Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One door closes, another opens...

My 2-year project is finally over...well, mostly. Transition reports have to be prepared, closeouts of documents remain and thank-yous have to be sent.

The National Society of Black Engineers just concluded it's 36th Annual - and first International - Convention in Toronto, ON last weekend. Yours truly was the Vice-Chair of the planning team for this event and it was both a relief and a drag to have it all end. Overall feedback of the event was excellent, justifying the decision to devote a significant portion of my life over the last 2 years to this project.

I remember when it was just after the 34th Convention in Orlando that I got a call from Ainsley Stewart, a former National Chair of NSBE. I was at a point in my NSBE life where I was disillusioned with the direction of the organization and was looking to permanently "retire". Only a few months before that, I had resigned my position as NSBE International Chair, because I didn't feel that the Executive Board and its staff in Alexandria, VA was committed to the international expansion and/or had the desire to make NSBE a truly international organization.
Mr. Stewart - himself no stranger to the shenanigans surrounding NSBE politics - was considering running for the position of Planning Committee Chair and wanted me to be his tour guide on a one-day trip to Toronto that he planned for the middle of April, 2008. During his trip, we shared some stories and understood that we had similar concerns about the direction of NSBE as well as sharing a desire to make the first International Convention a resounding success. Naturally, I didn't hesitate when he asked me to be his Vice-Chair, and the rest is history.
There were challenges along the way - we had to recruit a team of highly talented team players, yet folks who were independent enough to challenge the status quo; we had to prove that the challenges posed by a visit to Toronto could be easily overcome - in effect, we were doing the research that could torpedo our plans; we had to fight a movement that didn't want to see the Convention in Toronto; and finally, we had to challenge a world economy that collapsed in the fall of 2008, taking with it many of our corporate sponsors and benefactors.
Through it all, the team held tight and made this Convention a success - over 8000 people registered for this event, companies DID hire at the Convention, we had some dynamic speakers, General Sessions were probably the best that I can remember - and the membership enjoyed the feel and vibe of one of the greatest cities on earth.

The experiences garnered from this project were many and I look forward to using them as a springboard for all the other plans and programs I undertake. From people-management to conflict-resolution, budget adjustments to time-management; the lessons were many, sometimes painful but always rewarding.
As a result of this Convention Planning (where I received and sent over 13000 emails in the space of 2 years), I know I can juggle multiple committments at once - after all, I still had my fulltime job (moving into 2 roles and gaining a promotion in that time) and a personal life. I'm excited about going forward and establishing myself in the areas I'm dedicated to - political reform in Nigeria, leadership development in North American inner cities, sustainable development in Africa - and most of all, as the theme of the Convention indicated, I'm ready to engineer a global impact.

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