Where Does this BIM Path Lead?

Written by David Spehar, Corporate BIM Leader, Stantec

Were you drawn to the Siren’s Song? You know, that sweet melody offering a promise of becoming a leader in changing the landscape of our profession. Are you one of the many that have abandoned their careers as architects or engineers to pursue a path in implementing Design Technology? Well I am.

11 years into my career as an architect I heard that song and in 2002 I was a fairly early adopter of Revit. I sat in the 50 person back conference rooms at AU absorbing every Revit tip and trick that Jim Balding, James Vandezande, Steve Stafford and others threw at me. For me the transition was swift. Was I good at Revit? Yeah, I was damn good but it wasn’t about the tool for me. It was about the opportunity the tool presented to fix the stuff that is broken in our industry. My employer at the time didn’t quite see the promise new technology offered so I joined Burt Hill where the C-suite had thrown down the gauntlet and challenged the firm to be “100% Revit”. What exactly that meant didn’t matter; the fact that a firm saw and embraced the change is what did. So I quickly joined a team of like-minded professionals at Burt Hill and our BIM Team was born.

Almost 10 years and one acquisition later, here I am still focused on driving the changes that BIM promised to me so many years ago. One could say that I’ve had a successful career in Design Technology. I went from being “The Revit guy” to leading a team that steers the adoption of technology for the 3,300+ Buildings group at Stantec. But how did I get here? And where is “here” anyway? Who’s my replacement? What’s next for me? These were questions that didn’t seem important years ago but now they are very important. I’m not an implementer anymore (heck, the last time I touched Revit was to do a stereo panorama rendering of my basement renovation for my wife). The implementers work for me…kind of, in an informal, volunteer army sort of way. Don’t get me wrong, Stantec fully supports me as a leader but we have no formal Design Technology career path to support the effort, and I’m guessing we are not alone.

I know one of the marks of a truly effective leader is the  ability to develop their successor. But what if a structure doesn’t exist to define that successor? We continue to develop the next wave of Revit Rockstars but is this what we’re looking for? What is important – depth or breadth of expertise? What defines a Design Technology Implementer? How is this different than a Design Technology Leader and how does one make the transition? What does a Design Technology Career Path look like? Perhaps relying on self-motivation and tenacity will continue to work but I question the sustainability of this approach. Does this resonate with you? I hope you join us at the Design Technology Summit this summer as we address this and other topics focused on the challenges that face us as Design Technology Leaders.

– David Spehar

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