key challenges to I mean anything that you do, any initiative, but you know for us in Communications and for you in Career and Leadership Development is, 'How do you know that what you're doing is successful or not?' I mean there's that famous saying for marketing is, 'I know that 50% of my marketing works, I just don't know which 50%.' And so I think that's often a challenge that we face.
How are you going about overcoming that challenge and identifying the success — the career and leadership development success of our team members. I think for me the easiest way to measure it is the number of times that someone comes to me and says, 'So-and-so attended your last workshop or so-and-so talked to you about their career development; they recommended I come and see you.' It's really hard to come up with metrics for what we do.
But, anecdotally, the more people who are coming based upon, 'I was told by my supervisor that I should see you' or 'I heard from my co-worker you were able to help them.' That's the easiest way for me to see if what we're doing counts. I mean we do get, and it always puts a smile on my face when you get, the 'wanted to thank you for doing this workshop or wanted to thank you for this program.' Because of that I whatever — normally it's you know, 'I talked to my manager about what the next five years look like.' We get the ones where you know someone will come in and say, "Well, I was considering a career change but after going through your program I realized what I really needed to do was talk to my supervisor and say 'Where do you see me in the next couple years?'".
You mentioned workshops. And so what are some of the workshops that we put on here that are some other career and leadership opportunities. I had mentioned the Technical Writing. We also do a program called Engagement Magic, which looks at you know what motivates you, you know beyond the basics of salary and benefit. Is it a stable work environment? Is it constantly learning new things? Is it working with new people? Is it working with the same people? But really helping you recognize what yourself motivation is and how we can help you fulfill that.
We also do the Center for Creative Leadership's Talent Conversations Workshops for our Managers and Directors. And again looking at when you're talking to an employee about where you're going in your career, aligning that with what RK&K needs so that the two work perfectly together. There's there's also... There's Toastmasters. We have our Toastmasters clubs. Currently, it's for the Baltimore office, as well as the Virginia offices who participate remotely — works beautifully.
Sounds a little bit different, but if you dial into one of their meetings and you see how they pass the responsibilities around between the different offices it's really fun to watch. We also encourage any employee that you look for your local Toastmasters club. Our ultimate goal is that you spend the year with your local Toastmasters club. Come back to your RK&K office and start up an office club there. The Partners have been incredibly supportive about the Toastmasters efforts.
Absolutely. There's Dale Carnegie Training, as well. We also offer Dale Carnegie. We do their two day high impact presentations workshops; we use their management program. We play, like I said, starting with the what's available on the Learning Management System up through the workshops that we offer, the programs we can send you to, up to and including you know we had the University of North Carolina come in and do a day long negotiations workshop for us. There are all kinds of opportunities out there we just need to find the right fit for each individual.
Right. Right. That's really cool. I mean it's nice to be somewhere where it's clear that your boss and your boss's boss, all the way up to the top of the company, cares about your professional development beyond just, 'What can you do for me on a project.' It's refreshing. And really from a client perspective or from a public perspective, wouldn't you rather work with someone who knows how to write a great email or you know was responsive to your phone calls versus someone who's just technically strong but doesn't necessarily have those soft skills.
Right. Absolutely. Alright, John, I'm gonna throw a question at you here. Throw away Tim. It's an important question because it shows, it tells us a little something about you. John Rinehart, what is something that you are curious about right now in life? Besides the fact that I've always wanted to learn how to weld, I think professionally what I've been curious about recently has been the connection between leadership development training and how it actually both impacts brain development and how the brain reacts to that type of training.
Looking at it more than just, 'We're offering you information' to truly looking at how do we help you look at a new way to think. Some of the research that's been done on intrinsic motivation; some of the research that's been done on the key role that happiness plays. One of my favorite quotes from Sean Anker is that, "If you're looking for happiness to follow success you'll never get there, but if you realize happiness is the predecessor to success, you're already there." And really seeing how just your motivation and how your brain works impacts how you learn and what you learn.
That's good stuff that makes me want to go be curious about that too. And that's available on the Cornerstone Learning Management system. We have that information. That was a sneaky plug John. Well, but in the in the show notes for this we'll... hopefully John can provide us with a. link or two to some of that research he's been looking at or some articles that can spark some interest and we'll throw those in the show notes for this episode. Alright John, I've got another question for you. OK. OK. This is — and I'm happy that I get to ask this of other people and other people ask this of me.
What is something that you have failed at? Gee, Tim, that's that's the toughest one — either coming up with something or narrowing the list down. And I ask this because I believe that you know you learn from failure. If you didn't learn from failure that was a bigger failure in and of itself. Yeah I would say that that's a really good question. Let's see. Picking all the failures, what was the most memorable one? OK, so I would call this a failure story with a redemption at the end.
You have to have redemption. Can I mention Merritt's here observing? She will appreciate this one. So I actually... It took 19 years for me to get my college degree. And the fact that I started half-time as a senior in high school makes it even more impressive. Rosie O'Donnell and I started at Dickinson College, officially enrolled as freshmen the same year. She dropped out after one year.
I finished my senior year still needing two credits which took 14 years to go back and complete. So, if I said then for those 14 years the failure would have never been completing my college degree. The redemption story of it is. My wife who looked at me and said, "Why are you being so stupid? Go back at the two credits get this taken care of." And really turning that sort of failure black mark and to a really good story to tell over a drink at a time.
I'm glad I asked. Alright John, is there anything else I haven't asked you about that you think is worth mentioning in your world of career and leadership? I think the one thing that we haven't really talked about is you know when we look at this type of training for the PDH credits you need them to renew your license. It's really easy to make that a priority. A writing class, a public speaking course, talking to a director or senior manager about maybe a mentoring relationship — that's easy to push to the side.
But if you look at the really successful people not just at RK&K, elsewhere — you know they find the time to do those things. You know the quote that I have blown up on a giant poster outside my offices from Tom Peters — Baltimore native and civil engineer before he became a leadership guru — and his advice is 'Hang out with freaks' you know, find different people to hang out with not just the people you work with but from different walks of life from different professions.
Because if you're not hanging out with those freaks the only ideas you're going to get are the ones you already have. Yeah yeah. Get outside your own bubble. Absolutely. That's good. Alright John, it's time now for our Pick of the Week. John is going to recommend something to us. I don't know what it is. But he has he has a wide range of, he has a lot of freedom here to pick something that he thinks all of us will find interesting. So John. So this is my very broad Pick of the Week. I grew up in the country, still live in the country.
And you know pre-internet entertainment was hard to come by. So the volunteer firehouse dinners, the festivals during the summer, those were big deals. And my Pick of the Week is: find the local event; find a Saturday morning farmer's market; find the local arts and crafts festival; find something where you can get out and learn more about your community and your neighbors. That's great stuff. Thank you.
Now I'm gonna go to the farmer's market on Saturday. The kids will love it. That'll be good. They've got fresh vegetables. Yeah. And there's other stuff there now, too. It's not just produce. It's not just produce. There's like scented candles and things. Scented candles. There we go. Organic, gluten free, scented candle. And with that ladies and gentlemen, we've reached the conclusion of another episode of Inside Engineering. Thanks John for joining us in the studio this week. Appreciate you coming by. Thank you, Tim. We'll see you all next week on another episode of Inside Engineering.
Something he wishes he’d known earlier
John wishes he’d known that, “It’s really giving the people the chance that: ‘here’s what you’ve learned now apply it’ and if you don’t give them the opportunity to use it they’re never really going to develop it beyond where they probably are right now.”
From a personal standpoint, John would love to learn how to weld, but from a professional and career perspective, something John has is curious about is “the connection between leadership development training and how it actually both impacts brain development and how the brain reacts to that type of training.”
Pick of the Week
John brings a holistic approach to his pick. He says, “find [a] local event; find a Saturday morning farmer’s market; find the local arts and crafts festival; find something where you can get out and learn more about your community and your neighbors.“